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Why choosing a digital agency is like hiring a new employee

by Adrenalin
23 Aug 2016
7 min read
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Why choosing a digital agency is like hiring a new employee

Are you looking into choosing a digital agency for your brand, campaign or project? Getting the right agency doesn’t need to be a mysterious process, a matter of luck or a choice based on who you know.

In our way of thinking, approaching the choice as you would a recruitment process should add clarity and structure. And that begins with the foundation.

Know what you want

Just as you would consider a job description when looking to hire a new employee, you should consider what you want before looking to hire a digital agency.

First, define what you want to achieve. Brand awareness? Product sales? Customer service?

Knowing your goals will make finding a suitable digital agency for you that much easier.

A good brief

In our experience, the better the brief, the better the result. Spend time thinking about the brief because everything flows from it, including getting the best match in a digital agency.

Put together a well-prepared brief that includes:

  • a problem statement

  • objectives

  • an ideal scope requirement (high level)

  • measurements for success (KPIs)

  • deadlines

  • budget.

The role of the digital agency

Not every digital agency is equal to each other, and all have their unique characteristics, strengths, and interests. Key benefits of hiring a digital agency can include:

  • They challenge the strategy and help set priorities

  • Keep ahead of the trends to know where to focus

  • Collaboration & Experience = Speed

  • Deliver short term wins with fast and measurable solutions to budget

  • Can help reduce the risk of a brand's investment through proven examples

  • On the flip side, agencies can take more risks and innovate

  • A good agency has the talent and the process to help with the obstacles

Ask yourself – what role am I looking for a digital agency to play?

What have they done?

It goes without saying that you will look at a range of digital agency websites. Questions you could ask yourself during this search of services or case studies include:

  • Do they work with clients of your size/industry/intent?
  • Have they done work in a similar area/style/purpose?
  • Does their work match the scale or tone of your project/brand/campaign?

However, don’t discount agencies without an exact match to your project — simply because no two tasks are ever identical – and a new agency might bring an innovate approach to your brief.

Face-to-face

If you’ve narrowed the field through some preliminary research, meeting agencies on your shortlist is an essential part of the process, just as it is in recruitment.

There are a number of tangible things to consider:

  • Do they know your industry?

  • Have they done a project that might influence your choice, even if it is different?

  • What are their successes and how do they celebrate them?

  • What have they learned from any failures?

  • How do they disrupt and innovate?

Beyond their experience and skills, there are more intangible factors that may play a huge role, just as they do in recruitment:

  • How do they work with clients?

  • Are they collaborative?

  • What’s their agency culture like?

  • Are they a good fit for you, your style and brand?

  • How would they sell your story?

You can also invite them to pitch to you, informally or formally. You can often learn a great deal about a team from the most casual brainstorm session.

If it were a job interview, you’d ask probing questions, and be upfront about your expectations in return. This should be no different. Use this meeting to answer everything you need to know from them to come away with a solid impression.

How do others see them?

As with recruitment, references are vital. Talking with their existing clients is probably the very best way to find out how an agency operates. Of course, website testimonials are also useful – just remember to check them if in doubt. A thorough search of their social channels will also give you a good sense of how others perceive them, and how they engage and respond.

Cost

One of the most common grey areas when it comes to choosing an agency is cost. Your project is going to be unique, and depending on scope and scale could vary widely in cost. But it is sometimes difficult to know what you should be expecting from your budget. Here is a very approximate guide to illustrate what you might expect the difference between an agency that offers to deliver the same website project for $15,000 vs. $100,000 

$15k website

  • basic template design

  • stock images & basic copy

  • short-term fix

  • scattergun approach

  • possibly good for testing the market.

$100k website

  • personalised custom design

  • original images and in-depth copy

  • flexibility to grow & scalable implementation

  • in-depth research

  • solution aligned to customers

  • usability testing

  • enterprise marketing tools

  • rich data & event tracking.

Conclusion

Choosing the right digital agency for you shouldn’t be too hard if you think of it as a recruitment process. Once you’ve identified your goals and written a good brief, you’ll be well on your way.

Top tips to find the right digital agency for you:

  • See what methods and means they use to collaborate with a team or partner

  • Analyse how they represent themselves online – can you assess their culture?

  • Examine how they celebrate successes & failures

  • Review their project retrospectives – what do they feature and focus on?

  • Evaluate their disruption & innovation models – do they do things differently; how?

  • Consider agencies that may not have specific experience – is their experience relatable?

  • Ensure they are good storytellers - a good agency sells your story – what is their story?

  • Always have a face-to-face meeting. Always.

If you have a project you’re burning to begin, get in touch, we’d love to discuss it with you.

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