February 12, 2021

How to Choose a Branding Agency

Strategize Now

A branding agency can help you transform your business and reach new markets and customers. But how do you choose the right one?

As a small business, branding (or a rebrand) is a big investment! It’s an exciting place to be when you are ready to grow and need some help, but we know that it can also be overwhelming when you are looking down a list of the top branding companies and have no idea where to start or what to ask. Here are some tools to walk into an agency meeting knowing what to ask and what to look for!

Here are a few questions to ask your company internally: 

What are the business’ goals? 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? 

Knowing where you are headed can help you define what you need now. It can also help you ask the questions to determine if an agency can support you in reaching your goals. This is a great exercise to get key stakeholders involved in.

What are our goals for the branding/rebrand?

Do you want a polished look that takes you to the next level and allows you to compete with the big dogs in your industry? Do you want to change your messaging and tone? Maybe your brand is all over the place and you want a more cohesive look and feel? Knowing your goals gives the marketing agency you choose the tools they need to create a branding strategy that will support your business in the long term.

What important messaging do we struggle to communicate?

Did you ever read the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Well, in branding and marketing, it’s kind of the same… you don’t want your communication to be TOO much (your audience will lose interest and move on). You don’t want your communication to be TOO little (your audience will feel lost and move on). You need it to be JUST RIGHT. The problem is you have so much passion that you want to share, that sometimes you are too close to cut through the noise and narrow your message. This is where an amazing marketing agency comes in––go into a meeting knowing what you want and need to communicate and it will be easier for them to refine it.

What is our current budget for marketing services right now? Ongoing?

Rome wasn’t built overnight, and neither is good branding. Branding strategy is a sustained effort of cohesive messaging and graphic design. Know what you can invest upfront, but also have an idea of what you are willing to invest over time.

Why are we looking for a branding agency and what would we like to see from them?

Maybe you are overloaded, maybe numbers are your thing, maybe you are ready to elevate your brand, but you have no idea where to start. Everyone has their strengths and we are willing to bet that leaning into yours is what got you where you are! Whether you are rebranding, or starting from scratch, having a clear understanding of what you need and what your expectations are will go a long way in a smooth transition to a branding agency!

Once you have some clarity on what you are looking for and your goals, next it is time to interview agencies and find one that aligns! Here are some questions to consider asking:

How do you define your agency?

Just like any other business, all agencies are different! Some are crazy, outside-the-box and a little wild. Some have a more classic and reserved style. Some focus on being a design agency, or a marketing agency, others a branding agency, some prefer working with startups, or nonprofits and others focus on established businesses. Nothing is right or wrong, but finding one that aligns with your goals will be important in achieving the results you are seeking.

What is your approach to branding? 

Branding is SO much more than logo design! The right brand company should take the time to develop a brand strategy before you even start talking about the logo! Your branding should be as unique as you are! We encourage you to ask how they approach each project to make it feel unique and meaningful to their clients. Do they take the time to get to know about your company, your target audience and your target market? Are they willing to work through your unique challenges to overcome and create an outcome that does not feel like everyone else in your industry? How can they help you stand out?

Who is in your portfolio and case studies?

Art is subjective, and so is graphic design. Seeing their work can help you determine if you are drawn to their style. No matter if it’s a top branding agency in New York or a small boutique agency in your office building, If they don’t have anything in their portfolio that you like, that is probably a sign that they are not the marketing agency for you. Case studies can also be a powerful way to determine the credibility of an agency.

Can you help me maintain the brand once it is developed? 

It’s a safe bet that if you are choosing to go the route of a marketing agency, you are looking for more than just a logo. Ask what deliverables you can expect and how they support you in carrying your brand forward. A brand book or guide is one key element to maintaining your new brand. This is a guide of how your logo should be used, your colors, fonts, messaging, direction for imagery and sometimes even additional graphic design elements that can be shared with anyone doing your marketing services or for your web design to be sure that your brand is always using the same “rules” and maintaining its integrity. In a great branding agency, your design team will help you develop a plan to translate your brand into your marketing strategy so everything is cohesive and lends to the overall user experience (You may hear this referred to as UI/UX. That’s marketing speak for User Interface and User Experience).

The key here is determining exactly what you can expect once the initial work is completed, and communicating your needs to be sure they have a marketing and design team who can assist. Beyond your visual identity, you may want to consider thinking ahead to your social media, digital marketing, e-commerce, mobile app, printed collateral, new products, web design, apparel, signage, and other marketing services. Asking if they have a team in place to assist you with your graphic design needs moving forward can save you the trouble of switching agencies once your actual brand design is complete.

The bottom line is that understanding your goals and needs and going into interviews with design firms prepared can really alleviate some of the confusion and overwhelm in choosing the right agency for you.

At M agency, we offer full-service marketing, with team of strategists, graphic designers, web designers, web developers, copywriters, videographers and photographers all working together to ensure that your brand identity is in alignment with your needs and vision. If you are interested in talking to our account executive about what we can do for your business, call or email today!