Welcome back to the final instalment of Jason wilkes guide to choosing the right digital agency for your next project. This week Jason will be discussing the final (and most important) point within the process: Deciding which agency is right for you. –Steven, Nudge Digital Marketing Manager
3.Deciding which agency is right for you
Agencies inevitably vary and it’s not possible to capture all eventualities in this blog post but in any event the following considerations will help separate the good from the not so good.
After engaging with several potential agencies it should start to become increasingly apparent (call it a gut feeling) which agencies are interacting with you in a more informed, timely, responsive and enthusiastic manner. If you’re having to chase for responses or updates at this early stages it is a very big early warning signal.
I. Their own digital presence and approach
Make a conscious effort to assess how well the agency itself comes across initially online and throughout the quotation process itself.
o Was it easy to find them? I.e. did they perform well when conducting your supplier research online?
o Did their own digital presence provide a great user experience and engaging content? If they can’t get it right for their own site then the chances of them getting it right for your customers are slim.
o Was it easy to contact them and engage with them to explain the project?
o How fully did the agency engage with you to discuss, understand and clarify your requirements before submitting their response?
o Did their response demonstrate a clear understanding of your project scope and requirements or did you have to chase for further clarifications and details?
o Was the response comprehensive enough to detail all project scope and deliverables? (There is nothing more depressing than a response with no detail and an overall price!).
o Is the pricing structure designed to be open, transparent and fair?
o Have they demonstrable experience in your sector? If so, could it lead to a potential conflict of interest? E.g. providing SEO and AdWords services for a local competitor?
o Have they achieved relevant industry recognition or won any awards?
o Do the term of engagement suit you as the client? E.g. IP ownership of new digital ventures etc.
II.Open-source Vs proprietary solution
The term open source refers to software whose source code is freely available on the internet; whereas, the source code for proprietary commercial software is usually locked away by a single company and cannot be modified directly.
Open-source platforms are built and maintained by groups of interested people all over the world, for example the Drupal CMF (Content Management Framework) community has built more than 20,000 modules from more than 27,000 active developers and 650 distributions Worldwide. Those sorts of volumes of contributing developers are hard for any single organisation to compete with.
Open source should also provide you with greater flexibility, for example, should you decide to change partners, for whatever reason, many other open-source agencies should be able to work with and maintain your existing code base (assuming you have access and ownership to the code base defined in your contract).
Depending on the complexity of the project, having regular face-to-face meetings leads to a much more informed, productive and successful project implementation. Good agencies should promote regular meetings / project reviews within context of the project length, complexity and budget. Any reputable agency should also be happy to allow clients to visit their premises for those meetings but also to meet the entire team and experience the working environment.
IV.Relevant sector experience
Depending on the nature of your project and industry you may want to seek a specialist agency in your sector. This can especially important if you have more complex requirements such as B2C e-commerce or specific 3rd party systems integration needs. Look for an agency that not only has a great portfolio page but one that is detailed and informative about the work they have done for others.
V.Project management and communication
No matter how small or large the project, all worthwhile agencies should ensure a clear channel of communication is provided via a dedicated account manager and publish a clear, detailed project plan to ensure a successful project outcome.
Good potential partners will also utilise a clear project methodology that defines clear milestones from project initiation through to final delivery. Furthermore, each milestone should allow for client sign-off before the project is moved to the next stage. This helps to ensure the client retains control over the ‘product’ that is being developed. A typical project process may include the following high-level phases.
VI.Sharing expertise and contributing to the strategy
If you are looking for a great digital partner then one of the best ways they can add value to your partnership is by contributing ideas, expertise and enthusiasm throughout the duration of the partnership but this should start from the time you first contact them. Score each potential supplier on the added value they have demonstrated in the early stages of your interactions with them.
Do you choose a full-service one-stop-agency to engage with or, depending on the size of the project, a selection of various specialist service providers? Keeping several services being delivered under one roof can provide many benefits such as more efficient account management, better strategically aligned multi-channel initiatives, lessening potential conflicts of interest between competing suppliers, a single point of accountability or even just less administrative burden on the client managing multiple suppliers etc.
VIII.Trust and reputation
Don’t be afraid to ask for relevant references that you can contact directly. Written testimonials are all well and good but you can gather far more insight in to what it’s actually like to work with an agency from talking to recent client with a similar profile / needs to you.
IX. On-going support
Great partnerships are for the long-term. Seek an agency that wants to provide agile and accessible support and NOT one that insists on tying you in to long-term expensive contracts.
X. Company stability
If you have credit checking facilities it is always worth a quick look to see the company is stable. Although not conclusive… positive and steady growth year on year can be a good sign that a company is doing the right things but also means they are far less likely to disappear over-night or half-way through your project.
XI.Do the T&Cs restrict you in any way?
Depending on the type of project the terms can be very simply, however, make sure that if there are any specific requirements that they are in place before the agreement is signed and the project starts.
I.Payment terms - make sure the terms are fair and beware of front-loaded payment milestones.
II.If appropriate, make sure you discuss and have agreed on any IP rights or ownership of code base following completion of the project
III.Is the level of included post-delivery support adequate?
That concludes Jason Wilkes’ guide for selecting the right digital partner. We hope you found it useful and would love for you to share your own experiences of working with digital agencies – good and bad. To save time, if you’ve got a project and would like to work with an agency which you can guarantee already understands this process; why not give us a call?