So you’ve made the decision to dump your agency and see what else is out there. Or maybe you’re looking to launch a new pharma product and seeking the best partner to join you in the trenches. Either way, when you’re evaluating new agency partners, it’s a big decision that you’ll likely have to live with for some time. Sure – you’ll check the boxes for capabilities, case studies, and creative. But here’s how to help drive the agency-selection team toward the best decision, beyond the standard scorecard.

  1. Check trust and credibility – Trust is the foundation of any relationship. Ask around – what is the agency’s reputation among other clients and agency peers? Check references – all of them. And ask for references of those who are no longer clients.
  2. Look under the hood – A pitch team may dazzle you with a dashing sizzle reel or a great presentation on pitch day, but do they really know what they’re doing? Do they practice what they preach? Google them. Read their blog, and stalk their social media presence. Even better, spend some time with them in a less-structured setting such as an ideation session or social event.
  3. Confirm chemistry and collaboration – Who will be on your account team, and why were they chosen? Are they compatible with your team culture? Did they make you want to work side by side with them? Will they make your life easier by “playing well in the sandbox” with other agencies? Will they work well with an extended list of stakeholders including legal, medical and regulatory?
  4. Steer clear of shiny objects – You fell in love with their stunning creative concepts, but do they really understand your business? Agencies should demonstrate a deep understanding of your audience, your brand, and the market challenges you face. Avoid those who show creative for creative’s sake, or innovation for innovation’s sake, with no real business objective.
  5. Crunch the numbers – The lowest billable rates don’t always mean an agency is the least expensive. Are proposed costs and timelines reasonable? Are they offering you any value-adds to show how much your business means to them?

Remember, agency pitches shouldn’t be about putting check marks on a simple scorecard or being seduced by the team with the most polished presentation skills. They’re your opportunity to evaluate both hard and soft skills to ensure the choice you make is best for you and your brand. Ask tough questions; look for red flags; trust your gut but do your homework. Evaluating a pitch takes time and mental energy, but finding the right partner could mean the difference between divorce court and happily ever after.