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How to Choose The Best Digital Agency for You

How to Choose The Best Digital Agency for You

Finding the right digital agency for your business can be challenging. With so many unique variables to consider — like your project’s requirements and available budget — there’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all approach to choosing a new agency partner. 

Doing your homework and asking the right questions from day one is often the difference between finding a long-term partner that grows with you or being left out in the cold with a depleted budget and nothing to show for it. 

If you’re in the process of looking for an agency partner, we recommend keeping these five main considerations top of mind before you sign on the dotted line.

Get organized

illustration of getting files organized

Organization may seem basic, but once the enthusiasm for a new project sets in, it’s easy to overlook key details in an effort to move the process along. Before you excitedly reach out to agencies, it’s best to work within your organization to lay the foundation for a successful partnership. You will want to start by identifying your specific needs, budget range, and timeline.

Define your needs

Before you start interviewing agencies, you need to figure out your company’s specific needs. Even if all the details aren’t 100% confirmed yet, it’s important to have a general idea of project scope.

Are you looking for a complete website redesign? Do you need any branding work? Are you looking solely for digital marketing services? Defining your project’s scope will help determine the type of agency you’re looking for, as well as a realistic budget and timeline.

Establish your budget

It’s extremely helpful to have a general idea of your budget before you start talking with agencies. It’s OK if it’s a wide range, and it’s also OK if you’re looking for guidance on what your budget should be given your project type. However, it’s best to come to the table with a general budget range if possible. This not only saves a lot of time — it also sets realistic expectations for both parties.

Set a project timeline

Lastly, you should determine your general timeline upfront. Small projects can take a couple months, while larger projects can take upwards of 12+ months. Some agencies have a specific process that requires a minimum timeline for a certain type of project; other agencies can be flexible on a tight timeline for an extra cost, and some agencies will promise the world in 30 days or less. Beware of the last type — if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

You should also consider the amount of time it will take to find an agency partner and actually start on the project. It’s best to start your search well in advance so you allow ample time to not only find an agency partner, but complete the project in a timely fashion.

Decide: specialized or integrated?

illustration of team members

Once you have your needs, budget, and timeline goals figured out, it’s helpful to think about whether you’d prefer an agency that is specialized or integrated. What’s the difference between a specialized agency and integrated agency? Here’s a quick overview:

Specialized agencies

Specialized agencies typically provide one type of service or a specific set of related services. A specialized agency may be the better choice for your business if your project is highly specific (for example, if you need an expert WordPress developer) or you already work with other agency partners and just need to fill one gap. Specialized agencies are great for ultra-focused, one-off jobs, or to supplement a busy internal team. Since their expertise is so specific, specialized agencies tend to feel like an extension of one department in your company.

Integrated agencies

Integrated agencies handle multiple, distinct services in-house. An integrated agency may be the right choice if you are looking for a wide range of services under one roof and the flexibility to work on multiple project types at one time. Integrated agencies also typically offer an advanced level of interdisciplinary expertise, which is especially useful if you need help building a holistic, cross-channel digital strategy. Since their expertise is so varied, integrated agencies tend to feel like an extension of your entire digital team.

Confirm credibility + experience

illustration of businessman

Once you narrow your search down to a few agencies that offer the services and capabilities you need, evaluate each agency’s credibility and experience. Case studies, client references, testimonials, and team meet and greets are helpful touchpoints in gauging whether or not an agency is credible and experienced enough to handle your project.  

Ideally, the agency you choose should have experience working on projects similar to yours in terms of type and scope. If you browse each agency’s portfolio, you should see at least one project that speaks to your needs. However, if you don’t see a project that represents your industry, there’s no need to worry. All industries have specific nuances that you can share with the agency you ultimately choose. 

Additionally, you want an agency that has nothing to hide. This means that they’ll happily connect you with current or past clients to serve as professional references. If an agency won’t let you speak with any references, it’s a credibility red flag. 

Lastly, having some sort of meet and greet — whether in person, online, or by phone — with the people who will be managing your project can also be helpful. You can often tell more about an agency from one interaction with its employees than you can from having 10 great calls with a salesperson. This is an excellent way to gauge whether or not the agency is a good fit for you.

Pro tip: Agencies are somewhat notorious for having high turnover rates, which means that clients get passed around to new team members frequently. Don’t be scared to ask about turnover rate. You want to hear that team members have been with the agency for years — not months.

Ask about the process

illustration of process

When you are in discussions with an agency, it makes sense to learn more about how they work and what you can expect should you decide to embark on a project together. If the agency is able to explain their process and how it would apply to your particular project, that’s a good sign that they’re experienced and professional. If they can’t give you a straightforward answer or have trouble providing a general process structure, that’s usually a sign that they’re disorganized.

Working with an agency that has a time-tested process will provide streamlined communication, project organization, and adherence to timelines and milestones. Process really matters, so make sure you ask about it!

Ask yourself: Can you envision a long-term partnership?

illustration of team members celebrating

Once you get to the final stages of selecting the agency you want to partner with, it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself a few questions.

  • Has the process gone smoothly so far? 
  • Can you see yourself working with this team long-term?
  • Would you grab a beer with them?

If you come back with positive responses to these questions, you probably found the right fit. You should not only feel comfortable with the people you’ll be working with, but also get a sense that they truly care about your company and helping you achieve your goals. 

If the initial process was drawn out, lacked communication, or didn’t provide you with the confirmation you were looking for, it’s best to keep looking for other options. Since working with an agency typically requires a decent financial investment, you should feel comfortable with your ultimate decision. 

Finding the best digital agency for your business is just like any other relationship in your life. It takes time, transparency, and a whole lot of open communication to find the right fit. Pinpointing your needs, doing upfront research, and coming prepared to each agency conversation will leave you feeling confident with your choice and excited to get to work!

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