As avid readers of this blog will know, we've covered the hiring process (in terms of hiring in-house) and the different elements involved in quite a lot of detail before (for example; here, here and here) - so today I thought I'd switch things up and look at it from the point of view of hiring a digital agency.
Now, whether you're new to the digital industry or you're pretty familiar with all things digital, it can be hard to know where to start when choosing a digital agency. Why? Because there are so many of them out there that claim to be 'different' or 'boutique' or 'specialist' - when in reality they all look the same and pretty much offer the same services.
Obviously, the right agency for your business will depend on your individual needs and requirements - however, there are a few things you should always consider when considering employing a digital agency.
1. Age & Background:
A really important thing to consider is the age of the agency - and the background of the employees within it. Obviously digital agencies are springing up all the time - so a lot of them will still be classed as fairly 'new'. If this is the case, you should definitely consider what the background and experience is of their key senior members of staff - and how they can use that experience to help your business achieve its aims.
Location is an important one to consider - because you're obviously going to have to meet face to face at some point - so you need to consider the journey that's going to be involved. OK, so most things can be done over email or the phone, but sometimes an actual meeting is essential - so if you're based in London and the agency is based in Edinburgh, someone is going to have to do A LOT of travelling to make this relationship work. That's not to say it definitely won't work, but it might just be more complicated than if the agency was 30 minutes down the road.
Possibly one of the most important things to consider is the agency's client base. Obviously big name clients will always be impressive - but don't discount the little ones either. A lot of the time, an agency will have much more control and freedom over smaller, less well-known clients - so it's a good idea to look at the work they've done for them and what they've achieved. When looking at the client base, also look at the type of clients they have - and whether any of them are relatable to your business. While it's not a problem if none of the clients are relatable, if they are it suggests the agency already have a good understanding of your marketplace and industry - which might prove to be beneficial if you choose to employ them.
4. Work - Quality, Variety & Results:
Obviously another important thing to consider is the type of work the agency has delivered for their clients in the past - and the quality and variety of this work. In addition to considering the look and quality of the work, it's important to also consider the results that have been achieved through this work. For example, an agency might have redesigned a website and it might look great - but if it's hard to navigate and it has resulted in a drop in conversion, then it's not really achieving great ROI. Similarly, an agency might have produced some great infographics or other pieces of content - but if they've had really low share rates - and they haven't really had much of an impact, then again, it might be worth considering the agency's strategy.
When you buy things like clothes and even technology, normally you'll consider the brand and its attitude before purchasing - and the same rule should apply when choosing an agency. Look at the website - does their content make sense? Or is it full of agency-speak and jargon that doesn't mean anything? Similarly, when you reach out to them - how have they responded? Have they been friendly and personable? Or have they been stand-offish and a little abrupt? Remember, you're going to employ the agency to represent your brand - so you need to be able to relate to them - and have confidence that they can represent your brand effectively.
OK, so no agency is going to be 100% transparent about the techniques they use because they don't want to give their secrets away - but a good agency should be willing to share a few of their techniques regarding the work they're proposing to carry out for your business - and this is where you need to listen up. Are the techniques they're describing relevant? And are they up to date and best practice? If an agency is proposing to carry out link building and promising you 300 article links, 1000 blog comments and 500 directory submissions, they might not be the agency for you...
7. Core Services:
Another obvious thing you need to consider is the core services the agency offers - and whether they actually relate to what you need. For example, if you need the agency to carry out 3D animation work - and they only specialise in web design, it goes without saying that they're not the right option for you. When looking at core services, it's also important to consider how long they've been offering these services for (this might require a phone call). Why? Because if an agency has only just started offering social media, it might suggest they don't have their processes and strategies set up - which could mean that they might use your business and project as a guinea pig...
Price is always going to be a factor when choosing an agency for your business - but in addition to the overall price, it's also worth considering how billing and payments would work. Would you need to commit to a one year project? Would you be able to pay on a month-by-month basis or quarterly? And how do they justify their pricing? When looking at pricing, it's also worth seeing if the agency is willing to barter. Remember, a lot of agencies put a massive mark-up on the work they deliver, so there should probably be some wiggle-room there... but whether they're want to go down that avenue is another story.
As with any business, a good sign that an agency is successful and highly regarded is if they've got awards under their belt or they've been named in prestigious lists - but it's important not just to get wooed by these awards. Look at what the agency won the award for and when and how the award was judged - for example, if it was a team of industry experts, it's probably going to hold more weight than a local small business award. On the awards point, it's also worth mentioning that just because an agency doesn't have an award, it doesn't mean it isn't successful. Awards can be expensive to enter - so many businesses choose to invest that money back into the business, rather than gamble and enter expensive awards which they might not win.
10. Suggestions For Your Business:
Last but by no means least, you also need to consider what the agency is suggesting for your business and why. Do their suggestions meet and exceed your expectations? And have they taken the time to get to know your business and your aims before putting a proposal together? If they haven't taken the time to get to know your business, it may suggest they're just offering a standard proposal which probably won't meet your expectations or help you to achieve your objectives. The best agencies should spend time getting to know you, your business and your aims - before putting a bespoke solution proposal together.
So there we go - 10 key things you should probably think about when choosing a digital agency for your business. Think I've missed anything off? Or disagree with any of my points? Leave me a comment below or tweet me - @amy_edwards88.