How to Hire the Right Branding Agency

The business case for hiring a branding agency

In all the years of working with tech companies, we have heard the same story time and time again about the trials and tribulations of VPs and marketing executives trying to secure a budget to invest in hiring a branding agency with limited success. On top of that, how to hire the right agency can be just as confusing.

We hear about them making strong and compelling business cases to invest in the brand to leadership teams and hitting a wall. It happens at every budget cycle, management meeting, and discussion around disappointment in growth, differentiation, and lead gen that fail to meet expectations. And still there’s no investment in the brand.

When so many founders and CEOs of technology companies don’t yet see the value in investing in brand strategy it’s often because they are deeply invested in building a product and often feel that product will sell itself, until, well it doesn’t. They try and fix the things that are easy and seem obvious, but often times it takes more than that. They don’t know what you know: investing in the brand is investing in the business. Yes, it’s frustrating. We feel your pain.

Investing in brand strategy is not easy for many founders and CEOs to wrap their head around, but when they are ready to pull the trigger, you need to be ready.

How to hire the right branding agency

Hiring the right agency is critical to your success, the businesses success, and the agency’s success. So how do you hire the right agency when it’s finally time? Very, very carefully.

Some things to consider:

Do your homework to see who are the top agencies. Tap your network, do your research, check the rankings to see what firms measure up.

Be incredibly clear about the goals and objectives of the project. Map them out to get sign-off from the leadership team.

Set appropriate expectations about timing so they are clear what their time commitment is on the project.

Be realistic around what budget is required to engage an agency to do great work, and the reality of how long it will take from start to finish. Set this expectation with the leadership team so they know from the outset.

Tap your network for strategic agencies. Find agencies that have relevant experience, portfolio, and reputation but offer different approaches to solving the problems you are looking to address.

Choose 3 agencies to prepare proposals. Cast a wide net at first and bring the top 3 back to go through the process with you.

Be very clear about what you are asking help for. Help each agency understand what you are trying to accomplish – big picture – with this project, what the dynamics of the leadership team are, and what you personally are trying to accomplish. If you set the agency up for success, you’ll be successful too.

Compare apples to apples. Give each agency the same project to scope so that they can prepare a proposal, timing, team and budget for you to be able to compare each agency to the same scope.

The pitch. Once you’ve kicked the tires of each agency and checked references, invite your top 2 agencies to come in and pitch….

Trust your gut

This is where you should sit back and watch the dynamics of each pitch. Which agency fires up your leadership team about what is possible? Which agency enables the work to begin even within the pitch? Which agency provokes a meaningful dialogue? Which agency feels right?

Once you’ve checked all the rational boxes, this decision becomes an emotional one.

So how do you hire the right agency for your brand project? Choose who you feel can help you manage your leadership team and this project, deliver a meaningful brand strategy that delivers the results you need, and who you can imagine working side by side with for the next few months… because you will be spending a lot of time with them.

Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy firm.

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