5 Questions to Ask When Hiring an Ad Agency

Selecting an advertising agency can -- and should be -- a positive experience for any business. With the right partner, you can grow and develop your brand and in turn, your bottom line. But like hiring the right employee, selecting an agency partner can be a challenge. To ensure that you find the right agency "match," consider these five questions to help guide your search for a partner who will serve as a brand steward for you and your business.

1. What kind of agency am I really looking for? Are your needs more focused in digital, print or direct response? Or are you seeking a fully integrated approach? Regardless of your current needs, it's key to focus on the big picture and to find a partner who can work with you now -- and into the future as your business changes and evolves.

What's more, your winning agency should be one who fully understands your mission, core values and business goals. I believe that it's the agency's job to ask what keeps you up at night and to be a partner in facing and overcoming these challenges. To do this, it's critical that your partner agency knows who they are, what they offer and how they can work with you to achieve the set goals.

2. How do they value their clients? If an agency has a number of long-term clients, this can only mean one thing: the agency is making money for these clients. In most cases, this level of ongoing and consistent success will translate to you and your business. Sure, clients shift with time, but there is a big difference between serial one-off campaigns and a healthy mix of new projects and long-term growth. Twenty-seven projects with twenty-seven different companies don't show a strong track record.

When interviewing your agency, inquire about the length and scope of their work with individual businesses and ask about clients who have taken the agency with them, when moving on to new roles. These are always my favorite case studies to share because they allow us to demonstrate both our work and our ability to build and maintain excellent client relationships.

3. Does all of their creative look the same? People are important, but the next step is to turn a critical eye to the end product. If you're looking at an agency's portfolio and see the same themes and styles each time, think about what you'll be getting. Chances are, you'll be on the receiving end of those same ideas -- recycled for your brand.

Instead, look for the agency's work to echo their client's individual brand promise, style and messaging. If the agency's "stamp" is too obvious, it may be more about their brand than yours. Remember, the creative should work for the client, not the other way around.

4. Can I see myself working with these people every day? Simply put, the best relationship with an agency is one that will last for years and grow into a true partnership. When meeting with your agency as part of the pitch process, make sure that the A-team who presents won't be walking away from your account the moment you've signed a contract. Then think about the chemistry factor: if you can't see yourself working day-to-day with the people on your account team, chances are that the relationship won't last for the long haul.

These should be people you can see yourself collaborating with, who make it about you, the customer. On the flip side, I know that having an engaged and enthusiastic team that gets along well with the client will mean better work product, less account turnover and happier employees. Good chemistry is a win/win for both parties.

5. How will this agency expand my network? Whenever you are hiring a new partner, especially an advertising agency that will be charged with increasing your brand's overall awareness, there is the potential to expand your businesses network.

A good agency should be led by people who are resourceful and resilient and who can connect you and your brand to other people and organizations. They should always be on the lookout for ways to help grow your business and be a true brand ambassador. As the principal of my agency, I am always looking to expand my client's networks through my own, like The Committee of 200 (C200) and the Women Presidents' Organization (WPO), of which I am a member. Whenever I'm talking to fellow C200 and WPO members, or anyone in the business community, I'm always thinking about how these relationships can benefit my clients--because my business is only successful if my clients are successful.