8 Questions You Should Ask
Choosing the right branding partner is no less important than choosing your next CEO.
When looking for the right branding partner keep in mind how important that choice will be to the future of your brand. It will be one of the most important decisions you make. It could determine your brand’s future. But it’s not the kind of decision you make every day. And there are all kinds of choices. But what should you be looking for? What kind of questions should you be asking?
Before you begin your search try to be clear about what you are looking for, recognizing that’s not always possible. Sometimes the underlying cause is not entirely evident. Reading the symptoms can be misleading. What you perceive to be your problem may be something entirely different. That’s why one important question for your brand partner candidate should probe around their interpretation of your branding issue.
There will be many questions that you can ask a potential branding partner. However, there are a few that can help narrow the field.
Your 8 Essential Questions
- What are your core areas of expertise? Branding firms come in all different shapes and sizes. Some specialize in certain facets of branding, while others provide a full spectrum of services. Consider what’s essential and look for firms with skill sets that are most relevant to solving your problem. Seek out firms whose core services include the common denominator of all branding firms – brand research, strategy, identity, and brand management. You may find that other complementary services add value to your initiative. Market research, brand education, web, digital application, brand experience, and marketing communication might round out what you could need beyond the essential services.
- What relevant experience do you have? What gives most clients the greatest degree of confidence is the branding firm’s success with other clients. This is an essential proof point that the firm knows what they are doing. But while experience in your category is important, don’t underestimate the value of engaging a firm that has worked outside your industry. Consider the value of a fresh perspective and what can be learned from the innovation in other industries.
- Do you have the people? Regardless of the firm’s experience and expertise, you will work with people and build a relationship through the course of the project. Ensure that the in-house experts you will work with align with the expertise and experience you will want to take advice from.
- Is there available capacity to do the work? Even the large branding firms do not have unlimited resources and capacity. It’s crucial that they can assure you that they have the necessary available resources to perform the work for the duration.
- What process do you follow? How your company makes decisions is a crucial consideration when looking at a branding firm’s process. You want to make sure that their philosophy and approach align with your management decision-making protocol. Are you a hands-on or hands-off organization? That can make a difference in who you select.
- What is your culture? Don’t underestimate the importance of a cultural fit. A branding project can easily take a year or more. You should expect to work in close collaboration with the firm you engage, so compatibility will make things run smoother. In addition to just asking how they would describe their culture, you can also utilize social media to get a feel for the personality of the firm and the people you would be working with.
- Can you provide an opinion? You can’t expect a candidate to diagnose your brand issues without some research, but it is fair to ask for an opinion. Take some time to describe, as best you can, what problematic symptoms you see with your brand. A qualified branding consultant should be able to offer an opinion based on their interpretation and relevant experience.
- How much is this going to cost? This will be difficult for any potential branding firm candidate without a defined scope. However, as a pre-qualifier, you could ask for their rate structure and ballpark budgets for other similar projects. The best way to address the cost issue is to narrow the selection to the top 3 or 4 and then issue an RFP to provide fair, competitive offers.
There are many different options for branding work.
Most branding firms specialize in strategy, development, implementation, and management of branding systems. Advertising agencies, graphic design firms, marketing, PR, and management consultants may also offer branding services along with their other core offerings. Finding the right fit will take time and hard work. But the effort will be worth it and looking for and finding the right branding partner will help ensure you are building a brand for the future. That’s how brand works.