If it's time to start working with a digital agency to further your brand, it's important to find the right fit. Not all agencies work in the same way, and not all will be suitable for your team and your way of working. You need to find a partner agency that will gel with you and help propel you to the next stage. To guide you through this process, we've pulled together a list of considerations and questions to ask any prospective new partner.
Transparency from the start
You should have full visibility of where your money is being spent, and clear communication of realistic timelines as well as direct access to client services once the scope of work is agreed. There is always a larger list of unknowns than knowns at the start of a project - inevitably hurdles will present themselves, so you should expect collaborative discussions on overcoming them.
Ask: What happens when we get stuck or there are blockers to progress?
Offshore developers are a viable option of course, but the relationship often grows over an extended period of time. Are your extended team keen and willing to have face to face time in order to truly understand you and the project? Sometimes getting in front of a whiteboard, together in a room, is the best remedy.
Ask: Who will be on your project and where are they based?
Some founders are more technical than others so your digital partner should communicate in language you understand and demystify terminology. Communication should be planned and regular, as well as having an agreed process. Ad hoc calls are inevitable but tracking activity is vital to managing all progress smoothly.
Ask: How will progress be tracked during a project and who will your contact be for ongoing questions?
A clear pricing structure combined with delivery methodology is a good indicator of being in capable hands. If you do not understand or have not seen a breakdown of costing this may be a red flag. Equally, if you have managed to squeeze the initial pricing without losing any of the deliverables. What did the original margins look like?
Ask: How will everything still be delivered with the price deduction - what has been scaled back and why?
What makes this partner a good fit for you beyond the in-house capability to deliver the platform? This is not about a portfolio of similar work but a feeling that they share your business vision.
Ask: Why do they want to work on the project?
There are 100’s of agencies that can deliver the solution for you, or at least their deck claims to be able to! Startup projects are often personal and so organisation and individual value alignment can be important for a balanced partnership.
Ask: Do they have a defined set of company values and how does this project fit into those?
Who are you to them?
Where do you sit in the grand scheme of things for this agency and the projects they are taking on? You want to be sure that the A-team are working for you, so be sure you are getting the in-house team you have bought into and not an outsourced solution.
Ask: What else is going through the studio at the moment and how does this project affect capacity?
Think long term
The chances are you will need some work doing quick and dirty at times, but if you can find a partner that can contribute long-term this will save valuable time, effort and budget on bringing new agencies up to speed.
Ask: Is there a prioritised roadmap of the suggested chronological deliverables for your brief?
What company do they keep?
Agencies that play well with others have numerous examples of collaborative projects. Transparently working with other experts for the wider project delivery shows this agency cares about results rather than revenue. Equally long standing businesses with good reputations will have accumulated all manner of contacts so their ecosystem of connections could be a valuable asset.
Ask: Do they have any partners they collaborate with on projects when required?
Outcomes before solutions
During early stage discovery it is not always feasible to know what specific solution or deliverable you require. The value of a good agency is their years of experience which informs analytical evaluation of the challenge at hand. Your agency's dialogue should always explore the outcomes for your business before jumping to the recommended solution.
Ask: Do you already know what solution you require or do you want expert guidance to get the best possible outcome?
Trust your intuition
Much like an investor makes an emotional decision to invest, choosing an agency partner should feel the same way - not a transaction but a partnership and shared ideology. These are people that you will work with for some time:
Ask: Are you confident the agency can deliver on the brief and would you go for a beer with them?
Collaboration from the start
You ideally shouldn't be feeling as though you are being sold to throughout the pitch process. ideating and discussing with the technical and creative minds of the agency during the 'pre sales' phase will give you a good sense of how they work. A workshop pitch can be a great way to get a true understanding of what future collaboration will be like.:
Ask: Has the process already felt collaborative, Does the agency have lots of questions?
The right agency partner should be a strategic partner able to offer strategic business advice. They should be able to help prioritise outcomes related to growth such as preparing for capital events etc, and then advise on deliverables needed to achieve those outcomes.
And… that’s all we could think of! It's a fairly comprehensive run down of considerations to work through when choosing the right digital agency partner for your organisation. And of course, the team here at Hex are on hand and ready to discuss your project with you. Get in touch today and let's see if we're a good fit for each other!