You’ve discovered you have to go-to-market to identify the best and/or most cost effective marketing agency for an initiative that needs to be developed and kicked-off – typically referred to as an Agency Search; marketing sourcing events can seem daunting and overwhelming, as they are more comprehensive, detail oriented and not as black and white than a majority of indirect-spend categories. Not only do you need to select the best agency for the job but, ensuring that the correct agencies are invited to pitch their strategies, selecting a finalist that will help deliver a return on investment (ROI), carefully sifting through rate cards and estimated expenses to make certain that all tactics are covered and offered at a competitive rate are still key areas of exploration, as stated in a previous Strategic Sourceror post, “Contents of a Thorough Marketing Statement of Work”.
Prior to executing a sourcing event, the Statement of Work (SOW) needs to be fully developed to ensure the agencies know the breadth of capabilities required to execute the SOW are within their wheelhouse. The biggest disappointment (and waste of time) would be evaluating each proposal and realizing you’ve invited the wrong type(s) of agencies to bid on the initiative and/or they don’t have the full capability range or capacity to take on the work. How can you avoid this and mitigate any frustrations and re-work?
  • Develop a comprehensive Scope of Work: Clearly define your engagement and project outcome expectations; mitigate as much ambiguity as possible to avoid back and forth, project adjustments and misconstrued agreements. Keep in mind it’s always better to write more than not enough; it’s like a haircut, you can always cut more (refine) in the end to get where you need it to be. A standard SOW includes the following elements:
    1. Objective/Purpose
    2. Engagement/Project Detail
    3. Desired Project Schedule/Timeline and “Go-Live”/Launch Date
    4. Budget (this does not always need to be included; sometimes you would like to initially leave this out to review initial pricing proposals)
    5. Key Performance Indicators/Assumptions
    6. Contracting – Terms & Conditions, Business Requirement
  • Execute a Request for Information; from the Scope of Work, identify the key capabilities you want the agencies to encompass (concrete, non-negotiable, hard business requirements) and develop a brief, but key questionnaire to ensure you are gathering the information needed to quickly judge an Agency on their candidacy. This not only ensures you are inviting the best candidates to provide proposals, but will mitigate back-and-forth, ambiguity of project expectations, especially throughout the contracting phase once an agency is selected. Don’t forget that once an agency is selected, you still have to go through the contracting phase, any risk assessments required, and internal legal review; this can sometimes take up to a month (or more) if a scope of work and its associated pricing is not outlined properly.
The Objective/Purpose and Engagement/Project Detail are the critical elements of developing a clear, detailed SOW. Let’s walk through the criteria needed to develop each of the elements.

Objective/Purpose: Note there is a clear difference between Objective and Scope; the objective of the project represents the desired output or accomplishment by performing the Scope. The scope of an activity, project or procedure represents the requirements and defines the work to be performed. The Objective/Purpose usually kicks-off with a sentence starter like “The goal of this project is to…” You want to continue the sentence with a brief description of the goal(s) and how the goal(s) will be met. Goals should be measurable and tied to Key Performance Indicators to ensure all parties are on the same page. Goals can be monetary (revenue, incremental sales, increased margin) and/or social (i.e. increased social media views, market share, increased impressions etc...).
  • Measurable Goal Examples:
    • Website Conversion Rate, Clicks, Comments, Followers/Active Followers
    • Cost and Revenue per Lead by Source
    • Customer Value = (Average sale per customer) x (Average number of times a customer buys per year) x (Average retention time in months or years for a typical customer)
    • Inbound Marketing ROI = (Sales Growth – Marketing Investment) / Marketing Investment
    • % of Sales
    • Incremental Sales
Engagement/Project Detail: Cultural fit and likewise-visions are important when selecting an Agency to work with long-term, or even short term. Detail the culture, goals and future outlook of your company. You should detail how you expect or desire the engagement to look like and flow throughout the project. What is the desired communication, reporting and how often? What does your team look like? What does their team look like? How are issues resolved? In regards to project detail, this refers to more of the tactical aspects of a Scope of Work: 
  • Timeline
  • Team/Reporting Structure
  • Marketing Calendar
  • Budget
  • Launch Date(s)
  • Key Milestones
  • KPIs/SLAs
  • Reports
  • Deliverables/End Products
  • Etc...
Overall, once you have your Scope of Work comprehensively developed, project goals and detail clearly outlined, you should be able to sail smoothly from there when evaluating and selecting an agency or simply executing a new project with an existing partner…. and remember, always add more detail if you are unsure – better to be safe, than sorry!
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Liz Skipor

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