The dog speaks
10 questions you should always ask your prospective creative agency
Tendering is like dating: dressed to impress and playing to their strengths, both parties are hoping to find the right fit. While sparks may fly from the offset, do you remember everything you’d so rationally thought through before the pitch? Our Account Director, Hannah Barton, outlines the most important questions to ask your prospective agency.
You may be impressed by the pitch and feel strong chemistry with the agency members, but don’t get carried away. Will you actually be working with these people? Larger agencies will have pitch teams that you probably won’t see again. If this is the case, make sure you’re aware of who you will be working with. It’s also worth asking how much contact you’ll have with your Project Manager or senior staff members. Some clients like to get heavily involved with their creative agency, while others prefer that the agency lead the way.
Next is the question that separates the big talkers from those who have really done their homework. We recently won a pitch for a large offshore wind company. Eager to work on the project, we put a huge amount of effort into researching both the organisation and the current renewable energy climate. The client told us that not only did this come through in the pitch; it ultimately convinced them that we were the right agency.
The agency may have done their research and be saying the right things, but trust your instincts. While the content of the pitch counts for a lot, it’s crucial to feel that you’re on the same wavelength. If you’re a very outgoing company, you’re not going to want a wallflower for a project manager, and vice versa.
4) How will my creative be delivered?
You may like what you’re seeing during the pitch, but remember to ask how stages of the project will be delivered. Every agency has its own way of working – some like regular meetings, while others prefer speaking over the phone. Our projects generally start off with a lot of client face to face time; we like to get to know one another well and feel fully comfortable with the project. Once the client is happy with the progress made and the project becomes more familiar, feedback is often discussed over the phone, or deliverables are sent via email.
5) Do you have a full timing plan?
The project will be broken up into stages: it’s crucial to understand what each stage consists of and how much time is allocated to it. Clients can underestimate timings in the research, design development and cross browser testing stages. A full timing plan eliminates any ambiguity, giving you a realistic expectation of how long your project should take.
6) Do you have a full breakdown of the cost?
At Firedog, we appropriate costs and hours to each stage of the project, so you know exactly what you’re getting for your money. It’s important to note that some agencies will charge extra for amends made to the creative, while others – like us – might factor two stages of changes into the budget. It’s also advisable to confirm whether meetings are included in the cost. Although it’s rare, some agencies will charge per meeting.
7) Are imagery costs included?
At the pitch stage, the exact route of the project is yet to be determined. As a result, most agencies will charge extra for imagery. The range in costs is huge; an iStock image could cost 90p, while buying full rights to an image might be as much as £300. Also to note: fees for a photographer or artist will probably not be included in the bottom line figure.
8) How much will I be paying for hosting and ongoing management?
This question is a must for any web design project. There may be a set fee for design and build, but what will the costs look like after the project’s completion? This is where the CMS system your site is built from really comes into play. A tailor-made CMS may sound attractive in theory, but be aware that you will then be tied to the agency for future hosting fees. If, however, your CMS is built on a universal platform such as WordPress, it will be much easier to maintain the site yourself. It’s also a good idea to ask what the standard of bug fixing will be once live.
9) What is the billing schedule and is this negotiable?
Before committing, it’s important to discuss IP rights with the agency. These days, it’s very likely that the agency will pass full rights over to you on completion of the project. Be warned, though: some agencies will continue to charge for IP rights. It’s also advisable to confirm when invoices are sent out, so there can be no confusion once the project starts.
It all relates back to dating. The agency may seem compatible and woo you with a strong first impression, but will you be valued? A large agency may have an impressive client list and numerous awards to its name, but this doesn’t guarantee a project’s success. Asking what a project manager is currently working on is a good gauge. A small project with a sizeable agency may leave you feeling neglected, as could a mid-sized project with an agency that’s working with many similarly sized clients. In general, though, remember that a big win for a smaller agency will count for a lot. It’ll probably pull out all the stops to impress you.