What to Look for in a Marketing Agency


Once upon a time, Nike wasn't the leader in the U.S. market for athletic footwear. In the 1980's, Nike was trailing behind Reebok, with the latter being hailed as "the biggest brand-name phenomena of the decade." In an effort to revamp its brand and capture new markets, Nike hired an ad agency, Wieden+Kennedy, which ultimately coined the three-word slogan we all know and love.

The genius behind "Just Do It" is its quality of being universally personal. It's personal to the professional and the everyday person; to participants of team and individual sports alike. Those three small words had a huge effect: ten years after "Just Do It" first launched, Nike went from $800 million to over $9.2 billion in sales. To this day, Wieden+Kennedy is best known for their work with Nike.

If you're looking for your Wieden+Kennedy, here's our advice to you. Don't "Just Do It." As you can imagine, "genius" is the result of hundreds of hours of research, testing, and strategy. It's the perfect synergy between client and service provider; where vision meets execution. Selecting the right marketing partner takes careful consideration and proper vetting. Here are three things to look for in the selection process:

1. The Marketing Agency Thinks Like You

Likely the largest frustration in the client-service provider relationship is the "business disconnect". The key to Nike's success was a service provider that kept business strategy top of mind and not just brand recognition. Wiedens+Kennedy had the mentality of "in it for the long haul" — not one campaign. A marketing firm might have the best talent in town, but are they strategizing around your business objectives? Are your revenue goals, growth goals, and long-term plan central to their marketing goals for you? Being business-minded is an essential characteristic that should be given the highest priority when considering an agency. If your current candidate doesn't meet this standard, you'll find yourself pouring money down an expensive, twisted drain.

2. The Marketing Agency Knows Your Business

An optometrist might be able to offer better medical advice than Joe on the street for your knee pain, but an orthopedic specialist knows best. Similarly, it is important to seek an agency that has a breadth of knowledge and experience relevant to your field. Nike didn't hire marketing professionals who just happened to have a passion for sports. The cost of onboarding an agency to your industry is something you can and should avoid.

3. The Marketing Agency Has a Strong Reputation

Marketing is rooted in common core principles, but not all marketers are created equal. When choosing a marketing agency, ensure they have the proper resources to execute your vision. What results have they produced for previous clients, and how did they do it? What reporting systems do they use, and how will they hold themselves accountable to you? As intuitive as looking beneath the surface might seem, it is a critical step that is often overlooked.

Now that you know what to look for, how will you find your team? Referrals and research are a great way to start. Don't settle until you've found the right fit as the service you're looking for is more than a transaction. It's a relationship.