How to Select a Marketing Agency for Financial Services Brands

Hiring a new agency can be a daunting task. With so many agencies around all vying for business, finding suitable agencies to submit a Request for Proposal to requires a structured approach. We’ll get into some of the things to think about shortly. But first, should you even be sending out RFP’s to agencies?

As with most such issues, the opinions are strongly divided. Those on the negative side say it’s a distraction and might comment on the long and inefficient process. Others are more positive and mention it’s a good way to get a number of agencies to look at your business and provide ideas and strategies that will be helpful in judging the agencies more objectively. Whichever camp you are in, at MediaGroup we pride ourselves in working how a client wants us to work and that includes responding to everything from formal RFP’s to ‘lunch dates’.

Regardless of how you structure the actual process, here are a few things to consider when selecting marketing agencies for RFP. Since we specialize in financial services brands, the following information is mostly applicable for companies such as brokers in the online trading space, banks, asset managers, hedge funds, credit cards and the (short term) loan industry.

Niche focus vs Size

In this industry, going for an agency with extensive experience with your product usually means you will be working with a smaller agency because there just isn’t the same amount of work available in a niche. The trade-off is clear, a niche focussed agency will know your product and will be able to hit the ground running but they might not have all the resources that a large agency group has. When left to procurement, larger agencies often win for this reason, but there is a strong case to be made for Marketers to stick to their guns and work with a company that knows their business, inside and out.

Management vs Operations

A related point is that working with larger, non-specialized agencies usually means you will see senior staff only at the pitch, contract signing and bi-annual review of the account (ok that might be an embellishment but you get the point). When the contract is signed, junior personnel is hired/assigned to take your account.

So, while these more senior agency staff may impress, remember to verify who will be the day to day account manager; as they are the person that will drive the success or failure of your marketing program. When it comes to smaller more niche agencies, senior staff are often very closely involved in the day to day of operations; this can be a major driver of success.

Functional Specialty vs Full Service

There are a good number of agencies that JUST do SEO, Display, Creative, PR, PPC, Print, RTB and many more such specialisations and with a large enough budget the rationale for going with them over a full service agency can be compelling. But when it comes to selling a niche product such as online trading, it can be hard to find an agency that specializes in both your product and the niche together so the choice often becomes either working with a product niche (ie financial services) agency or a marketing area niche (ie PR, SEO, PPC etc) agency. Besides this issue, having one party oversee all of your outsourced marketing can decrease cost, improve communication and increase performance.

These are of course just some of the considerations to select the initial list of agencies to RFP. Once you have received a satisfying number of RFP’s, the process of judging them will require another set of considerations, but we’ll keep that for another blog post.

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