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How do you choose a digital agency? The answer is more complex than you may expect. Leveraging your chosen team’s skills with your project needs, assessing expertise, work quality, and price point are vital to forging a working relationship that helps you achieve your goals. However, one of the most important decisions to make is whether or not you and your chosen agency are a good “fit.”

Whether you’re seeking an agency to design a website for you, run your social media campaigns, or write your blog content on a consistent basis, what you’re really seeking is a partnership. Partnerships, by definition, run deeper than mere sign-on-the-line contracts; they involve the participation of equals who value each other and the talents, integrity, and perspectives each bring to the table.

When seeking a digital agency to sustain your project, consider the following tips to ensure that your relationship with a new agency is sustainable, whether for the length of a brief project or for years to come.

Know what you want.

Before you interview your prospective digital agency, be sure you have a clear idea of what you want from this partnership. If your goal is to rebrand your company for greater visibility, or create a social media presence where there once was none, you’ll need to be sure that the digital agency you choose has the skills and experience to help bring those goals to fruition. Be sure you have considered the following before discussions begin with your potential agency:

  • What are my goals? These should include concrete plans, as well as other hopes you may have for future campaigns.
  • How will I measure success? Concrete methods of proving campaign success are essential, such as KPIs or increased traffic to a specific on site page.
  • What’s my budget? Establishing an acceptable marketing budget internally can empower you during financial negotiations. However, note that campaigns can be completed at varying levels of quality, based on how much you plan to spend. Consider weighing your goals with your budget to ensure the best all-around product.

By outlining your goals ahead of time, your discussions with a prospective agency will be deepened and enriched, enabling you to complete work with the team whose skills and experience suit you best.

Look for qualities you would seek in an employee.

Though your digital agency doesn’t check into your office every day, they might as well. You’ll be working with them directly for months if not years, so consider their specific strengths and skills as if you were assessing an in-house hire.

Ask direct, probing questions. If your goal is to work with a team that will remain accountable and deliver the highest-quality services, with results and value you can rely on, you’ll need to review their portfolio and inquire into their work process. Assess their answers in the same light you would those from a prospective hire.

Consider the culture fit.

Just as you want your digital agency to be a superior fit on a skills level, so will you need them to jive with you and your team on a personal level. Working day in and day out with a team of people will only be as pleasurable as your chemistry with them allows. Think of your initial meetings with the agency as a first date. You’re getting a valuable first impression and deeper insights into how you and your crew will like and respond to theirs, an essential component when considering a long-term partnership. Unsure how to truly assess this abstract vibe? Consider the following:

  • Get your key people in the room. Anyone who will be interacting with the agency on a regular basis should be present. The same goes for them. Be sure to request that any project managers, creative directors, lead writers and designers, etc, be included in your initial meetings, so you can get a sense of how their company runs and the dynamic between team members.
  • Think outside the box. Asking a few non-work-related questions can help break the ice and reveal more about the team’s character, sense of humor, etc. Having a regular conversation can lighten the mood and encourage individuals to share more of themselves – perspectives, personality, and even pain points. Ask how their weekend was, where they grew up, what their favorite Netflix show is or a trip they plan to take soon. You may also want to inquire about employee perks and enrichment activities. The way an agency treats their own tells you a lot about the kind of morale you can expect to encounter and the overall integrity of the leaders in the organization. Look for practices you admire and values that align with yours, for a seamless fit.

Make sure they can handle your scope.

Some projects take more time and resources than others. Even if a digital agency is an excellent fit on a skills and culture level, without the strength in numbers, they may not be able to deliver on a project with a larger-than-average number of deliverables. Be your own best advocate and air out project details early on. This way, you’ll have a clear understanding of how much they can take on. Many times, growing agencies are looking to hire more employees when the right projects come in, so holding off is not the death knell for a strong connection. You may be able to work with them in future.

Choosing a digital agency to handle your short-or-long-term campaign takes patience and discernment. However, by looking at prospective agencies through the lens of skill, culture, scope, and your own goals, you can come to a decision that best supports your endeavors.

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