Article

Karen Bewick
Karen Bewick 28 October 2016

How to Get the Most out of Your Digital Agency

Choosing a digital agency should be like choosing a business partner. Do you want a partner to simply supply you with assets, or do you want a partner that takes a more strategic interest in your business and long-term objectives?

Traditionally, the former has been true of most digital agencies and for many, it still is. However, this traditional ‘supplier’ relationship has a number of pitfalls. For one, a supplier isn’t really a vested partner in your business. They don’t have any real incentive to challenge you or add further value, and expectations may be clumsily or haphazardly managed due to an imperative to serve rather than advise.

However, in a modern digital setting, it’s far more common for digital agencies to operate more like partners, and you should choose an agency based on this criteria.

Technology has made working methods more agile and collaborative, facilitating transparent, more personal communication. Simply put, technology means the door is always open. Operating in this environment demands true partnerships, built on understanding and trust, rather than mere master-servant relationships.

Most of Netcel’s clients have been with us for five years or more because we focus on cultivating and strengthening relationships over time, sharing knowledge, experience and working towards a common goal. We partner with other non-competing agencies and consultants, fostering collaborative partnerships with them to enhance our ability to help our clients grow their businesses and move them in the desired direction. With the advent of new technology and the evolving digital landscape, this is easier to achieve than ever before, so much so that it’s hard to understand why more agencies aren’t taking advantage of this way of working.

However, it’s not just about the agency. As a customer looking to partner with an agency, you also need to have a similar mindset. Any good agency will want access to key people and stakeholders within your organisation to help them fully understand your business, and thus enhance the quality of their work. They’ll also need the autonomy to operate freely within the overarching governance structure of the partner relationship, using their expertise to prioritise activities as appropriate. 

This will require a certain degree of trust on your part and a commitment of your time, but spending more time with the right agency is sure to yield better returns than spending less with an agency that’s not strategically aligned to your way of thinking. Invest in your agency like you would a business partner, and you’ll get the best returns.

So how should a partnership with a digital agency work?

At Netcel we pride ourselves on involving our clients, or partners, in every aspect of production - from capturing specification of requirements, to design and execution. By treating our clients as partners and working alongside them we have found that we experience higher success rates, decreased risks and enhanced collaboration. What this means for clients, is that we usually achieve a faster time to market with output that’s cost-effective and of a far better quality.

Of course, different parties will no doubt have different motivations, and being open and transparent about these, as well as things like budgets, will pay dividends. Any agency worth its salt will do its utmost to demonstrate value and retain you as a client, so it’s important that you are not only comfortable working together, but are totally open about your requirements and concerns. Being clear about these sort of issues from the offset is how good, ongoing relationships are formed. And a good relationship is one that usually ends up being profitable for both parties.

Transparency is key in workflow too. Trust is earned through regular, effective communication; which involves listening to concerns and feedback, then acting on it. Regular meetings and catch-up reviews are important, but everyday communication should also be valued - from emails and phone calls, to using collaborative software such as Basecamp. It’s important that everyone’s voice is heard in a partnership!

How to build trust with your new agency

Like all partnerships, a good agency will respect the sanctity of trust, and be willing to go above and beyond to earn it. So, before you finalise contracts, sign on the dotted line and agree to move forward with your chosen agency, it’s important for you to meet the wider team; as these are the people you’ll be working with on a day-to-day basis.

If you want to get a strong feel for an agency’s capabilities and ethos, then seek to meet with a cross-section of the specialists they employ - from strategy, creative, technology, project management, and marketing. By engaging in regular workshops, developing user stories and creating journey maps, you should begin to forge a compatible partner work ethic.

Putting a smile and a handshake to the emails is also a great way to ‘personalise’ relationships. Rather than just being another client on the books, your business is brought to life and everyone in the team is more likely to go above and beyond your needs.

Not only is this good practice, it should be actively encouraged. At Netcel we want our clients to talk to our in-house teams about their business objectives and what they’re trying to achieve. This active ‘knowledge share’ ensures everybody is on the same page and allows our team to hear about the problems they may be facing in real terms. This kind of context is invaluable and positions us more as a partner than just another supplier.

Ultimately, these are the kind of things you should be looking for in an agency. Don’t think of them as a supplier to fill a basic need, think of them a business partner you’re about to invest in. Make the right investment, and it’s sure to grow. Likewise, partner with the right agency and it will pay dividends in the long term.

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