Laying the Groundwork for a Successful Partnership: Top 10 DOs and DON’Ts When Hiring a Digital Agency
Companies are used to hearing what digital agencies can do for them, like how the agency can improve your website, improve your brand, streamline your user journey, and send your online sales and conversions soaring. But, did you know there are many things you – the client – can do when you hire a digital agency that can have a significant impact on the scope and scale of the success you achieve?
Here, we want to take you behind the curtain, so to speak, and give you tips that only agency insiders know so that you can learn how to prepare your own team to get the most and best results out of any agency you hire.
10 Things to DO When Hiring an Agency
- Be clear about expectations and goals: Without a sense of what you really want to achieve (and when you want to achieve it), an agency will have a more difficult time making a detailed roadmap or creating a realistic timeline for deliverables.
- Provide feedback: Your feedback before, during, and after initiating a project with an agency is essential to its success. A good agency will do as much exploration into your brand and deep-diving into your data as they can, but they also need feedback directly from you on what is working or not working, what the brand or company wants to accomplish, or what your short-term and long-term goals are.
- Trust your hire: You’ve hired an agency for a reason (or reasons), so once you’ve done your due diligence and decided who you want to work with, trust these experts to do their jobs. Constantly second-guessing their team, as well as trying to manage your own, doesn’t do anyone any favors, and more often than not this kind of micromanaging ends up derailing the entire project’s success.
- Be flexible: It’s very common, especially for larger optimization or UX projects that are lengthy and ongoing, for your goals and business priorities to change, and also for your agency’s recommendations to adapt to new technologies or practices. Obviously, they shouldn’t be flipping the script on you every other week, but as business goals and technology evolves, so to should your team demonstrate the adaptability, agility and flexibility needed to build a successful collaboration with a digital agency. Again, this goes back to trust.
- Value relationships: A good working relationship between your team and your agency’s team should be built on mutual trust, honesty, confidence, transparency, communication, and just an overall level of friendly professionalism – this goes a long way to making sure goals are met, deliverables are submitted, contracts are honored, budgets are adhered to, and overall awesomeness provided.
- Show up: The workflows and timelines for large projects can, we admit, get a bit complex. When you have multiple people rotating in and out of a project that may take months to complete, making yourself and your key decision-makers available for regular touch-bases and updates is essential to staying on schedule and reaching your goals. It’s a bit like a house of cards, if one card isn’t doing its job (showing up on time for meetings, responding to emails or messages, providing timely feedback, etc.), the whole house is liable to fall down. Of course, you will expect this same level of consistency and reliability from your agency’s team.
- Have a strategy: Yes, increasing revenue and sales is likely the biggest driver in hiring a digital agency. That’s a sound goal, but, it’s not an actual strategy. Whether you’re onboarding a new analytics tool, improving your site’s UX, or optimizing your conversion funnel, the agency you work with needs a firm understanding of your overall business strategy in that area, beyond simply being revenue-driven.
- Follow your contract: The contract you agree upon when onboarding with an agency is one of the most important first steps in the entire process. This is when goals, expectations, timelines, and budgets are established. Of course, little adjustments may have to be made along the way – and both parties should be fully aware and mutually agree to all – but consistently making requests (or even demands) that fall outside of the scope of your contract will put both your team and your agency’s team in a very awkward, uncomfortable position and could result in unnecessary conflict. Similarly, if your agency is not making good on what they promised in their contract, you’ll want to address that asap.
- Choose your point of contact wisely: It’s a good idea to appoint someone on your own team who is not only familiar with what you want to achieve with an agency but also has the knowledge to be an effective point of contact and good team leader on your end. Charging someone with little knowledge of your goals or processes to manage a collaboration with an agency will only hinder your results and likely lead to a waste of time, money, resources, and relationships.
- Be open to new ideas: Think outside the box! Expect the unexpected! Embrace a spirit of innovation! Ok, clichés. But, some nuggets of truth here worth keeping in mind as you move forward with an agency. Having some fresh eyes on your site or your sales funnel can lead to some exciting ideas – be open to receiving this, and have faith in the team that you hired. If you’re not learning anything new from your digital agency or you’re not hearing new ideas for your company, you’re probably working with the wrong agency.
10 Things NOT DO TO When Hiring an Agency
- Don’t ignore barriers: Sometimes this is unforeseen – it happens, we get it – but for the most part, you’ll want to make sure that your agency is capable of actually implementing the initiatives, improvements, optimizations, tools, or experiences and that there are no barriers preventing them from executing their deliverables.
- Don’t discount the personal: Personal relationships matter when collaborating with an outside agency. Professional or creative differences are sure to come up from time to time (growth, progress, or change can always be a little uncomfortable, but it’s usually temporary), but if both sides exercise healthy conflict-resolution behavior, your company will be all the better for it.
- Don’t over-schedule: Again, regular meetings, timely feedback, and prompt replies to requests for information are key for client and agency alike. But, there is also such a thing as too much. Calling for an hour-long video conference for a problem that could have been solved via email; sending a string of 10 emails for a few issues that could have been bullet-pointed in one succinct message; taking 20 minutes on the phone for what could have been a short text… you get the idea. Over-scheduling meetings and calls can, at a certain point, turn counter-productive and take valuable time away from important tasks and deliverables.
- Don’t work in silos: A lack of cross-communication among your own internal teams, departments, and stakeholders can lead to oversights and mistakes. Working in a silo or in isolation from other decision-makers on your side sets the stage for misunderstandings, toes being stepped on, and potentially time-wasting issues that could derail your agency’s team from achieving goals on your behalf.
- Don’t feed blame-shifting: Accountability in business is important. But, there is a difference in holding people accountable and outright blame-shifting. Placing blame and only focusing on the negative when complications, difficulties, or problems arise is never an effective form of communication and usually just puts people on the defensive (or, at worst, the offensive). Remember, when you do your due diligence and choose the right agency for your company and goals, you’re not only looking at their portfolio or rates, you’re also evaluating their team – the people, talent, and personalities you’ll be working with for weeks or months on end. If you choose wisely at the outset, you’ll minimize the possibility of conflict between your teams.
- Don’t Bite off too much: This is tempting. Once you on-board the agency, of course you want to get the most out of your collaboration with them and maximize the positive results, right? Understandable. But, keep the scale and scope of any project to an ambitious but realistic level, or else you’ll be setting yourself up for missed deadlines and unfulfilled goals. Similarly, if the roadmap your agency is proposing seems wildly implausible within the desired timeframe, it’s perfectly appropriate to question their own strategic planning. “Less,” in some instances, may indeed mean “more” in the long run.
- Don’t Drop last-minute bombshells: Yes, last-minute requests or add-ons are a normal part of any project, but this should not be the “norm.” Likewise, if you feel that the agency you’ve hired is consistently surprising you at the last minute with unexpected requests, changes to the roadmap, or canceled plans, it’s time to re-evaluate the partnership as this signals a lack of organization and follow-through.
- Don’t Refuse to let go: Maybe Elsa had it right when she sang “Let it go, let it go!” Any good digital marketing agency worth their salt will want to collaborate with you and incorporate your team’s ideas, goals, needs, challenges, and KPIs into their own recommendations on how to improve your company’s digital ecosystem and user journey. An important part of this process may mean that your team relinquishes a little ownership of the site and, simply put, let the experts do what they do. Be open to new ideas and recommendations, and recognize the talent you’ve hired by giving them the freedom and space to work for you.
- Don’t Be vague: Vaguely defined goals, deadlines, or deliverables will compromise the value of your time, budget, and working relationship with any agency you work with. Whether you’re optimizing, improving your site’s UX/UI, launching tests, targeting or personalizing, defining your analytics strategy, or installing a new tool, if you don’t start out with clearly defined goals and strategies for how to achieve these goals, you run the risk of wasting valuable resources.
- Don’t Tolerate procrastination: Of course, all parties (client and agency) should be committed to timely responses, prompt requests for information or data, and meeting overall project deadlines. Any feet-dragging on either side will surely compromise the outcome and make it harder to achieve your company’s goals.
If you’re interested in learning more about digital agencies, website optimization, UX design or personalization, we’d love to hear from you! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- On 4th November 2019