Do you need to know ad agency search consultants?

Yes, you do need to know all shapes and shades of the search consultant world. As promised, here’s the link to the most recent list of search consultants published by the 4As. It came out in January.

(If for whatever reason you can’t see the list, please let me know. Oh, and know this list is not complete – I have had two conversations over January with true search consultants not on the list.)

Yours truly compared it with the June 2010 list and found…only one significant change: the addition of Blamer Partnership. Steve Blamer has ruffled a few feathers lately when he suggests that pay to play is still alive and well. He’s right, of course. The controversy is around the degree.

And while it’s fine to pontificate at large about this, does it help?! Meh. It feels good. But don’t pay the rent.

Were I in your shoes, I would tend to think like Steve Buscemi, Mr. Pink, from the movie “Reservoir Dogs” –

“I didn’t create the situation, I’m just dealin’ with it!”

So, here are few things to consider as you peruse this list:

For most of you, these guys should NOT be treated like key prospects. Because your agency is too small. Keep in mind search consultants typically play in searches that are larger than, say, one million in annual agency fees. If you consistently pitch that kind of business, and run into search consultants, and win, have at it.

This is a very general statement. A select few of you will have work that’s so good there may be value in getting in front of these guys because you a dark horse and demonstrate that the search consultant is scouring the industry looking for terrific, best kept secrets. But this is unlikely. (Sorry. Tough love time!)

Having said this, though, some of the people on this list offer services and products aimed at agencies. Which is why you need to know this list. This is where things get a bit tricky. The offerings generally fall into three camps: providing you CPG-like distribution; information; or analyses.

Is that pay to play?!

Would Mr. Pink care?!

Some of these services are good. Others, not so much. You can identify some of those that sell to agencies through some online research. You will find they are easier to get on the phone. Because they, also, want to talk with you! Funny how that works when someone’s trying to sell ya something.

As for which services/products are good…well, would you look at the time! Papa’s got to get billable.

There are also a handful of resources out there that offer distribution, information, analyses and more that would never make the list. (Because they don’t consider themselves “search consultants.” Just to be clear, that would be people like yours truly.)

Anywho, you can read a bit more to better understand search consultants here and here. Also, surf the “search consultant” category on this site. You will find several posts, including one on databases.

Thanks. Hope all is this helps. Should you have any comments, please share!

Update post: the 4As and ANA came out with some new search guidelines. Check out a few hundred words on potential search consultant implications here.