Working With a Digital Agency – Part 2

Choosing a digital agency

So now that you’ve realised how important the digital world has become and what benefits it can bring you, it’s time to make the next wise decision… which agency to use. This choice is going to depend on two main factors, what you want to achieve and how much you’re willing to spend, or rather, invest.

Firstly, what do you want to achieve? Any digital activity you choose to undertake should provide you with some kind of benefit – preferably a measurable one – that can ultimately be given a monetary value.

Coming up with a clear idea of what you want to achieve can be very tricky as there are thousands of possibilities that could benefit your business, achieve nothing or actually waste your company’s resources. It wouldn’t be practical to discuss all the possibilities in one blog post but it would be advisable to ask yourself: ‘How can I use digital to motivate my clients or potential clients to do more business with me?’, and take it from there. Here’s a tip: find out what questions or complaints you receive most from you customers and consider whether these can be addressed through some kind of digital application.

The purpose of this blog post is to give you advice about working with a digital agency so we’re not going to focus too much on various digital methodologies. We’ll have a look at those in later posts.

For simplicity we are going to use a general example to explain the process.

In our example, let’s say that you have a website that sells stationery online. You would like to improve the navigation (menus, item search etc.) of your site, speed up the transaction process, integrate your ordering system with that of your suppliers, make it easier to find your site on search engines and improve the general layout and appearance. You’ve also thought about adding a login section for businesses who buy in bulk, an increasingly important part of your business development. The thought of a regular newsletter has also crossed your mind but you’re not sure what it would be about.

Based on this broad idea, you are going to need an agency that can do web design and development, web application development, search engine optimisation as well as being able to build and implement content management systems and integrate database information.

The second major factor that’s going to play a role in selecting the right digital agency is what kind of budget you are able to commit to your digital strategy.

There are a host of digital agencies and deciding which one to use can be quite a challenge. Let’s break the industry down into different players based on the budgets they work with.

Top Tier

Many of the major advertising agencies have digital agencies, often multiple agencies.

In some cases global revenues are in the hundreds of millions but they often do not separate out digital work. Top tier agencies can handle the most complex of digital builds. They often do not take projects worth less than 100k GBP and daily rates often exceed 1,200 GBP per day.

Second Tier

According to New Media Age, in 2008 there were 17 standalone digital agencies in the UK with billables of more than 4m GBP. The second tier of digital agencies have billables of between 2-4m GBP. Leading agencies in this tier often aspire to blue-chip projects while engaging in high-profile media websites to generate a higher profile. They often develop specialist technology skills or sector knowledge, such as e-commerce, booking technology or database management but will often rely on outside companies to provide them with specialist skills. Daily rates average around 900 GBP per day.

Third Tier

Third Tier digital agencies often take web and design work from their local area. Aspiring companies in this tier will often specialise in a sector (travel, music, motoring etc) and rely heavily on the design pedigree or relative inexpensive entry point. With billables of less than 2m GBP, many are boutique agencies. A select few have strong ambitions to move into Second Tier. Some strike it lucky with a big client win, some specialise in marketing or highly technical projects. Day rates vary but are often more than 600 GBP.

Don’t simply choose a top tier agency if you don’t require their full set of services and could receive the same services from a second tier agency at a much lower rate. You also wouldn’t want to use a second tier agency in order to save money if you require extensive services that they don’t generally offer, thus putting them in the situation of having to employ extra staff to cover all your needs. This would increase time to completion as well as the daily rate making the project just as expensive as, or even more expensive, than running it through a top tier agency.

Some other factors to take into consideration when choosing an agency are:

  • Client lists – What kind of clients do they have and how do these compare to you. If you find your company is fairly similar to the ones that have worked with a particular agency, then perhaps they would be a good option to contact.
  • Experience – What kind of skills and experience does the agency have? How long has it been doing business? A company that has been around for many years and has grown over the years at the same or faster pace than the industry would be one worthy of consideration.
  • Previous projects – Have a look at what kind of work the agency has done in the past. Keep in mind what your requirements are and try to find an agency that has delivered projects with similar criteria.
  • Awards – There are a multitude of organisations that present awards across various categories to digital agencies delivering outstanding projects. Agencies that have received awards from reputable organisations are proud of their work and eager to take on new projects.
  • Agency culture – Once you have spoken to a few agencies and examined their profiles, select one that has a culture similar or compatible with yours. Working with an agency you get along with will go a long way in helping fulfil the project objectives on time and on budget.

Here are several ways to locate digital agencies in case you were wondering:

One way is by submitting tenders on various tender sites requesting submissions for proposals from agencies. You can also consult directories such as New Media Age and conduct searches on the internet. If there are sites that you aspire to be like, find out who designed them and add them to your shortlist.

Once you’ve selected your agency, the real fun starts. In the next post we will consider how to set out a clear project brief and objectives. This is a vital part of working with a digital agency successfully and will prevent much confusion and delay later on in the project if done right.