When searching for an external agency who can turn your brand’s objectives and vision into an outstanding event experience, it’s not finding one that’s the hard part.
Making sure you choose the right agency – one whose culture and capabilities profile perfectly matches your unique requirements – necessitates some prudent questioning, and a ‘prove-it’ mindset from the very first encounter.
Here are the questions to ask:
Who are you?
You will, of course, know quite a lot about the agency you contacted before you first speak to them, be this through social media, content, their website, newsletters, case studies or, likely, all of the above. But, it doesn’t hurt to delve beyond the elevator pitch and slick website with questions that are light in tone, heavy on insight. Simply asking “where are you based?”, “how did you start out?”, and “what are your business goals?” will elicit insight into their areas of strength – and perhaps their weaknesses.
What in-house specialities do you have?
While some agencies claim to handle any kind of event in any sector, very few do – or can. Any assertions should be backed up with detailed case studies, and glowing testimonials from satisfied clients. There are cases where this is not possible – pharmaceutical clients are bound by regulations against promotion in the public domain, for instance – but any potential agency should still be candid enough in a one-to-one to give real life examples of previous projects and clients. It’s not just about sector speciality, though: it is just as important to find an agency who has experience running the type of events you require. Do they have full conference planning capability, or do they mainly organise in-house corporate events? Do they solely build event exhibits, or embrace experiential marketing for a complete experience? If your needs are aligned with their specialities, that’s a good sign.
Do you charge a markup?
It’s not a red flag if they do – every agency is different, and that’s ok. What is important is for clients to gain absolute clarity on an agency’s charging method and fee structure before entering into a professional relationship. At Rapiergroup for example, clients pay only for our management fees which are fixed within the scope of our project work, meaning no hidden surprises. Others may outsource significant proportions of the work then add a markup.
Do you have ISOs?
Achieving ISO standards – an industry-wide accreditation scheme covering everything from environmental impact to management systems – indicates an agency’s desire to leave a positive legacy. While smaller agencies may not have the level of operational detail and process required to gain accreditation, if an agency does have them, it signals a commitment to quality across the board. ISOs don’t just apply to events themselves; they also ensure their employee practices are sustainable, enabling them to retain the best talent who will exceed expectations for their clients.
What specific in-house capabilities do you have?
Each agency has a different balance of talent: some have internal creative departments, others outsource; some handle event registration themselves, others delegate to a third party. Make sure you have a clear picture of how your event will be put together, and by who. If the answer is “we do everything in-house”, ask what steps they are taking to ensure internal teams keep abreast of industry trends. For example, it is sometimes better to outsource the most ambitious digital elements of an event, as this allows for greater flexibility and access to the newest technologies. The golden rule is to look for depth, not just breadth, of capability.
Do you have a proven process of working with procurement?
For an event that is as cost-effective as it is captivating, marketing and procurement should work in harmony. A good agency should never ignore savings at the expense of showmanship, but rather work with procurement departments to drive solutions that offer the best experience and the best value for money. At Rapiergroup, we share quarterly reviews of savings that have been made through supplier negotiations with our clients.
Have you got any quantifiable proof of success/awards?
Awards are not the be all and end all: we all understand that entry costs money, and the shortlists are determined and regularly dominated by the big players. But that in itself is a positive; it’s a sign of industry recognition. In the absence of an office full of industry trophies, anything that shows an external body has recognised the value of an agency’s work should leave you in no doubt of their professionalism. Whether it’s an award for a stand-out exhibit, or more generally recognising their contribution to the industry, asking this question will give agencies a chance to wow you with their expertise.
Post-event, what level of reporting statistics do you provide to create continuous improvement?
A good agency understands that the end of an event is only the beginning. When the delegates have left, the reporting begins: start by asking a prospective agency what they measure. On a quantitative level, that could be (should be) everything from mobile app stats to website analytics, stand footfall to delegate attendance. These should be combined with qualitative data from attendees, speakers, and organisers to provide a complete 360° feedback picture. Next, how are results relayed to clients? At Rapiergroup, clients can receive a bespoke post-event report, optimising and outlining our strategy for the next year. There are many different types of event agencies out there, all with different processes and proficiencies. Picking the right one to work with is of paramount importance to you, your customers, and your brand. With the right balance of instinct and analytics – and some well-chosen questions – you can be confident you’re making the right decision.
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