Brand Strategy
By Scott Bartley

A Real-World Guide to Selecting Your Ideal Agency of Record

Choosing an Agency of Record (AOR) is way more than a business transaction; it’s a strategic marketing decision that will — for better or worse — influence your brand and tactics. There are a lot of agencies out there (making a lot of promises), so it’s important that you do your due diligence before making a choice. We wrote this post, and downloadable checklist, to help.

Do you need an AOR?


If you’re unsure of whether or not you need an AOR, ask yourself this, “Do I want a partner that can help me make smart marketing decisions?” If you answered yes, then you want an AOR.

Agencies are not vendors; nothing about what we do is transactional. We are strategic partners who want to see you and your business succeed. As the AOR, we get to know your business, your challenges, your goals and objectives. We are invested. And with that commitment comes greater availability, deeper thinking, and the opportunity to create efficiencies.

  • Tip: Look for an agency that starts with a discovery phase. Getting to know you and your business is the only way to be an effective AOR.

The Art of Partnership


Look, we don’t throw around the ‘P’ word lightly — marketing partner is an important role, so make sure the agency you select uses it. An agency can have all the technical skills in the world, but if they don’t understand your brand, your goals, and your audience, those skills amount to very little. 

Also make sure that your AOR sees you for who you are — a professional and an expert. Effective collaboration synthesizes your internal insights with the agency’s external expertise. There must be mutual respect for this to work successfully. Both parties should feel comfortable supporting and challenging each other to get to the best result.

  • Tip: Ask prospective agencies if they are open to joint workshops. Also, have them explain their process for managing project feedback.  

Creativity Backed by Data


Agencies should ground their creativity in data and strategy. Otherwise, they’re just being clever and that’s not smart. Period.

Make sure you select an agency that always has the big picture in mind. If the data shows a current strategy isn’t working, they need to be flexible and adapt. A good AOR knows the importance of goals and priorities, and works with you when those change.

  • Tip: Request case studies that demonstrate how creative campaigns achieved measurable business objectives. Ask about key performance indicators, and discuss how they adjust strategies based on analytics.


Unwavering Reliability


Trust is everything. You need to be confident that the AOR will meet your deadlines and expectations. Speak with the prospective Account Executive to ensure their approach to work flow and accountability is lock-step with yours.

  • Tip: During the vetting process, request to speak with current and/or former clients; ask about their experience with the agency’s reliability. Additionally, ask the agency how they’ve salvaged projects that didn’t go as planned. Their answers will provide valuable insights into their problem-solving capabilities.


You’ll love it when a plan comes together.


The Importance of Agency Culture


It’s like mom always said — personality matters. A solid agency-client rapport is critical to a successful long-term relationship. Marketing requires a lot of stamina, so having a partner whose company you enjoy and whose talent you respect can make a big difference.

  • Tip: See if the agency is open to a ‘trial project’ before committing to a full-scale partnership. This will give you an opportunity to experience their work style, reliability, and cultural fit.


The Non-Negotiable Services


Put these items on your must-have list. If the boxes aren’t all checked, move on to the next candidate.

  1. Web Development: Your digital presence is critical. Ask how they approach UX/UI design, mobile responsiveness, and SEO. 
  2. Creative Campaign Services: Ensure they can offer multi-channel campaigns, and ask how they tailor to different audience segments. 
  3. Video and Animation: What kind of storytelling techniques do they employ? Is it solely promotional, or can they delve into informative and educational content as well? 
  4. Marketing Strategy: Ask for examples of comprehensive marketing strategies they’ve developed; discuss how they were executed and adjusted over time.
  • Tip: Assess what skill sets and services are most important to you before you begin speaking with candidates. Use that list as a ranking tool in making your final decision.  

Hmmm…What about Bartley & Dick?


Finding the right Agency of Record is a critical decision, one that can propel your brand to new heights or leave you stuck in a cycle of missed opportunities and underwhelming results. But it doesn’t have to be a daunting task. For some help, be sure to access our AOR Selection Checklist.

If you’re looking for an agency that epitomizes dependability, thrives on collaboration, wields creativity like a masterful tool, and brings genuine joy into their work, we invite you to start a conversation with us.

Let's Explore How the Right Chemistry Can Help You Reach Your Goals

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