Choosing an Interactive Agency

Choosing the right team to partner with for e-mail campaigns, Web site development and strategic planning sometimes feels a little like a blind date to people. You know, the first meeting goes so well: everyone puts on their company manners, dresses to the nines and acts like ladies and gentlemen. But by the fourth or fifth date, the chemistry begins to wear off and little annoyances start to settle in:

  • phones calls are not returned as promptly
  • the A-Team servicing your account is substituted with junior personnel
  • deadlines are missed because no one pulls the long hours any more
  • rather than new ideas being brought to you, you are the only source of vitality

Jack Be Nimble uniquely understands your situation, because we've been on both sides of the table. We've worn the required trendy (but not too trendy) agency uniform. We've also squeezed ourselves into the corporate mold and been maddened by the hectic work day pace of corporate life and the molasses pace that firms set for internal change.

Here are some tips and insights from some folks who have lived life on both sides of the razor's edge:

Agency Considerations

Does Size Matter?

The short answer is, Yes! But whether you should go with a large or a small agency is only slightly more complicated, at least from our perspective. We think larger agencies make sense only when there is some enterprise contract specifying the relationship or when there is some unique technology that cannot be obtained elsewhere.

Of course we're biased, but here's why. Almost without exception, a larger size agency will bring you two undesirable outcomes:

  • Increased cost. A bigger agency has overhead, lots of support personnel, and a certain image to maintain in their office space and in their peer community. This all translates to higher rates for clients. It's no big secret that the AAAA and PRSA and other associations have formulas derived that help member agencies translate the hourly compensation of an employee into a billable rate for clients, without regard for value delivered. In fact, the mantra for AEs at most agencies is to bill at least 80% of their time.

  • Delays. Along with size comes process. Process means time. Larger agencies are famous for their patented 26-step quality control processes. The process is supposed to keep mistakes from occurring; but by and large that's a promise unfulfilled. The process forces more people into the mix and ultimately dilutes responsibility.

We named Jack Be Nimble on purpose after our big agency experiences. We don't have the overhead and inflated costs associated with bloated agencies. We also run circles around their timelines. Big agencies are like oil tankers. They just don't move fast. We built Jack Be Nimble on the good traits of agencies and the flexibility of motivated small teams.

Creative Staffing

There are two theories on how to staff an agency. The traditional method is to hire a creative director and a junior staff. The creative director sets the tone for everything the agency produces. Inevitably, as the junior staff matures, they chafe under these restrictions and seek to move to other agencies. The result is constant turnover in the creative staffing of your projects.

Jack Be Nimble has opted for different theory. We have worked with some of the most talented artists, voice talent, programmers and animators in the country. Rather than try to restrict them to a single vision, we have developed long-term working relationships with them. We select the right creative team based on the project and the particular client. And it works every time.

Client Approach

At larger agencies, a type of "bait and switch" is usually played on clients. During the early stages of account tenure, the most senior strategists, the most prolific names on the marquee, are almost always omnipresent. They shower you with attention and beautifully executed campaigns. But after a short while, they fade off your account to procced with the next conquest. They'll only show up twice a year after that - during contract renegotiations and if you call to complain bitterly about a huge mistake on their part.

At a smaller agency, like Jack Be Nimble, you get rock star treatment on day one and day one thousand and beyond. We don't pass you around like a hot potato. We get to know you and your business. We're all about adding value without adding to your to-do list. You get enough of that from your other vendors.

E-mail Marketing

Sending Strategy

OK, so everyone already knows that there are some rules that generally apply to which days of the week are best to send e-mail. But did you know that most e-mail agencies stop right there? Intuitively you know there has to be more to it than the day of the week. We at Jack Be Nimble have sent tens of millions of e-mail messages and have learned a couple of things that we haven't seen many others practice:

  • You can't blast out e-mail to everyone and expect it all to arrive. Some domains don't appreciate getting flooded with e-mail. The secret is that they accept your e-mail, but instead of delivering it, they just trash it - and you're none the wiser.

  • It's also pointless to send e-mail out all night long, like most of the biggest and many of the most prolific e-mail shops do. It's one of the reasons you're seeing such low e-mail open rates. People open up Outlook and have 87 messages first thing in the morning and immediately reach for the delete key.

Jack Be Nimble has developed strategies that actually leverage these situations and turn them to your advantage. That's why we have open rates and click-through rates that are the envy of our competition.

Campaign Monitoring

Push the button and turn off the monitor. That's how most e-mail agencies operate their campaigns. Sure, they test everything ahead of time, but when it comes time to send the e-mail, they hit "Send" and walk away.

That's not how campaigns are sent at Jack Be Nimble. Each campaign is monitored as the send occurs. We gauge e-mail open rates and click-through rates in real time. This allows us to halt a send that is not performing as anticipated and tweak a subject line or content. We can also identify major domains that appear not to be accepting our client's e-mail. This allows us to temporarily stop sending e-mail to the domain in question until a phone call straightens out the issue. If your agency doesn't monitor they can't provide these services for you.

Non-technical Reporting

We've noticed more clients' eyes glaze over when agencies bring out their reports and metrics. The problem is that technical people make these reports, or worse, statisticians. While they sometimes look pretty and often pass the "one-inch thick" test, they aren't very actionable - or even very interesting. They are just every possible view of the same data.

We apply the 80/20 rule to reporting. Only 20% of those reports will really interest you. In fact we've taken a different approach. Instead of letting IT develop your reports, we had marketers, like you, develop these reports. They are unlike any you will see in the industry. Oh sure, we have some of the same metrics, but we have pleasant surprises in store for you, as well.

Web Site Development

Design Philosophy

When you choose your Web site partner, design approach and philosophy is very important. There are two general paths by which designers come to Web site design.

One path is from graphic arts school: the traditional artist who has created physical pieces such as brochures, paintings, and magazine ads. This cat is all about style and form and effect. He would love to win an award for his design and be recognized for his stunning use of color and minimalist avant garde navigation.

The other path is a bit more scientific. This artist thrives on observing how people interact with computers. She understands how people take in and visually process a screenful of information. She understands the balance between too much information and providing the tell-tale clues to the user that enable them to make rapid decisions. This artist designs for the user, not art critics. And it makes a huge difference in the success of your site. We hang out with this kind of artist.

Turnaround Time

One of the most frustrating moments is announcing that the Web site has been delayed. It happens all the time. And frankly it just shouldn't. Whether it's poor project management skills on the part of the agency development team or shifting priorities inside the agency, building a Web site is a well-understood process with defined best practices. Jack Be Nimble has excellent project management skills and deep experience building Web sites. We consistently complete projects in record time to the delight of our clients.


An often overlooked function of an agency is Web site hosting. Sure they built a site for you, but where are you going to put it? It can be a real benefit to have your Web site hosted with the folks who created and maintain it.

Many firms host their own Web sites. One excellent use for an agency with hosting capabilities is the creation of micro-sites that exist for brief periods of time in support of specific marketing campaigns. Coordinating those functions under more than one roof can make a project prone to errors.

Jack Be Nimble was designed to make you look good in your job. We've walked in your shoes and have an understanding of the demands that you face.

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