A good branding agency can help you transform your business and reach new markets and customers. But how do you choose the right one?
Why work with a branding agency?
Let’s be honest – hiring an agency is a significant investment. And the returns on that investment won’t be immediate. But it can still be a move worth making, even in the early days of your business. Here are some of the reasons an agency could be the best option for your company.
- Expertise and efficiency
An agency can do things faster and more expertly than your in-house team, because they do it every day and have it down to a fine art.
- Keeps business-as-usual ticking over
By hiring an agency, you’re reserving your in-house resources for the everyday tasks they do best.
- Market knowledge
Agency professionals have an incredible breadth of knowledge – they’ve met and worked with a wide range of businesses and have learned from all of them. They’ll have a balanced overview of what’s out there and what works best for different kinds of companies.
- A fresh perspective
An outside party can recognize things about your business that nobody inside it can. They’ll have a clear view of your strengths, weaknesses and opportunities, and their observations could positively impact your whole business strategy.
So if you’ve decided that hiring an agency is right for you, here are some key pointers for how to do it.
- Be proactive, not reactive
The decision to hire a branding agency should be one you make strategically. Of course, that’s in an ideal world. Typically, the question of whether to hire a design or creative agency comes in response to a specific need. It could be that you’ve made the decision to rebrand, you’re ready for a shiny new logo, or you’re rolling out a new product with a lot of potential. But even though it might be triggered by an event, make your decision based on the needs of your whole business.
Consider whether the agency will be able to work in partnership with you beyond the short-term objective of your current project. Can they contribute to your regular marketing activities, for example by managing your social media presence? Do they have a range of services you could see yourself using as your company grows? How about their communication – is it easy to get on a call with them when you need to?
- Consider location
Sometimes, a geographically local agency is the best choice because it means you can co-locate and work together in person with their team. Then again, some businesses prefer agencies to work remotely, so that they can take advantage of the specialized skills available in large cities, or because the agency is in the same place as the company’s target market, giving them a natural advantage in having a shared culture.
- Know where to find branding agencies
Finding an agency used to be a matter of reputation and recommendation, with partnerships developing through word of mouth. But these days it’s relatively simple to find an agency using nothing more than your smartphone. You can find lists of creative agencies for hire through online portals like AgencyFinder, AdForum or DigitalAgencyNetwork, to name just a few. That said, word of mouth can still be extremely valuable if you have a network to tap into. As we described in our article on rebranding strategy, there’s value in taking recommendations from other businesses you have a strong relationship with, or reaching out to companies whose branding and creative approach you admire to see if they can make an introduction.
How to compare different branding agencies
Being unique, fresh and different is definitely something an agency should be able to excel at, and many agencies pride themselves on being one of a kind. But a lack of common terminology and service descriptions can sometimes make it tricky for potential clients to compare offerings and choose between different agencies. Here are some ways to make sure you’re not comparing apples with oranges.
Ask the agency about their billing model to see how prices are calculated. Many use a day rate, where a fee is charged depending on how much time is spent. There may be one blended day rate for the whole agency, or a higher day rate for more senior and skilled staff members such as creative directors.
The day rate may be used to calculate a quote or an estimate for the work which you and the agency agree on at the outset, or it can be used on a ‘time and materials’ basis, where the amount you spend is left open-ended so the scope of the project can evolve over time.
Another way of billing is to charge a fixed fee. This is where a product or service always costs the same, and it usually indicates that the agency has a well-established process that they use for all their clients.
- Skills and team composition
Many creative agencies offer a broad range of services, but often they’ll have some abilities that are core and some that are new and developing. To get a flavor of where an agency’s strengths lie, try looking at the individuals making up their team.
Look at the agency’s ‘about us’ page on their website, or review their personnel profiles on LinkedIn, and see what kind of skill-sets are represented and how many staff are employed within each specialism.
For example, are there a lot of senior-level coders and developers, but only a single copywriter or designer? This may indicate that the agency’s strength is design-and-build or app development projects rather than creative ones.
- Awards and associations
Has the agency won any awards? If so, they’re likely to be displayed proudly on the website or social profiles. Awards generally categorize agencies, for example ‘best social media campaign’ or ‘best small agency’. The same goes for associations and professional bodies the agency may be part of, which tend to group together types of business according to their specialisms and interests.
While it’s not an exact science, looking at awards and affiliations in conjunction with the other tips above can be a helpful way to narrow down your choices.
Found the agency of your dreams? Here’s how to get the most out of working with your branding agency
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