Finding A Great Marketing Agency

Jon Hamm's John Ham

Part of our core business is helping destinations through the RFP process…everything from selection to integration.

As such, we see a lot of RFPs.

Good, bad and, well, really bad.

Recently, a solicitation hit our desk with 32 (32!) invited agencies. Yes, the DMO in question encouraged 32 different vendors to fill some poor procurement professionals next 8 weeks with an endless stream of marketing persuasion.


If I were an agency, why would I want to participate, let alone win the business, with an organization that clearly has no idea what it wants or needs?

So, for the benefit of your next RFP, and the sanity of business development / procurement professionals everywhere, here are 3 suggestions for creating your next agency consideration list.

Creating a great agency consideration list.

Understand your needs and goals.

Yes, a lot of agencies perform marketing services. And yes, quite a few build websites. But like a proprietor of sushi, the difference is quality and qualifications.

Building a WordPress site and developing a custom CMS are related, but require different skill sets. CRM and CMS are not the same. Shooting a :30 spot probably should not happen on an iPhone. And no, not all agencies truly understand social media…regardless of that new Pinterest account.

Before sending out the invitations to bid, understand exactly what you are asking for and who provides best-of-breed services in that area.

To start, ask yourself this question: By hiring an agency, what are we expecting to change?

Discovering quality agencies.

Pulling your consideration set from a list built upon paid memberships is not an ideal way to find a quality agency.

This is not to say that quality agencies do not participate in such lists, but endorsement by association should not be viewed as a vetting process, rather an advertising expense.

Quality agencies, like quality sushi, are most often found via referral. Who should you ask? Start with these people:

Industry Peers
They are in the same line of work and should know quality from crap.

Non-Industry Peers
Your accountant may seem like an odd choice, but the external perspective should provide a new set of possibilities.

Your Current Agency
Oh, they know who their competition is. And if they have any confidence at all, should recommend a good list.

Local Influencers
The organizers behind your local Social Media Club or Travel Massive are likely connected and willing to share a few industry tips.

Oh, and don’t rule out agencies working with peer brands. Their experience will enhance your relationship, rather than cause additional stress.

Focusing via research.

Goals, check. Recommendations, check. Now, let’s complete a bit of research to focus our list.

Yes, the agency should and most likely will submit a nice informational packet with the submission, but additional research is valuable to help form your own opinion about the vendor.

Where to look? Start here:

Did they agency take the time to develop a cohesive and coherent site?

Business page?  Employees?  What did the CEO do in a previous life?

Social Sites
Not a requirement*, but a nice resource to learn about the philosophy of the agency.   *If it is a social media agency, then yes, it is a requirement.

Ad Age
Have they been written about?  Have their campaigns, creative or ideas been introduced and discussed by someone other than themselves? / ads of the world
How active are they in the agency segment of social media?

Considering the length of your future vendor commitment, spending 30 minutes to learn about the recommended agencies is well worth it.


Ah, that feels better. No need to invite all 32 vendors for that next RFP. By creating a quality agency consideration list you can avoid unnecessary work load, while building a greater understanding of your own project goals.

And perhaps find the perfect marketing partner in the process.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.