Skip to main content

How to choose a good creative agency.

When you’re searching for a company to handle your web design, branding or marketing, how can you choose a good creative agency? Let’s face it, if you haven’t worked with an agency before, and the only thing you know so far is the price you’ve been given in a proposal, how do you determine if this is THE one? The agency who will love you and work with you forever?

Below are 10 ways to know you’ve picked the right agency. And we are totally okay (kind of) with the fact that it might not be us.

1. They took the time to meet you.

Why meet when you can send an email? This might be true after you’ve established an introduction to your agency, but at first, it’s crucial that you meet with them in person, or at the very least, over a phone call. 

“Why,” you ask? Well, in a world full of emails and texts, it can be easy to send a proposal and never take the time to set up a meeting. But if they don’t do this one small thing at the beginning of the process, how available will they be when your project starts rolling? After all, you are spending a lot of money and time and will be working with them long-term. An initial meeting should be mandatory when choosing a creative agency.

2. They have an amazing proposal.

Some agencies will have flashy videos and swag to give you, and don’t get us wrong, these are fabulous bonus bits (that we ourselves have used), but don’t let that sway you from the meat of what is truly important: the proposal itself. 

A good proposal should outline the price of services, but more than that, it should be a customized blueprint of the work they will complete for you. If you are getting a ballpark figure, or a proposal that isn’t customized to your company, ask yourself if they are truly invested in figuring out who you are and what you need. Which brings us to our third point… 

3. They clearly understand your needs and challenges.

Does the agency have a clear understanding of what your pain points are, and why you need branding or marketing services? Or are they just handing you a generic proposal with a generic price, without understanding your company?

You are unique, and they should deliver a unique solution to you. One that addresses your needs and challenges. Although this is likely explored in further detail with a brand analysis and research after you become a client, you should see glimpses of their understanding in their initial meeting, and again in their proposal.

Even if they are unfamiliar with your particular industry, they should understand what types of problems you face with your marketing and be able to articulate that from the beginning.

4. They offer well-rounded expertise.

Marketing is the sum of different activities, so chances are that one project will be connected to another. A well-rounded agency should have a high level of expertise in all aspects of marketing. 

They might be working specifically on your website, but do they understand how it will work together with your social media? Are they doing content marketing for you? In that case, ask them how your branding materials will be incorporated.

A good creative agency may or may not be able to offer all the marketing services you need, but they will be able to recommend or advise you on numerous other marketing topics, not just their own specialization.

5. They rank high on the creativity scale.

This is where a creative agency should shine (obviously). Whether it’s in the copy, the design, the headlines or the implementation, they should reign supreme on the idea front. Take a look through their online portfolio and see if you like their work. Is it well executed? Does it look professional and fresh? 

Don’t make the mistake of cutting corners by choosing an agency with sub-par creativity just to save a few dollars. Design and ideas are your brand, and the equity you are accumulating in your brand is extremely valuable (just ask Nike or Apple). A great agency will build on this equity and find creative avenues to make it even more valuable. 

6. You have a good relationship.

Client-agency collaboration is crucial. The agency you choose will be working on an important aspect of your business. Do they meet with you to discuss important milestones? Do you feel comfortable bringing up ideas with them, and, are you open-minded to the new ideas they express?

You and your agency should be able to communicate honestly and openly with each other, and have a solid relationship that allows for an easy flow of ideas. 

7. They set realistic expectations.

If an agency says yes to your deadlines and budgets without clearly understanding what’s involved, beware. It means one of two things: One, they didn’t understand the full scope of the project or, two, they are saying whatever you need to hear. Either one spells disaster. 

In fact, if you have a large project, such as a robust website, it’s often hard to know what the completion date, or even the final cost will be until the agency delves into strategy and research.

A good agency will tell you what’s realistic, and then outline the reasons and an alternate approach if needed, rather than just saying yes. It’s better to know up front that you can’t have your new brand launch or website within the price or deadline you expect, than to have false promises, unplanned costs and missed deadlines.

8. They have references.

This one can get tricky, because of course no one is going to give a bad reference, so take some time to determine if the testimonial or reference is from a reputable business, and if so, if that business is roughly the same size or calibre as yours. 

The reference doesn’t have to be in the same industry. Sometimes if they aren’t in your industry, it’s a bonus, as they will be more open to being completely honest with you.

Ask their reference what it’s like to work with them. Did they enjoy the process? Were they easy to work with? Were they happy with the end result? And don’t forget the age-old question—would you work with them again?

9. You like them.

Okay, let’s first clarify that the agency should be qualified, but after that, ask yourself if you dig their style. Have you met the team? Do they seem genuine and the type of people you’d enjoy spending time around? 

We have a hiring practice for both our employees and clients, and it’s a lesson taken from the pages of the book Delivering Happiness, written by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. It’s an easy question to ask yourself, but a hard question to follow through on. More than once we have gone against our gut feeling and worked with someone who we didn’t think would be the type of person we’d hang out with.

And you know what happened every time? We ended up kicking ourselves for a bad decision. Relationships matter in business, so make sure you like who you’re working with. 

10. They have wine.

Okay, maybe that’s just us. We happen to like wine, okay? And not only that, but it’s a great icebreaker with our clients, and a fun excuse to spend time with them. And hey, we do have coffee if you really insist.

Would we be a good fit?

Are you still in the process of choosing a creative agency? Why not consider Studiothink? We’re passionate about finding branding, marketing and web design solutions that help make your company successful. We meet all of the criteria of a good agency, and as a bonus, we are (somewhat) cool.