Your internal team is maxed-out with its current workload. You're not in a position to add more staff and the requirements for an upcoming project may be just outside of your comfort zone. If this scenario has you considering an agency partnership, answer these questions before taking the leap:
1. HOW MUCH CREATIVE SUPPORT DO YOU NEED?
Depending on the types of projects you have in mind and their complexity, you might not actually need the support of an agency, after all. If you're hoping to outsource design for a few brochures or infographics, or only need a quick website refresh, a quality freelancer may prove more cost-efficient than hiring an agency that offers additional (in this case, unnecessary) capabilities. On the other hand, if you anticipate needing strategic insight or a variety of integrated deliverables over an extended period of time, an agency would likely be a better fit than a "vendor" relationship.
2. WHAT KIND OF CREATIVE SUPPORT DO YOU NEED?
The lines between the various marketing disciplines are becoming increasingly blurry, but (despite all the jargon) most agencies have a "sweet spot" in which they're most experienced and efficient. Your team's particular goals will help determine whether you should pursue an agency that specializes primarily in advertising, branding, custom publishing, video production, etc. Although many agencies have legitimate strength in multiple areas, be sure to research their past projects and client list to ensure that they've got the chops where you need it most.
3. IS YOUR TEAM WILLING TO RECEIVE OUTSIDE INPUT?
The internal dynamic of an organization can play a big part in the success or failure of an agency partnership. The benefits of hiring an outside group can only be realized if the organization is willing to trust the input it receives and work toward implementing the agreed-upon process for achieving its goals. To make the most out of a creative partnership, resist the temptation to micro-manage and allow the agency to guide you in its area of expertise.
4. CAN YOUR TEAM PARTICIPATE IN THE PROCESS?
On the other extreme, dumping all responsibility on an agency and checking-out is also a bad idea. Whatever challenges your team may be experiencing prior to the partnership won't instantly disappear with the signing of a contract. Your team's knowledge and involvement will be integral in equipping the agency with the insights it needs to be most helpful and your continued participation will be crucial for long-term success.
5. DO YOU LIKE THE PEOPLE AT THE AGENCY OF INTEREST?
No matter how impressed you are with their capabilities presentation or client list, make sure you enjoy the people at the agency you're prepared to hire. Ideally, you'll be working together over an extended period of time and you'll find it easier to trust and collaborate with a team of people that you genuinely appreciate and respect.