How to Find the Right Marketing Agency in 2024

It’s no longer enough for an agency to represent itself purely on the basis of its creative output. Clients today need to focus less on case studies and more on trust. 

There are plenty of fish in the sea for clients looking to establish a relationship with great creative agencies in 2024. Over the last decade, there has been a democratization of creativity, so it’s not enough for an agency to represent itself purely on the basis of its creative output. Clients today need to focus less on case studies and more on trust. 

Think of it like dating before getting serious. And I don’t mean speed dating—initiating a big request for proposal (RFP) process and spooling through many agencies in search for the one. Marketers should find two or three agencies they are interested in and give them assignments to gauge how they collaborate—and how they handle the pressure when the first blush of romance has passed. 

Here is a seven-point dating cheat sheet for seeing if they really are a good match:


For savvy marketers unwilling to settle for less, dating an agency will reveal whether they have a shared set of values. Typically, they aren’t going to find that out in a six-week pitch process during which agencies are given a problem to solve (but zero understanding of the organization). That’s one reason why 99.9% of work presented in a pitch never sees the light of day. 

We have also seen clients come in that are like ex-spouses just looking for reassurance. But clients should not simply go with the team that makes them feel good at the expense of those willing to say things they truly need to hear. The right agency can be forthright while keeping the company’s best interest at heart. 


Marketers should first recognize the problem they must solve before finding the right partner. For instance, if a client’s social media channels are lacking, what is missing: execution or strategy? Execution is easy, but the problem solvers are the real catch. They are the ones who connect the dots to figure out where to deploy executional resources.

In the meantime, forget agencies that are too quick to please. Ready, fire, aim is no way to solve problems and rushing in to execute a project without thinking it through usually leads to costly re-dos. Critical thinking is a form of leadership, and the agencies that provide can always find third parties to do that sort of execution as the relationship deepens over time. 


The only thing that separates most agencies today is how they solve problems and the types of relationships they form. Know the difference, and be careful of dates over-eager to seal the deal. Is the client just a line item on their monthly revenue? Or, do they actually care about succeeding on the client’s behalf?

Look for an agency that is willing to understand the client’s business objectives and customize solutions accordingly. That means they are genuinely interested in knowing about their partner—not just trying to impress on a first date. 


Nobody likes it when their date talks about their ex. Keep the past in the past—after all, what worked before will not necessarily work now. Pay more attention to whether an agency is open-minded and collaborative—a true problem-solving partner rather than just providing the same old pre-packaged services. 

If an agency is unwilling to tailor all aspects of their service, from process to compensation, that is a red flag. A partner who aligns their compensation with the client’s need for getting things done (instead of being rewarded for taking longer) is a partner who will have your back no matter the challenge.


The idea that an agency should have all the answers is a romantic illusion. But rather than keep faith, many clients lose conviction at the first sign of negative feedback. It’s one of the classic marketing mistakes I have seen over the last 30 years. The right long-term partner accepts responsibility when something doesn’t go right, fixes it, and learns from those mistakes. 

This kind of agency is interested in healthy, mature relationships, not short-term gratification. It will also evaluate the client as much as the client evaluates the agency. An agency that respects itself is more likely to prove itself worthy of your respect, too. 


A lot of focus is on AI tools at the moment, but don’t be seduced by an agency’s promises about their proprietary tech. It is less about how impressive those tools are and more about how they are implemented to solve a client’s specific problems. 

A self-absorbed agency might offer a few case studies on their tech prowess, but do clients ever present case studies that are bad? Agencies need to keep the conversation about themselves to a minimum and not predetermine the solution: Talk less and listen more. And if they do claim to have the answer straight away, it’s probably another pickup line.


Do not get hung up on whether an agency is large enough to handle your business. Size matters only with regard to scale and scalability. If you like them, let them prove whether or not they can adapt. Agencies with a core of 30 or 40 people are typically used to expansion and contraction and likely have a list of contractors who can absorb work overflow while they staff up. 

My final advice for finding a strong partner is to look for an agency that has an opinion but doesn’t impose its point of view over the client’s. Why? Because good relationships are about give and take for mutual success. So marketers, pick two or three prospects and give them an assignment with a proper budget and timeline. Dating is a form of due diligence, and there is only one way to determine if they are relationship material.