Engaging with a digital agency can be the beginning of a beautiful working relationship, but with so many out there vying for your business, how do you choose the one.
The foundation for good business is picking the right team — and an agency is no different. When you’re outsourcing work, you want less stress, not more. Ultimately, the agency you go with should be the right fit for you, and vice versa.
Every agency has its own way of doing things, and own set of values, which may or may not align with you, and your vision. Figuring this out sooner rather than later will help both parties avoid awkward conversations, or disappointment down the track.
Do your research
If an agency is doing their job half-right, they’ll pop up in a Google search. But just because they’re at the top of the page you're viewing, doesn’t mean they are right for you.
Like any vetting process, make a shortlist and research the frontrunners. Ask for referrals from friends or business colleagues you trust.
Read independent reviews (not just the ones on an agency’s website) or pick up the phone and contact the businesses that have left reviews. A five-star rating or polished social media feed doesn’t always capture the full picture, but a few five minute conversations with previous clients might.
Arrange a chat
At ONETOO we like to meet with potential clients first and encourage you to find an agency that is a good fit for your business. For us, it’s a chance to get to know you in a casual setting, usually over coffee. These days, over Zoom. We’ll ask plenty of questions but equally are happy for you to quiz us too. This meeting ensures we’re both on the same page, and genuinely excited about the journey we’re about to embark on. It allows each party to clarify expectations and what any engagement might look like.
Many times, they’ll be services that you haven't considered. Other times you may think you need something, when in fact, it’s not relevant to your business, or is too costly to be executed well. We’re not hacks selling the latest technique or quick fix. We’re about building a strong foundation, rather than starting a project that is destined to fail, or doesn’t live up to expectations. We bring a systematic and thoughtful approach to what we do. One that is sustainable.
We’ll always do what is in the best interest for our clients — whether that means more, or less work for us.
Have a list of questions
It definitely helps to have a clear idea of what you want out of this new business relationship, and why you’ve engaged with an agency in the first place.
What to ask the agency:
- What experiences or clients have you worked with from my industry?
- What resources do you have to support my project?
- What expertise do you have in (said area) and how could this be applied to my business?
- Is there anything you think our business could be doing differently?
- Who will be doing the work?
- How easy is it to contact your team? What are your expectations around communication?
What the agency might ask you:
- What attracted you to our agency?
- What are your short-term and long-term goals?
- What budget do you have to work with?
- What issues are you facing that you think we can help with?
- Have you worked with an agency before?
Look for honesty and transparency
An agency should put your interests before their own. They should listen first, advise second. Awards are nice, but some of the best work goes undetected. Ask how the agency plans to deliver on their promises. How they’ve achieved this in the past, and specifically, for which clients. A good agency will lead with integrity: offering the services they advertise, the team they have to execute said services, and be transparent with timeframes and capabilities. They won’t promise the earth, then under-deliver.
This goes both ways. Be honest (and reasonable) when it comes to your budget, your business issues, what you actually want out of this partnership; what you’re willing to sacrifice if your budget doesn’t fit ‘the dream’, what hasn’t worked in the past — whether that be a project, a previous agency relationship or structures within your company. Open, two-way communication, in any relationship, builds trust and connection.
Go with your gut
Trust your instincts. If you don’t gel from the start, chances are you’re not going to grow on each other.
Ask yourself: Do they listen to what I have to say? Does the conversation flow? Do we ‘get’ each other. Am I excited to work with these guys?
As a general rule, from our end, we’ll usually debrief after a client meeting, deep dive into your business further, and discuss capabilities and possibilities of the business relationship; if everything aligns and we feel we’re up to the task and can deliver what the client needs, we’ll get the ball rolling with a proposal that outlines our recommendations and a breakdown of services and costings (this eliminates any surprises down the line).
A proposal is a chance for you to review whether the agency you met with was listening to what you needed, and if they’re a good fit. We spend time putting these together for potential clients, to give them the full picture of what we think is a useful roadmap for their business.
While agencies provide a service, it’s through the medium of relationship, conversation, email and phone calls that things are created, decisions are made and businesses are grown. The end result is often based on the success of the two-way communication between the people involved. If they’re not the type of people you want to bring into your business, or you feel you can trust, chances are, it’s not a good fit.
Our team often references alignment when we take on a new client. For this reason, we don’t take every single job that comes our way. Not because we don’t want to help everyone — it's one of our core purposes — but alignment is really important to us. Equally, not every client may choose us. And that’s okay. We might not always be the right fit either.
(Hopefully) Happily ever after.
While no one sets out to create frustration, or disappointment, if you find yourself there, working with people who are able to keep the relationship bigger than the problem will become your biggest asset.
Those that will honestly and transparently address the issue, and provide a solution to the way out — that’s what you want. It’s maturity, and perhaps undervalued in a block-and-ignore age, but it can make all the difference.