In the last few weeks, I’ve gone over a few important things to keep in mind when choosing a marketing agency with which to partner, particularly when you are tackling a branding project.
Sometimes, even if you already have a relationship established with a marketing agency partner, you need to watch for red flags that may signal something is wrong or missing. When you pick up on one of these signals, it’s time to take a look at whether you are really getting what you need.
Red flags from your existing agency:
Content requires lots of editing.
When you engage an agency to be a part of your inbound marketing content creation team, you should be hiring professionals. Agency writers should be experienced writers with a talent for telling stories, accurately relaying information, and approaching their work with the target audience in mind. And their writing should be nearly flawless from a spelling, grammar and style standpoint.
Granted, it will take some time for a writer to learn the ins and outs of your company, and the first few pieces will require more input from you or your team to guide the process and provide needed background. But if, even after an onboarding period to get acquainted, you are consistently spending hours rewriting content and correcting hours, you might be better off spending those hours creating it from scratch yourself.
If the content isn’t coming to you nearly ready to go, it should be a red flag that your agency doesn’t have the right people writing your material.
(What characteristics should you be looking for in great content? Check the criteria in our Content Quality Report Card.)
Content seems unrelated to the brand.
One of the reasons we recommend that the same agency that creates a brand be engaged to execute it (see Choosing a Branding Agency: Are You Asking the Right Questions) is so the content reflects the brand identity you worked hard to develop.
Just as with content that is technically sloppy or fails to engage readers or viewers with character and stories, content that doesn’t fit your company’s image and goals is a sign you may need to reconsider your agency choice.
Is your agency just churning out content that fits your general industry and reusing it for multiple clients, without ensuring it fits your voice, your image, your brand? After all, two coffee shops might both want to use a blog post explaining the differences in coffee from different parts of the world, but the tone of a casual country-themed coffee shop in a family-friendly tourist area will be different from that expected from a downtown metro that caters to a young, creative theater crowd.
Your agency should be so in tune with your brand and message that content is easily identifiable as fitting your strategy and image.
The logo or slogan requires pages of explanation.
Have you ever sat through a brand development proposal meeting with a 20-minute presentation just on the meaning behind every element of a logo? Believe it or not, that intense effort to imbue every line, every letter, every nuance of color with a meaning is a sign that you are being sold a logo, not a brand identity.
Your prospective customers are never going to look at your logo and wonder what that extra loop at the end or that little dot of contrasting color mean. Your logo is just one part of a complete brand identity, and it should be an obvious extension without need for excessive explanation.
Your branding agency should spent more time detailing how they will help you bring your brand identity to life through content than detailing how they developed the logo.
Red flags from a prospective partner:
“That was outside the scope of the project.”
As you are asking the hard questions when interviewing prospective agencies to partner with for rebranding, or any marketing project, hearing this answer should cause your Spidey sense to tingle.
When an agency says that some aspect of brand development, launch and execution was “outside the scope of the project,” your next question should be “Why?”
Perhaps the client really did only want a logo and visuals. Perhaps they actually needed a full content strategy, campaign plan and content to execute the campaign, but the agency couldn’t provide all of those assets.
This red flag is even bigger if a prospective agency partner tries to convince you that you don’t elements you have already determined should be a part of your brand identity development process. (See Choosing a Branding Partner: Know What You Need.)
Are any of these setting off warning alarms about your current or considered marketing agency partner? If so, it is time to either have a serious talk with your partner about expectations, or start looking for a better fit.
Have you ever ignored a red flag about a partner agency? What finally forced your hand? What other warning signs would you add?