Key factors to consider when evaluating a potential client

As the owner of an independent PR agency, one of my most important challenges is evaluating potential clients.

As the owner of an independent PR agency, one of my most important challenges is evaluating potential clients. A solid understanding of where a company stands in its market today and where it may be in five years can indicate if it has the resources we need to do the job or if we'll be spinning our wheels.

Every agency has a methodology to determine whether to stick with a client. I've found that by evaluating the factors below, I can be confident about the companies we take on.

Take a look at the industry experience of the CEO, CMO, and CCO. Have they had success in similar companies? Even C-level executives can get in over their heads or into markets where they have limited experience.

If it's a private company, do well-respected venture capital firms back it? If it's public, consider earnings-to-income ratio and trends.

Analysts are an excellent place to start investigating overall company health and how it compares to competitors. Is there a steady stream of new customers? Increasing sales and users? Examine the target market's size and maturity; is there room for growth?

In addition to being successful now, the company should have a clear vision for growing its market position, developing new products and services, and so on.  Lack of vision can be a major red flag indicating the company's business has a short runway.

Does your sense of where the company is now and where it's headed jibe with what its executives say in the media and what they want in an agency? Not every company can become the next Apple.

Is there a process that allows customer feedback to impact product development? Without an active feedback process, customer loyalty can drop off and market share can go to competitors.

For some companies, leadership changes mean a new CMO, marketing staff, and PR team. How many PR agencies had this prospect previously gone through? Identifying the reasons for high, or low, turnover can let you know how your firm may be treated.

Does the PR budget reflect the company's size, its business goals, and expected PR results? Does it allow the agency to add strategic value, and the client to react to additional opportunities?

Jeannette Bitz is owner and principal of Engage PR.

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