This is another in a seven-post series on how to choose the right creative service provider (writer, designer, photographer, etc.) for your business or organization. This advice is based on what I’ve seen companies do the wrong way over the years. Hope you enjoy and find it useful!

Very few clients review a provider’s sample work in the most effective way. By reviewing the samples in a critical manner, you’ll be able to develop a better sense of whether the prospective supplier will be able to serve your needs.

“Critically” doesn’t mean “negatively.” Instead, it involves reviewing the work within the context of its objectives and approach. It’s all too easy to be wowed by cool designs and clever concepts, and lose sight of the sample’s objectives. Words and design are important, but the thinking behind them is what really matters. What led the provider to choose the approach, and how well did it work? What was the marketing or communications objective? How did the project fit visually and strategically with the client’s other efforts? What kind of results did it produce? Given the opportunity to change this project in any way, what would you do?

If you see (and hear) evidence of strategic and innovative thinking built around the clients’ needs, you can be reasonably confident that your needs will be treated similarly.

One more piece of advice: don’t be distracted by humor. Most creative services professionals thrive on humor, and many particularly enjoy inserting it into their work. That’s especially true of projects they hope to enter in award competitions. Pick up any award annual, and a majority of the winners will probably involve witty headlines or messages. But is humor or wit right for every client and situation? Even if a sample makes you laugh out loud, focus back on the thinking behind it. Ask why the supplier believed that humor was the best tactic for the particular situation and the audience. Look for sound reasoning behind the decision.

Learn more in our free report, The Smarter Strategy for Selecting Suppliers, which offers practical, proven advice for choosing the right creative service providers. Get your free copy.