Five Things Marketing Managers Should Do When Looking for a New Digital Agency

Brian DeKoning Director of Social Strategy, Raka

Posted on December 6th 2012

Five Things Marketing Managers Should Do When Looking for a New Digital Agency


How To Pick a Digital Agency - Raka


So, you’ve been tasked with finding a digital agency for your company’s new digital project – maybe a website, online application, mobile application, or social media campaign. Feeling overwhelmed? Take a deep breath. We’re going to help you get started.

If you need a digital agency, it’s a good bet your company’s marketing focus in general is shifting from traditional marketing such as print advertising, to more digital and inbound marketing. You’re in a great position to find a long-term digital partner.

Your digital agency will help shape your company’s brand and identity and they’ll be a team you’ll work with a lot. So it’s important to find the right partner. Here are five things to consider as you find a date for the digital dance.

1. Scope your project.

Before you even start to look for a digital agency, get your internal team to commit to a rough idea of the scope of your digital project. This may be as simple as defining a marketing or operational goal, agreeing on a budget, setting a target launch date, and defining basic technological requirements such as web platform or server requirements.

2. Do some legwork to get to know your options. Then, narrow the field.

Chances are you have a good idea of the top digital agencies in your area, but take some time to look around. Search on Google. Talk to your LinkedIn connections. Ask your colleagues. There may be some you haven’t heard of.

Once you’ve got a list of potential partners, compare their websites, work portfolio, and their social media accounts (including their employees’ social accounts). Get to know the agency outside of the pitch. See if they do for themselves what they say your company should do. You might be surprised what you find and how much you can learn about an agency just from their online character.

Your next step is to contact them and find out three pieces of information: Do they have the technical and creative capabilities to handle your project? Is your budget compatible with what they would charge for your type of project? Do they have the bandwidth to accommodate your deadline?

3. Meet in person at their office, if possible, to hear their pitch.

After you’ve narrowed your search to three or four digital agencies, meet them in person at their office, if possible. It may seem like a waste of travel time, but you’ll get a much better idea about who they are as a business if you see their space and meet their team. Give them the home court advantage. Let them show you around, give their pitch, and learn about you. Meeting in person will allow you to really understand who it is that is behind a proposal, rather than just looking at costs.

4. Judge an agency on its existing portfolio. Don’t ask for “spec” work.

Asking agencies to do work ahead of time in order to win business is like asking an architect to design a house without her knowing much about you, what you want, where the house will be, or what the budget is.

Any agency worth its salt is going to research your business inside and out, and come out with a plan that meets your needs. Asking your prospective agency to do this before they get the job will likely result in a thrown-together comp based on what your logo and colors look like.

Or they’ll simply pass on the project because most of the best agencies won’t participate in a review that involves spec work. Asking for it will weed out some of the best options before you even get started. If you need proof an agency can make something you like, look at their portfolio and ask about their recent work. It should reveal everything you need to know.

5. Ask about project management and production process.

Most digital agencies were started by, and are run by, designers and/or developers. If your prospective partners are in this group, that’s a good thing because it means you’ll be working with people who are truly passionate about their art.

However, an agency working with many clients on multiple projects will need at least one person dedicated to project management. Your project manager is your lifeline to your digital project, communicating with you daily or close to it. Your project manager is often your internal advocate, making sure your project stays on budget, on schedule and meets your creative vision.

You’ll want to find an agency with a dedicated project manager and a clear production process that includes benchmarks such as “site architecture approved,” “design comps delivered,” and “beta site submitted for review.”

Still wondering what else you should know about working with a digital agency? Contact Raka for a free consultation. Like the post or have comments? Feel free to share your thoughts with Raka on Twitter.


Brian DeKoning

Director of Social Strategy, Raka

Brian DeKoning creates inbound marketing strategies and manages social media and content marketing for digital agency Raka in Portsmouth, NH. 

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Posted on December 6th 2012 at 10:45PM

Great article. I would just add to step 2:

Most people may know the top 2 to 5 agencies, but that doesn't mean they can always afford them or that they aren't looking for a different agency to inject a fresh perspective.

To make step 2 that much easier, try - a new marketplace making it easy to find great agencies across interactive, advertising, design, research and more.

Agency Spotter is free to search, gives you tools to narrow down the pool of agencies, build watchlists, see how you're connected to an agency, and even do a reviews of agencies you've worked with before so that others can better evaluate what that agency is great at.

Posted on December 20th 2012 at 4:40AM

These are great suggestions - Brian's Agency spotter is one place, there's also and a couple of other sites where you can pay for a pitch to be run.


When you have your shortlist and are ready to meet the agencies, read what to ask the agency at your pitch.