Choose your enemies carefully ‘cos they will define you
Make them interesting ‘cos in some ways they will mind you
They’re not there in the beginning but when your story ends
Gonna last with you longer than your friends.

– Bono (U2)

No one can go it alone in marketing their business. They won’t get very far.

Sooner or later you’ll want a helping hand or a head to bounce ideas off. You’ll need to buy products and services. When you do, you’re going to have to choose good partners (or “suppliers” or “vendors,” depending on your universe) for your business to be successful and grow.

Here are six key evaluation criteria and questions to ask yourself as you vet your next marketing partner. These are general enough to apply to any business or non-profit organization but specific enough to matter to every kind of organization.

  1. VALUE: Can this firm add value to my company’s marketing function, perhaps with a specialization I don’t have in-house (writing, animation, media buying expertise, data analytics and reporting sophistication, etc.)?
  2. REPUTATION: Does this firm have a solid reputation serving the market I’d like to penetrate, complete with quality references?
  3. PORTFOLIO: Does this firm provide an extensive portfolio of work that speaks to my business category, showing solutions to which I can relate?
  4. CULTURE: Noting how important chemistry is in business relationships (as well as personal ones), does this firm share a similar culture to my company?
  5. PRICE: Is this firm charging a fair price for the products and services they provide?
  6. FIT: Does this firm know how to be a partner, not a competitor, with my in-house team, respecting our complementary roles and working to make the outcome larger than the sum of the parts?

Just as you choose friends and enemies carefully, choose your marketing agency partners, vendors and suppliers with care as well.

By Steve Johnson, Managing Partner and Jamie Jacobs, Partner