It may seem almost impossible to know which agency is going to be the right fit before you’ve actually committed to start working together. Before even releasing an RFP, here are four steps that I suggest in the run up to starting a new relationship with a digital agency.
Define your needs (what are your goals?)
Start introspectively. Whether you are looking to develop an entire website from scratch or to simply increase traffic to your existing platform, you need to have clear goals and set realistic expectations.
The easiest way to start defining your needs is by asking yourself as many questions as possible. How does your website or campaign connect to your organization’s mission? What do you want this particular product or approach to achieve? What do you want/expect from your audience within the digital space? What specific actions do you want them to take?
As you do this, remember that these questions are not limited to your communications team. Other teams’ input is as valuable and important as yours. That being said, stay on point and make sure your questions always tie back to your organizational and digital goals. It’s easy to start veering off into department-specific goal-setting territory that’s no longer connected to the goals of your digital assets.
Once you’ve been able to answer all your own questions, map out your needs through primary and secondary goals. This will eventually act as a helpful guide for any digital agency to be able to properly understand who you are and what you need.
Do some digging (who’s out there?)
Spend some time looking at prospective agencies’ websites. Who are their clients? What kind of work have they already done? What areas do they really excel at? Have they won any major awards? Do they have experience in your particular field?
Then, delve deeper into their work. If you are interested in using interactive data to communicate your stories, try to find similar examples from their client case studies. If you are looking for a partner to help with your analytics reporting, see if they offer this within their service listing. As you do this, be sure to keep your eventual needs in mind so that you aren’t distracted by examples that in the end have very little to do with what makes sense for you.
Meet the team (who are these guys?)
You don’t have to have published an RFP to introduce yourself to a digital agency. A great way to get a sense of who is out there is to set up an informational interview. The agency you ultimately hire needs to get you — and you need to get them.
What is their working style? Do they take an agile approach to project work? How does communication work between agency and client? Do they use a ticketing system for their work? In return, what questions do they have for you? Their own questions will give you an excellent window into understanding how they think and work. Do their questions delve further into your needs? Are they pushing you to think more creatively as well?
Agency-client relations aren’t always rainbows and butterflies; there will be challenging moments, so you want to be working with an agency that creates confidence rather than frustration. Now that you’ve met them, do you feel like you could be open and honest with them, and receive the same treatment in return?
While the above steps will give you some very good insight into how to choose your next digital agency partner, the most important goal of this exercise is to feel confident and comfortable with the choice that you make.
If you are still feeling uncertain after you’ve taken all these steps, then don’t be afraid to ask for a second meeting with the team, or ask for more information on how they plan on giving you the right solution. Do whatever you need to do to get to the point where you can confidently say, “Yes! This the one.”
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