I know clients have to choose an agency some how, but is it just me, or is the old fashioned pitch process about the worst way of doing it? Agencies are put through a beauty parade which might be a good showcase for creative, but has very little to do with the day to day of actually getting the job done and delivered intelligently to the best result.
If you're choosing an agency here are some pitfalls to avoid:
1. Bad research
Clients often don't seem to research which agencies they put on their list. If you're going to be spending hours of your time evaluating the agency, at least spend some time on their website to get a good initial feel for the company and their areas of expertise.
2. Bad briefing
What do you want the agency to do for you? Have you told them? Give them a clear brief with objectives and budget. So often clients don't give an indication of budget, but agencies aren't mind-readers and even the best agency in the world is unlikely to come up with a great pitch at the perfect price with little or no brief. Share as much knowledge as you can and you're more likely get a feel for how the agency works in your real world and get a proposal which is aligned to your needs.
3. Putting too many agencies on the list
You don't need to see eight agencies pitch. Meet a few in the early stages to get an idea of what's out there by all means, but sitting through eight presentations is just plain confusing. Three or four is quite enough to give you a good comparison.
4. Not going and visiting the agency
Yes, I know it's easier for the agency to come to you, but if all you're seeing is a team of 3 people, what does that tell you about the agency as a whole? Go and see them. You'll learn more about their size and the feel of the company and it should also give you an opportunity to meet more of the senior team to give you a feel for the resource you're going to be able to draw on. Meet the MD if they're not already involved in the pitch.
5. Not taking up references
Any agency should be delighted to supply you with client references. Speak to at least a couple to find out how the agency actually perform; not just in the first 6 months but long term.
There are thousands of pounds at stake and the worst thing is if you choose the wrong agency you'll have to go through the whole process again next year. .