Tips on how to work with a digital agency
Working with a digital agency can seem daunting, unclear, and expensive. In this post we’ll provide some insights and tips on working with an agency. Before we begin, it’s good to know that an agency is not selling you a product but a service. That service comes with teams whose tools are their experience, knowledge, skill, and network to solve problems while bringing fresh, innovative, and creative thinking to your brand. Ok, let’s get to the tips:
When to retain an agency and why
Generally a brand looks to an agency when they reach a certain revenue number or current employees lack the time and/or skills for digital strategy, digital creative, digital brand strategy, deep user experience design, content marketing strategy, etc. At this point it becomes a necessity to either hire full-time employees or an agency to support. The idea of just hiring designers and developers to do all your digital is possible. However, in most cases it is an antiquated and failed strategy in today’s complex digital world.
Another context in which a brand would retain an agency is to help innovate. Internal marketing teams can, by the nature of their job, get stuck in a cyclical marketing exercise year after year. They don’t have the time to access the landscape of their industry, spot trends, experience platforms and new technologies while trying to figure out how to connect the dots and innovate for their brand. It’s refreshing to get an outside, 3rd party expert opinion. An agency can help align internal teams to help shape your teams ability to innovate.
Agency = Team
An agency is a team. Would you only hire an interior designer and a plumber to build your house? Obviously not. To build a house takes multiple skills and it’s the same in building anything in digital. But unlike the centuries old skills for homebuilding and the plethora of labor for that industry, the pool of highly skilled digital talent is very small. There aren’t highly skilled digital creatives and UX strategist with years of experience looking for gigs on Craigslist.
Today, digital is complex. Building anything in digital takes multiple people that have worked together, that work in a a system, that have a methodical process they follow with case studies under their belt. This team is an agency’s primary value, and combined with a system, a methodology, a culture, case studies, industry experiences make up an successful partner to you.
Have a project manger on your end
Have a PM (Project Manager aka Digital Producer) on your end. This person should be the only person interfacing with the PM on the agency side on a regular basis. Ideally your PM is someone that is familiar with building digital properties, and more importantly is someone who has authority and respect to keep your team in check so multiple requests aren’t being thrown without a filter to the agency. A successful PM on your side should also know the SOW (Scope of Work) inside and out.
Let the agency do their work
Trust your agency to do the work you hired them to do. You retained experts so give them the creative space and freedom to provide you with a new approach to a challenge. Be transparent and give them fair time to understand your business, your customers, your competitors, and your goals. Then, put the responsibility on them to ideate solutions. It’s not unusual that someone on the Client side thinks they can do the job better than an agency — if that’s the case, then don’t hire an agency. But if you’re going to retain an agency approach the engagement with trust and partnership.
Open lines of communication
Sounds obvious but. . .! Your agency is your partner and at times your therapist. Keep them in the loop of things related to the project at hand and other things that may be going on inside your walls. Information will give the agency context to empathize with you when needed and provide a solution to a problem you’re facing.
Be flexible with change — this is digital
What you think your website or mobile app is going to be at the start of a project is not what it’ll be by the end. To be honest, you nor the agency know what your website or mobile app will be at the start of the project.
Building a website or mobile app requires integrations with various 3rd party technologies such as analytics, CRM, CMSs, eCommerce shopping carts, and marketing automations platforms. These 3rd parties can change their technology anytime which may impact the way your website or mobile apps are set up and function.
Your website or mobile app will grow, morph, change, and adapt to various factors along the lifecycle of creating it. Technology and customer expectations change frequently. New things come up, and older things fade away. Be open to change.
Have a strong grasp of how the agency bills and how many hours you have in each department over the term of the engagement. Typically an agency will bill you a retainer amount that is based on a scope of work (“SOW”) for a project or perhaps for the year with promised deliverables. It’s advisable to have quarterly financial meetings with your agency.
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