1. What is it exactly that you need from an advertising agency? That is the first question that needs to be dealt with upfront, because agencies offer many services and others are focused on providing services in one area only while others have a diversity of services. These services could be planning an approach to your target audience, researching the viability of your product, creating brand awareness of you're product, increasing sales, deciding on media, perhaps all above or none of the above? This is the part where you clearly define you're objective beforehand and play open books with the service provider. Now that you have defined you're objective and are crystal clear about what services your small business needs; at this point you will have perused over the ad agency proposal and seen their offerings.
2. Just because an ad agency offers a service does that mean you need to buy into it? Again, you're objective needs to be clear. A clear objective will allow you to know when it needs to be achieved and best practices to get you there. Since results is the name of the game, what are the numbers, measurements does the agency promise to deliver. Not all services deliver the same numbers so chose the service that will deliver you're desired outcome. Now that you're happy with the numbers, you need to make the agency happy too...
3. What is the price? Can you afford their services. Chances, if you have got to the point of a meeting with them then you can afford their rates and with a solid strategy on the part of the advertising agency, you should a expect a good margin of returns.
4. Another factor that very few people ever pay attention too is the difference between what they want and what the ad company does. This is where you must ask the question... "Are we choosing this company because they are the best or because there is a specific strategy or campaign we want launched from this ad company?"
5. Should we have a meeting and how often? Meetings should not be held for the sake of the meeting. But when held they have to be productive and fruitful. Yes! At first putting names to faces increases trust and credibility and that should suffice for some time.
6. What prowess does the ad business demonstrate? All businesses have their weaknesses and strengths but with that in mind what makes this specific provider exceptional in their approach, planning, strategy etc.
7. Will the advertising agency be responsible of now handling new and existing customers fully?
8. Does it matter how far the agency is?
9. Is it the ad agency that will develop the whole campaign from scratch to finish or will we be expected to have input from the start to finish?
10. Results, results, results is still the name of the game; therefore do we like the results that our advertising agency or not?
Get these guidelines checked and you will begin to decipher between many advertising agencies that will leverage you're objective or objectives.