Here are a few questions you might want to ask before hiring an agency:

Who will you be working with? Make sure this person is skilled and knowledgeable. Often agencies will send their top people to get the account and then assign a lower level person to work with you. Find someone who is a good compatible fit for you. You need to work closely with this person.

What size is the agency? Don’t be dazzled by big agencies. Many smaller agencies can provide more attention. Look at their client list and pay attention to how long they have worked with their clients. Look for client turnover.

Are they easy to communicate with? Remember that you will be working as a team. Realize that the agency is human and mistakes can be made. Do you have a good line of communication with the agency? Is there a good rapport. Don’t be fooled by good sales people.

Do they have references? The agency should be able to give you names of people they work with. Also check with the local media and ask their opinion. Find out if the agency pays its bills on time. It isn’t unusual for an agency to go out of business due to poor financial management.

How long has the agency been in business? Ask them about other experience. Look for an agency that has a well rounded background in all media. Often sales reps go into business as an agency and specialize in the media they once represented because they are not knowledgeable of other media. Look for a business that has been around for at least five years to ensure business stability and knowledge.

Is there a conflict of interest? Check to see if the agency is doing work for one of your competitors. Ask for an exclusive contract. A reputable agency will usually only handle one bank, one car dealer, etc. unless they have the staff to form teams to handle competing businesses.

How is the agency paid? Agencies make their money in one of three ways: Commissions (usually 15%), fees or retainers. Commission is figured by dividing the net amount by .85 to equal gross amount. Example: $100 / .85 = $117.64. Fees are usually charged for creative services. Fees range from $25 to $250 in our region. It is wise to get all work bid on in advance. Retainers are a monthly fee charged to handle an account. Usually a certain amount of work is agreed upon to be completed each month with an agreed upon price. This can lead to confusion over what work is being accomplished if everything is not documented clearly. Make sure you know how you are being charged.

What is the agency’s philosophy? Does their working philosophy mesh with your company’s. There are a few agencies that focus on dollar volume over doing what is best for their client. For instance, the agency may have an agreement with a billboard company and encourage your company to purchase billboards to meet their own obligations rather than your sales goals.

Visit the agency. Take a good look at the office organization and personnel. You want to work with a business that is well organized and pays attention to detail. You want strong creative and friendly service. You can find out a lot by a company by just visiting and seeing how you are treated.

Look for the Golden Rule. The bottom line is that you need to be treated with respect. You deserve to be carefully listened to. You know your business and you need to be able to share thoughts freely so that as a team you can build ideas that will work best for your business. Beware of a company that tells you what you are going to do – as much as you need to watch out for agencies that acts simply as an order taker.

Poole Advertising wishes you tremendous success in your search for an agency. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions. There are a lot of good people to work with in our region. Trust your instincts, and get out there and build more business.