4A’s Agency Prospect Assessment Guidance

The 4A’s New Business Committee has developed new “Agency Prospect Assessment Guidance” to help facilitate more consistent and efficient implementation of longstanding 4A’s guidance regarding the appropriate level of thoughtful consideration and discussion prior to engaging in a review.

The 4A’s “Agency Prospect Assessment Guidance” is designed to help agencies considering an RFP response, engage in a productive dialogue with the marketer or consultant early in the process.

1. Objective

The best long-term client-agency relationships involve a respectful, ongoing, open dialogue on goals, priorities, processes, performance and economics. Everything that makes a partnership function. It is important to set your relationship expectations and evaluate the marketer’s predisposition towards agency relationships, early-on in the agency review process.

The new 4A’s “Agency Prospect Assessment Guidance” has been created to help facilitate agency evaluation of client opportunities

2. Background

Given the positive and negative impacts a new business review can have within an agency’s world, it is critical to maximize the agency’s chances of winning. The 4A’s longstanding belief and guidance is that it is as important for an agency to choose the right client, as it is for a client to choose the right agency.

The “Agency Prospect Assessment Guidance” can help improve an agency’s chances of winning a review, by helping the agency determine if it should be going after the business in the first place.

By using this Guidance, the agency should be able to find out if the marketer is open to the type of dialogue that enables long, productive relationships. If so, that’s a great first step. The specific questions in the Guidance can help the agency understand if this is indeed the right type of client for the agency. If so, the chances of a win should undoubtedly increase.

The increase in Project by Project work is leading to an increasing number of reviews. Whether to participate in a project review is a business decision that needs to be made on a case-by-case basis. A number of 4A’s agencies have been successfully utilizing their own proprietary versions of review or pitch engagement guidance and tools. Whether the review is for an AOR assignment or a project assignment, the “Agency Prospect Assessment Guidance” is designed to help the agency determine if the review is indeed a worthy client opportunity to pursue.

3. Agency Prospect Assessment Guidance

The willingness of a marketer to engage in a discussion facilitated by the “Agency Prospect Assessment Guidance” can be a good indicator, in and of itself, of that marketer’s desire to build an open, productive relationship with an agency. This is a good, early sign that this might be a good client with whom to work.

The specific information requests outlined in the Guidance were designed to both solicit meaningful information about the marketer and their business goals and to provide the agency with insight into what might be considered “red flag” responses. Or, depending upon the specific responses and situation, at least an indicator to potentially proceed with caution.

Information the agency should ask the marketer to share:

1) What led the marketer to invite the agency to participate in the review? Your agency should expect a quick, decisive response – “we know someone who works with you” – “we’ve seen your work for ABC and like it a lot” – “you were recommended by XYZ” – etc. Be cautious if there is a non-committal, ambivalent response. In the same way a marketer would be concerned if an agency was ambivalent about working with their organization, an agency might be wise to have similar concern if the marketer cannot articulate a good reason for including the agency in their review.

2) Why does the marketer wish to change agencies, what do they value most from their current relationship and what has been the biggest challenge. The responses to these questions can help you determine how best to proceed. Are there clear reasons for wanting to make a change? Has the incumbent been invited to participate? Have they been having trouble with a particular challenge or is it just ‘not working anymore?’ Are the things the marketer values most in their current agency, core competencies of your agency or would they be a stretch for you to fulfill or master? And is the biggest challenge the marketer has faced with their current agency something you are confident you can handle? Or at which your agency excels?

3) A clear understanding of the review process, competitive agency participants, marketer participants and budget ranges. While it would be ideal to get a direct response to each portion of this inquiry, occasionally marketers and consultants do not want to share information on early-stage competitive participants in the review. In that case, the marketer should provide the size and location of the other participants and in what space they play – full-service, digital, CRM, experiential, etc.

Similarly, some marketers may not want to share a specific budget, so asking for a budget range gives them some flexibility, while providing you with the mission-critical information you need.

Knowing who will be involved from the marketer’s side should give you an indication of how serious they are about the review and potentially who may be engaged with the winning agency. This information can help you determine how best to tailor your work, should you decide to move forward in the review.

In terms of the review process, getting an idea of how it will unfold is important for understanding the appropriate time commitment, personnel allocation and budget implications for your agency. Will there be spec work required, significant travel, deep research needs, etc.? If not clear at the outset, this discussion area should also help clarify whether this review is for an AOR assignment or project work and you can tailor the discussion accordingly.

The Assessment Guidance references the ANA/4A’s Guidelines for Agency Search and the ANA/4A’s Agency Reviews for Project Work Guidance Considerations. Please familiarize yourself with the content in both documents so as to be prepared for either an AOR review or project review discussion.

4) What are the marketer’s goals and metrics of success? Understanding the marketer’s goals and how the marketer will judge the success of the work (and the relationship) is critical, for only with this knowledge will the agency be able to appropriately staff and resource the business.

5) Benchmarks, research and target/audience data. The marketer should be willing to share this fundamental information so the agency does not invest resources in uncovering what is already known. It is better to focus on investigating new areas of potential opportunity or bringing new insights to bear on an existing aspect of their business.

6) Access to key decision makers. As important as the work itself, every successful client-agency relationship has a strong chemistry or ‘fit’ component. Having the opportunity to meet or interact with all the decision-makers involved, during the review process, helps ensure there are no surprises at the end.

4. Implementing the “Agency Prospect Assessment Guidance”

The 4A’s has prepared two tools by which to implement the Guidance. Either version can be forwarded to a prospect for review and subsequent discussion. The version entitled “4A’s Agency Prospect Assessment Guide” in PDF form (which includes the 4A’s logo), should be used verbatim. The question areas in this Guide are those the 4A’s believes can directly help an agency evaluate a prospect opportunity.

The Word version, entitled “Agency Prospect Assessment Outline” should be modified to reflect your agency’s culture, any unique considerations or the particulars of an individual review. Either version can also be used to form the basis of a conversation without being provided to the marketer.

Should you decide to modify the Outline, whatever specific questions are used should be designed to help the agency evaluate the marketer and make a better-informed decision as to whether or not to participate in the review.

Download 4A’s Agency Prospect Assessment Guide (PDF)

Download Agency Prospect Assessment Outline (MS Word)