The Insights Blog

Step 1 in Your Agency Search: Developing a Needs Assessment

Step 1 in Your Agency Search: Developing a Needs Assessment


No one decides to replace a marketing agency on a whim – the service and financial stakes are too high to take anything but a thoughtful, considered, and evidence-based approach. Once the decision to move on has been made, though, your approach to finding the right new agency should be no less thoughtful, considered, and evidence based.

Whatever their reason for dismissing an agency, an unhappy client undoubtedly has a positive outcome in mind that a new agency will bring to fruition. Usually that outcome’s pretty specific, whether it’s improved business results, better work, better strategy, quicker execution, better service, lower costs, all of the above, etc. In every agency search MIG conducts, we draw on this set of desired outcomes to build out a needs assessment, the document that will guide the entire selection process from beginning to end, ensuring that any agency we look at is judged by the same common, mission-critical criteria.

Read on to find out the key elements for building your own needs assessment…

Drafting a needs assessment is an important first step to finding and selecting the right agency partner, because it gives you and your team a shared set of evaluation guidelines. If you all agree on what it is you need from an agency partner in concrete terms at the outset (What are the key capabilities? What type of past experience is relevant to our brand? Can they push back on us when we need them to?), you can rest assured you’re making a more objective, shared decision in the final stages.

Here are several key elements to consider when crafting a needs assessment:

Putting these together in an at-a-glance format should give you, your team, and any senior stakeholders that must give approval the guidance needed to make the right decisions throughout your agency-search process. Even at the end, when it comes time to evaluate your final selections, you can look back to the needs assessment you crafted to see if your potential winner truly checks all the boxes you set out to check. Assuming they do, you can feel confident that you’ve made your decision based on much more than a gut feeling, but rather based on a well-reasoned, fact-based foundation.

Barry O’Neil has led numerous agency/vendor searches and client/agency relationship management 360 review processes for clients such as CFA Institute, TrueCar, Logan’s Roadhouse, UScellular, Ulta Beauty, Clarisonic, CenturyLink, CustomInk and many others. He has also participated in corporate restructuring initiatives, client process-realignment initiatives, and agency new-business reviews and pitch/positioning consulting.