How to Find the Right Branding Agency

11 MIN
Date Published
March 9, 2021

Your brand is your company’s identity. It is the instant, intuitive association your customers have upon hearing your name, the feeling evoked when they think of you. For that reason, a brand is a slippery concept—it is hard to nail down because it is comprised of all the intangible qualities that set you apart from your competition, starting with the emotional experience your product generates in a customer. Read on to learn more about the importance of brands and how to find the right branding agency for your company.

What is branding?

If you’re wondering about the importance of brands and why it is important to have a brand, what is branding, how to build a brand, what is a branding agency, and what are the top branding firms, you’ve come to the right place. An effective branding agency can help improve awareness of your organization, distill your work down to its essence, change the public perception of your company, differentiate it from others on the market, and breathe new life into even the dustiest of old concepts. The brand determines your customers’ willingness to engage, buy, patronize, evangelize about your company, and their willingness to associate your product with their own personal brand. It’s a relationship that you want to start long before the customer is contemplating buying your product or using your services. A potent brand will exist in their subconscious, waiting for the opportunity to be useful.

What is a branding agency?

As we’ve established, brands do a lot of heavy lifting on your behalf. They play a crucial role in the success or failure of your business. Like any essential component of your business, if you want it done right, you ought to consider hiring a professional—in this case, a branding agency. 

What does a branding agency do? In basic terms, a branding agency helps create, launch, or re-imagine your brand. They act as your own personal Don Draper, helping to build and define your brand through decisions about everything from your name and logo to the font on your website and its URL. They might start with conceptualizing your brand, testing its reception, and planning for its public debut—defining the themes of an advertising campaign and strategizing for the most effective campaign to reach your target audience. The scope of a branding agency’s work might range from a radical reimagining of your company’s identity to the subtlest, almost imperceptible tweaks that change the way your company is received. 

The benefits of hiring a branding agency 

Now that we know what a branding agency does, let’s get down to brass tacks: what are the real benefits of hiring a branding agency? And what exactly are you paying for when you bring on one of the top branding firms? 

1. Competitive edge

The right branding agency will give you an edge over your competition. As a business owner or service provider, you are competing for a finite number of customers, and you have a limited amount of time to make an impression on them—to create that emotional connection that will linger in the back of their subconscious, waiting for the moment when they need your product or service. A top branding firm will help make sure that it’s your brand and not your competitor’s that springs first to mind when your customer or client is ready. The right agency can help ensure that your customer knows why your business is superior to others on the market. They will help your company build trust—create that emotional bond ahead of time—saving your customer time and money when they are ready to make a decision. 

2. Sales time

The right branding firm can help cut the amount of time it takes to sell your product or service. If your brand is doing the work it should be doing, it has a preexisting relationship with your client or customer, and it is in their mind long before they need you. Think of it this way: when you have a task you can’t complete yourself, the first thing you do is search your mind for the people who might have the skills you need to accomplish it—a friend you can call to ask for a favor. Your brand should behave the same way. Ideally, your customer will already be acquainted with the concept, have a positive association with the brand, and an inclination toward using it. If your brand is at the top of your customer’s mind when opportunity strikes, you can cut sales time dramatically and increase the chances that your customer will seek you out when they need you. When the customer is ready to buy, you’ll spend less time convincing them of your worth or value and more time understanding their needs and the ways your company can serve them. 

3. Turn customers into advocates

If your customers or clients have a positive experience with your brand, they become your free-of-charge branding and marketing team, telling everyone they know how great you are and how much your brand has improved their experience. People trust people more than they trust advertisements—they crave authenticity and a genuine connection. The right branding firm can help transform your organization into one that people are excited about, a brand they personally want to be associated with. The better your customer knows your brand and the more positive they feel about it, the more likely they are to tell others.

What you should consider when searching for a branding agency

Now that you are sufficiently convinced of the importance of hiring a branding agency, let’s discuss the things you should consider when selecting among the top branding firms that are competing for your business. 

  • Industry expertise: What branding agencies specialize in your particular field? How long have they been operating in your industry? Do they know the ins and outs? Are they familiar with your competitors? Will they be able to identify their weak spots and in a way that helps give you a competitive advantage? A branding agency with a proven track record and industry expertise can offer a big advantage to your organization. 
  • Chemistry: You want to consider your own personal chemistry with the branding agency and their representatives. If you have a good rapport, if you understand each other implicitly, and if there is an intuitiveness to your relationship, that indicates you will be on the same page as you work together to help define your brand’s identity. So much of branding is implicit and unspoken—it’s about the chemistry generated between the brand and the customer. If your branding agency can generate that kind of chemistry with you, you can feel confident they are on the right track. 
  • Process and workload: A professional branding agency does much more than just emotional manipulation; they should be able to tell you in very specific terms the services that they are going to provide. A good branding agency will be able to walk you through the process that they will use and clearly illustrate the value that their work can bring to your operation. They should be able to explain exactly how much time and work it will take to create or breathe new life into your existing brand. It might feel like wizardry, but it’s not—a good branding agency will give you a peek behind the curtain at the work that they are doing on your behalf every step of the way. How many people are assigned to the project? How many hours are they spending on each task? How are they testing their assumptions? How are they helping to conjure up a memorable, trustworthy, intuitive brand? These are questions your branding agency should be able to answer easily.
  • Pricing: A professional branding agency will be able to detail prices for the services they are providing for your business. You, as a customer, are responsible for listing what you want in an RFP (request for proposal)—the document that you can give to multiple agencies to solicit their thoughts on how to improve or reinvent your brand. Your RFP should be a clear articulation of your expectations in the branding process: an introduction to the project and your company, what you are looking for and expecting to receive by the end of the process, your budget, and your timeline for rolling your new brand out to the world.

How to find the right branding agency

When choosing a branding partner, consider your priorities such as, for example, communication, expertise, quality, speed, and value. Do they have a strong brand themselves? Can they articulate the value that they’re bringing to your company? 

You’ll also want to think about each candidate’s track record: what brands have they successfully worked with before? Do those brands align with your vision of your own company? Do those examples demonstrate a history of success? Seek out information from their previous clients: were they satisfied not just with the ultimate product, but the process that got them there? The right branding agency should be able to effortlessly enumerate all of the advantages to working with them as opposed to their competitors. At the end of the day, the gut feeling you have about their brand is a pretty good barometer of the gut feeling they will be able to produce in your customers about your brand when you’re done working together. 

  • Analyze your brand internally and set goals and expectations. You know your brand best. Huddle with your team to pool your collective thoughts and set goals and expectations. Is there agreement among your team about the essential properties of your brand, about the types of customers you’re seeking out, about the experience you want your customers and clients to have when they interact with your brand, and about the other brand that you see as complementary or competitive? Be clear about the ultimate outcome you are expecting from this process and how soon you want to achieve that outcome. 
  • Do your homework. By reading this page, you’re already off to a good start—you are trying to understand what you want in a branding agency. Next, you’ll want to start gathering information about the branding agencies that do the kind of work that you need. Ask for suggestions from people you trust, cast a wide net, look for all the available options, and read widely to get a good sense of the breadth of possibilities available to you. 
  • Be clear on your expectations. Drill down with your team about what you want from the branding process and what you can reasonably expect at the end of it. Know what you’re looking for and what you are willing to pay to achieve it. It helps if these expectations are as concrete and tangible as possible. 
  • Get in touch with 3-5 branding agencies in your network. Once you have a sense of both what you need and the options available to you, try to whittle down the number of branding agencies you are considering to three to five possibilities that you can evaluate side-by-side when it comes to things like their level of experience and the cost of their services. Then approach your shortlist with an RFP.
  • Analyze every pitch and compare your options. When you’ve collected RFPs from your top branding agencies, sit down with your team and go through them one by one, considering all of the details of each branding firm’s proposal. Does their vision of your brand match your internal expectations? Can they give you a clear sense of what they will deliver, the process they will move through to deliver it, how long it will take them to get there, and how much it will cost to do it? What are the differences between what each branding agency is promising, and how are they proposing to achieve it?
  • Make your choice. Once you have a sense of the options available and the relative pros and cons of each, including the various cost and time estimates, it’s up to you to make a choice you can be confident in. At the end of the day, it should be an intuitive choice. You know the importance of your brand. The team that articulates your vision the clearest—that’s the one you want to choose. 

Questions to ask branding agencies

Finally, here is a handy list of questions you should ask to help you narrow down the right branding agency:

  • What range of services do you provide? 
  • What type of agency are you?
  • What’s unique about your agency?
  • How do you help brands differentiate themselves from competitors?
  • What clients have you worked with in the past? 
  • Do you have any testimonials from previous clients? 
  • Can you provide me with references or case studies relevant to my particular project?
  • Has your agency been recognized within your industry, with awards or other kudos? 
  • How do you measure your success or impact?
  • What kind of ROI can I expect?
  • Do you have a portfolio including past work I can review?
  • Have you worked with companies like mine before?
  • What is your process like? 
  • What kinds of strategies have you used in the past? 
  • How do you know those strategies were successful?
  • How many people will be dedicated to my project?
  • What is your current workload? 
  • Do you have the bandwidth to give my project the attention it deserves?
  • If you miss a deadline, what does that mean for my project?
  • What kind of return on investment can I expect from our relationship?

If you’re not sure where to begin looking for the right branding for you, start by checking out the curated marketplace at Rocketplace!

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