As the President of Creative Options, I’d like to think we’re the best small advertising agency in all of Texas and Southwest. The fact of the matter is, there are many advertising agencies out there. Many of them good, but not all. So, if you’re a business owner or Marketing Director looking for an advertising agency to you help increase your sales and handle all of your marketing needs, here are five important tips to consider:

1. Pay attention to how well the agency strives to understand your business objectives:

The advertising agency you hire needs to prove to you that they are willing to take the time to understand your company’s goals and objectives. Many firms put on a good show upon the initial get-to-know-you meeting, asking a few routine questions about your company in order to land a project with you. However, once the project has commenced, most firms will quickly appear to lose interest, seeming more like a vendor than a partner. Over time, you will find yourself garnering less and less of their attention.

On the other hand, a good advertising agency will exhibit a genuine interest in your company. They will ask a series of strategic questions, making notes of key points worthy of further exploration. Once they have learned a good deal about you, they will refine their questions and begin making recommendations about your marketing and advertising direction. This “winning” type of agency will come forward with an overall strategic plan for you, rather than just a list of short-term, tactical projects.

2. Ask them to detail the process they will follow to identify and understand your best prospects:

Good advertising agencies know how to develop a sophisticated market segmentation strategy. Segmentation refers to the practice of profiling your company’s market into groups or clusters and then determining which of those groups are most likely to spend more money with you than the rest.

Developing a smart segmentation strategy is an integral part of a strong advertising campaign, and the agency you choose needs to be able to actively develop one for your firm. Bottom line: ask each of the candidate advertising agencies you are evaluating to describe in detail to how they plan to identify your best prospects.

3. Find out how they manage complex projects involving multiple media:

For larger ad campaigns involving multiple media channels (e.g., radio, TV, Internet, magazines, direct mail, etc.) most advertising agencies will be faced with outsourcing one or more of the project elements to outside vendors. A good agency knows how to differentiate between which items the agency can do exceptionally well itself and which items it needs to outsource to partners and vendors. The agency you choose needs to have a solid management system in place so that they can make sure all of the pieces fit together nicely for a given campaign. Ask your agency to describe how they handle large projects. If their answer is direct and detailed, you will know that they have thought through how to handle these projects.

4. Request samples of their creative work:

There are as many styles and types of creative work as there are designers (i.e., “creatives”). Just because an advertising agency is in “the business,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to resonate with the type of work they have done in the past. Ask to see a portfolio of their past work. Hint: make sure the portfolio is media-specific. That is, if you are looking to have them create a TV ad campaign on your behalf, don’t be satisfied if they merely give you samples of their past billboard or magazine ads. Reason: creative work that is appropriate for one type of medium is not necessarily appropriate for another.

When you are viewing their creative samples, ask yourself whether you feel an emotional, as well as a mental, connection with the work. Trust your instincts. If you don’t like what you see, ask for work by another designer on their team. Don’t be shy: part of making a campaign work requires that you, the client, believe in it yourself.

5. Ask them to explain their knowledge of the Dallas, TX media market:

When it comes to putting together a media campaign, you want an agency that knows your market intimately. In the case of a broadcast campaign for the Dallas, TX market (for example), you are going to want to select an ad agency that has relationships with all of the important radio and TV stations in town. These relationships will allow them to get you the best rates, as well as to negotiate “remotes and promos” (viz., value-adds or perks that you can sometimes receive for making radio buys). It is also important to know your campaign’s target audience well, which can be another advantage of choosing a local agency.

It will be to your benefit to take the time to choose the right advertising agency. Dallas is a great market – and you need an experienced, sophisticated agency that knows how to put together a winning advertising plan if you are going to conquer it. And I may be a bit biased, but you won’t find a better agency to help out than the one you’re reading about now. Contact us today, and we’ll be happy to prove it.