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Selecting an Agency is a Little Like a First Date: How to Spot a Winner

After 21 years in business, I’ve met with hundreds of potential clients, each one with nuanced needs, an individual approach to hiring a marketing firm and a different set of requirements. And every one of them asks my firm questions to get to know our capabilities, knowledge and approach. Just like dating – you reveal some basic details about yourself and hopefully get to know a little about the other person.

A friend shared a story about her blind date several years ago and it stuck with me as a lesson in life and in business. Her date’s nervousness caused him to keep talking – he told her all about his work, the company, where he grew up, where he lives now, his family and disfunctional sister and the boat he bought the previous summer. About as much as you can pack into an hour long lunch. There wasn’t much of a pause for my friend to insert more than an “uh-huh” or “no way!”

As he walked her to her car, he said he thought my friend was interesting and suggested they do this again soon. My friend told me she was a little surprised. As she got into her car, she wondered what he thought was interesting about her because he gathered so little information about her over the course of the lunch date. I told her that he must have admired her good listening skills.

I’ve fielded some good client/agency qualification questions over the years – some tend to get to the heart of how our firm would be able to perform and “fit” with the company. I’m usually asked if our firm has experience in the same industry. That’s certainly helpful, but I think it’s equally important to have the firm tell how they’ve managed similar opportunities or issues, regardless of the industry. But the client agency meeting is a such a good opportunity for the agency to listen and learn more about your business; to hear your unique needs, what’s worked in the past and what you want more of in the future.

Maybe the most important question is the one that you ponder after the meeting, how well did this agency listen? The ability of an agency to hear your situation and relate it back to a similar opportunity they helped another business with is key to finding the agency that “gets it.” You deserve a partner who is a good communicator and a good listener.


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