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Things To Consider When Agency Searching

By Portelo

Criteria To Consider When Selecting Your Next Advertising, Marketing or Web Design Agency.



Finding the right creative agency who understands your business, target audience, and the most effective strategy to engage your customers are all critical processes that should not be overlooked.  The impact on your marketing spend is always heavily weighted on the talent and skill sets of your chosen agency partner. 

Sorting through  thousands of creative agencies all over the world can be arduous, but if you leverage the following baseline for project RFP’s and RFQ’s, you will mitigate many of the risks associated with new agency selection.  It’s important to continually source new agency talent as there is tremendous upside to the breadth of ideas that will propel your advertising and marketing efforts. 

1.      Business Fundamentals

Any B2B relationship should always start with ethically sound and proven business acumen.

a.      D&B Credit Score

All businesses should understand the importance of a quality D&B Credit Score ensuring their payables and debt are in order.  Many agencies leverage various external resources to create the work they deliver to customers, so validation that the agency is on good terms with all of these resources is a fundamental consideration.

b.     Time in Business

There are many great creative experts who have had the opportunity to venture on their own to develop a boutique creative agency.  The first few years for any business owner comes with many trials and tribulations on both the execution and operations side.  If you work with an agency that has been in business for less than four, you should ask for prior work examples and talk to a number of their previous customers before commencing a partnership. 

c.      External Ratings & Reviews

Conducting your own due diligence is important, as the references you will receive from most agencies are always their best relationships.  Looking for credible references, reviews from prior employees, and various other rating agencies like the BBB.org are good best practices to ensure you have a full view of your new agency partner.

d.     Revenue

If you know the average deal size of an agency and the number of projects they deliver per year, you can quickly determine their estimated revenue.  Knowing how your project will contribute to the agency’s total revenue will help determine the significance of your relationship and the overall impact your project will have on their firm.  There are pros and cons to this, as choosing a smaller firm may limit their ability to execute as they have proposed, while a larger firm may not provide you their top set of resources.

e.      Employee Count

Understanding an agency’s in-house resources will allow you to better identify their area of expertise.  Having one graphic designer or one developer may not constitute as a full-service agency, as the limitations of a small number of resources will limit your results.  Asking for full clarity on how often they may utilize external resources for a project like yours should be an honest discussion at the start of the relationship.


2.      Core Competency

Alignment of Industry, Process, and Capabilities is critical to the success of your project.

a.      Industry/Customer Expertise

There is a wide spectrum between a marketing campaign targeted at the Federal Government and a campaign aimed at kids aged 4-10 years old.  An agency’s creative team with specific vertical experience will  deliver unique audience insights that will be critical to the success of your campaign.  Ask each creative agency for validation that they understand the various dynamics of your audience and look to the detail of their work (and results) to support this.  Many agencies will state they cover a number of industries, but most have a deep understanding of only a few.      

b.     In-House Core-Capabilities 

Agency creative teams truly run the gamut on structure, process, and execution.  Most will conduct a detailed discussion with you around your goals and requirements and reflect that back in the form of a project brief. This project brief will become the North Star that drives creative and strategic decisions, and should be referenced heavily by the agency’s cross-functional team of designers, developers, strategists, and copywriters.  Asking for clarity on the agency’s processes and your ability to collaborate throughout the engagement is a great best practice to ensure you’re aligned each step of the way. If the agency has an iterative engagement model, you’ll have a chance to share your opinion while pieces are still a work in progress, so the agency can course correct in real time. This will save you time and money in the long run.


c.      Advertised Results

Considering the amount of market competition, it can often be difficult to truly understand the capabilities of each agency.  Most will advertise expertise in a breadth of services, but in reality may provide each service in a very limited capacity.  Ask each agency to give you multiple, relevant case studies that reflect the specific services you’re interested in learning more about. Be wary of case studies that contain vague descriptions and pretty pictures but are missing key details like Key Performance Indicators or campaign metrics – this could indicate the agency is lacking expertise in delivering on the end marketing goal.  If you’re still unsure about a specific service offering, ask to speak to the agency’s practice lead or subject matter expert and conduct a quick one on one to get your questions answered. If you ask results based questions up front, you will start the relationship with good context and a foundation that saves everyone time later in the project.

3.      Quality of Work

The nature of “quality” can be subjective, but there are some key data points that will help make it factual

a.      Referrals

Quality of work often is the alignment of original requirements with the results of final delivery. Whether it was a target audience, an aspiring look, or a fundamental request, taking the baseline understanding of a customer’s objectives and giving them the wow factor by elevating the creative work, is what makes an agency great.  Look for these stories either in case studies or internet reviews and whenever possible speak to a few customers about the experience and process they went through.

b.     Market Trends

Whether it's meeting a new SEO requirement like Responsive Design or creatively responding to visual trends like hamburger menus and hero images, understanding and evolving current design paradigms is essential to high-quality work.  Doing something because its familiar will never make for the extraordinary, but continuing to understand and challenge the norm always will.

c.      Detail of Work

Quality of creative is about establishing fundamentals of design. Agencies should work with you to develop brand requirements such as a color palette, font usage, photography style, and more. This enables you and your agency to gain alignment on these fundamentals at the start of any project. Establishing brand requirements also has the added benefit of enabling you to work with multiple agencies at one time, and still get a consistent visual result.  The alignment to core standards and detail in innovation is always the difference in great design…   

d.     Creative Ratings

Looking for industry or design awards is viability for confidence in quality and creativity.  There are a number of resources, such as the Communication Arts awards (http://www.commarts.com/competitions), Awwwards (www.Awwwards.com) AdAge (www.AdAge.com), and Portelo (www.Portelo.co) who review and rate the top of advertising, marketing, digital campaigns, web design, branding, and more. Use these resources to get a professional’s opinion about the quality of work compared to the industry.

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Creative Shorts by Portelo

By Portelo

Portelo.co Creative Shorts Launch

The team at Portelo spends countless hours researching all of the local markets uncovering top talent and creative work.  Recently we started sharing with our growing subscriber base all of the really cool Advertising, Marketing and Design Creative we love and the talent behind it.

If you would like to contribute we would love to see it - submit work here.  There is also our list of Top Creative Agencies by city, a list of resources and a job board for all aspiring creative talent.  Keep up to date on all the happenings by subscribing to our newsletter on the home page.

Join us as we continue to build an active community of visionary creative talent.  


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10 Ways to Grow Restaurant Revenue

By Portelo

 10 Restaurant Growth Opportunities

1. Make sure all of your food costs are in line. The average food cost in restaurants hovers around 33 percent. There are some fine dining houses that creep to 40 percent while some great, well-run operations can maintain a 28 percent food cost. Remember, this is an average. The key to a perfect menu is perception, value and food cost balance.

If you aren't tracking it, you won't know if you are in line or not. If you are tracking it, you should be on the constant lookout for prices going up and always asking your vendors for the best possible deals and viable alternatives.

2. Analyze profit margin as closely as you analyze price. If one of your menu items is priced at 40% food cost, then another menu item needs to be at 20% to maintain your average. That's one of the reasons many restaurants mingle reasonably priced pasta on the menu with a high priced lamb sirloin. The pasta will deliver more profit to the bottom line at $14.00 that the lamb will at $25.00. This is why you plan your menu pricing structure at the same time you develop your menu - so you have balance in your margins and for the palate.

3. Add items that tantalize taste buds and increase profits nightly. Make your specials, special!

4. Appetizers, desserts, soups, salads and side dishes all bring joy to the table and profits to your pocket. There are some very simple recipes that you don't need pastry chef to create that are highly profitable. Not only should you offer exciting, tempting and new dishes with good margins, you should also make sure your staff is properly promoting them to your customers.

5. Remind your servers what business they are in: Sales. They work on commission. And, depending on how they do, they also realize increased revenue while you realize more profits. Figure out who your best servers are and ask them to mentor the weaker performing ones. Anyone who really doesn't get it needs to be replaced as they are costing you money.

6. Marketing. The worst marketing anyone can ever do is to promote an overpriced menu. If you are going to market to your customers, make sure you are enticing their presence with a value oriented offer. Marketing is a good way to increase revenue because you are just selling more of the stuff at the same price rather than raising your prices. A good loyalty marketing program is the best of all because it costs the least and typically gets the best results.
7. Menu item descriptions are as important as the ingredients in the dish. Menu writing is an art that needs to be done by the most creative person on your staff. It's copywriting in a concise form. We eat with our eyes; that's why chefs use plates as canvas. But before we see the food, the description needs to paint a vivid picture. Your menu is a selling tool. If you are just using it as a list of food with prices, you're doing it wrong.
8. If your menu is getting resistance, and is already considered too pricey, you may be at a crossroads. If you don't have the capital to close and remodel, try introducing a new menu while still maintaining the old one. This takes a bit of ingenuity. You certainly don't want to order twice as much product so you will need to create different entrees with the same product. Print the new menu on a single sheet of paper, don't include it in the old menu covers. Price it more reasonably than your old menu. If marketed successfully, within weeks you can toss your old menu, have new ones printed and be on a fresh course. 

9. Staff meetings are a vital step towards increased revenue. Daily pre-shift meetings are essential. Let your staff know what your goals are and include their ideas to obtain them. The way your staff operates is the way your restaurant goes. A great staff can elevate an otherwise mediocre restaurant to greatness. A poor staff can bring down a potentially great restaurant. And it all starts with the leadership of the owners and the culture they establish. 

10. Have a plan. Nobody can raise prices, or develop a marketing campaign, or increase items without an overall plan. You need to review your business quarterly and analyze your failures and successes while charting a course for the future. Restaurants are fashionable places. And, just like fashion, they can change seasonally. Use the options to your advantage. If you don't like the results of the last quarter, change the plan for the next season. It's one way to keep the customers you have and, if done well, it will bring in new ones.

Looking for more restaurant advice? Contact us at info@portelo.com or visit www.PorteloDirect.com

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Blog Series: 3 Essential Questions to Ask

By Nathan Shadnik

The 3 Essential Questions to Finding the Right Provider

Imagine you’re a music critic. You are tasked with comparing two of the hottest rising stars. To the average individual, both stars have great voices, fun beats, exciting lyrics, and more. To you, however, you recognize one star having a better vocal range, a more diverse set of lyrics and rhythms, and an overall higher level of musicianship. You only know this because you are a professional. That is not a far cry from signage. Those in the sign industry can distinguish a beautifully, intricately, and appealingly crafted sign from those that are created simply to get the sale. Finding the right provider is like finding both the critic and artist. They must, all in one, have the vison to create a sign that sets yours apart by recognizing the faults and difficulties in signage that would hamper your business’s growth.   Finding the right provider can be compared to finding a talented musician.

  1. Are they qualified?  - Figure out all of the measurable traits of the company, such as cost per project, location, types of signs, warranty information, etc. Often times a good sign company employs more than three individuals, has a price range of $1,000-$50,000, offers a warranty that extends for five or more years, and guarantees a return on investment (ROI) around 10% of your total sales. Portelo can help you find exactly that information.
  2. Does the Sign Provider match your taste/style?  – Just like finding a talented musician, finding the right Sign Provider takes understanding and observing the abstract. A Sign Provider’s portfolio will provide you with examples of their work and style. Make sure you like their style and it matches what you see as your company’s style as well.
  3. Can they get the job done?  - Once you’ve adequately observed both the technical and abstract, you must experience the company as you experience music.  Go and visit the Sign Provider.   Ensure that they can get the job done, on time, and of quality.   Ask for previous jobs they’ve done, and don’t be afraid to show your ideas and desire for the type of sign you want to have created.

A sign is a work of art and is an extension of your brand. It represents your company as a whole, from each employee down to the product or service you provide.  The average individual may not be able to tell the difference, but any business or individual who understands the complexities and undertones of well-crafted music will recognize that you care enough as a business to put in the effort. That, in a way, is how you find the perfect critic to his own work, and you will be the one to reap the benefits of it all.

Here at Portelo we want to help your business succeed. That is our passion. By signing up with Portelo we’ll help make the work in finding a Sign Company that much easier!

To find out more information about how signs can benefit your business or to find a Sign Provider that’s right for your business, please contact us at info@portelo.com or visit our website at www.portelo.direct/signs

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