The Woo In Finding A Digital Partner
Author: Patrick Lemay
When it comes to finding a digital partner, what starts as a reasonable list of must-haves can easily escalate into something that seems impossible. But with enough forethought, planning, realistic budget range, research, and an open mind, you can come close to having everything you want. The six points below are ways to help think through what might be the best fit for you.
1. Go In It For The Long Haul
Rather than compartmentalizing projects and finding a new agency for each new campaign, view your vetting process as if hiring a whole new department. View it as building an extension of your team. By putting thought and energy in to the long haul, as each new project approaches you have a trusted agency set-up and ready to tailor the work for you.
Before contacting the prospective agency, do your research and throw a shout out to your professional contacts for recommendations and referrals. Mingling with a wide range of agencies may feel like you’re wasting time, but each new introduction into a variety of styles and expertise will make your agency wish list more concise and succinct.
2. Let The Website Do The Talking
Part of any review process includes a thorough examination of the prospective agency’s website. There’s no better way to see what they’ve done, who they’ve done it for and their size. We all try to put our best foot forward and so do agency websites. If you don’t see a service your project requires, don’t ignore it or take them out of the running. No one is perfect and in the beginning stages, the floor is open for discussion. Take advantage of this time to sort out any and all competencies you desire or are lacking. In the same breath, before you go gaga, ask what their limitations are. A candid conversation opens the dynamic up for transparency and avoids future misunderstandings.
3. Check References
Amazingly enough, reference checking is often overlooked. In the fast-paced process of vetting multiple agencies, it’s easy to get swept up in the flow of the back-and-forth email and review courtship. Appreciating the agency’s service line-up and the high energy of the team isn’t enough. Don’t rely on testimonies. Before handing over your money, time and trust, ask for and check their references with the same attention as you would take in the hiring process of a new employee. When speaking to the references, focus on questions that reveal what you can expect from the potential agency and if they encountered any challenges and how they were resolved.
Another process that gets swept under the rug during the excitement of the vetting process and should be placed high on the list of must-have’s is setting up a reporting application. Communicating your desired goals and expectations is a crucial way to see the return on your time and money. With the abundance of analytics and KPI reporting available, you can be provided with feedback, data and measurements that reflect the success of your campaign and any areas that need more attention.
5. The Bottom-line
Regardless of all the wonderful things your dream agency can do for you, in the end, it all comes down to dollars and cents. Talent and expertise comes with a price and this goes for unbelievable services at rock bottom discount. If it sounds too good true to be true, chances are it is and you’ll be shelling-out more time and money fixing those issues. To aid in negotiating, it’s wise to start your search early with a sound, realistic budget. This number will help you avoid sticker shock and more importantly, be able to target agencies within that scope. If pricing isn’t included on the website, make an appointment AFTER you’ve researched the prospective agency’s website with prepared questions in hand. Also, be sure to inquire about how pricing is estimated.
Still on the fence after thorough researching, vetting, reference checking and face-to-face meetings? Use your gut feeling to gauge your final decision. Have you talked to your team to see if they can envision working well with the agency team? Does everything about the agency fall into place, but you still have a nagging feeling you can’t quite put your finger on? Or are you aware of their shortcomings, but have trust and a strong connection to their team? Do your best to weigh all your options. Sleep on it. Set-up that final in-person meeting or phone call that confirms your gut feeling. Remember as in any relationship, after you have all the information it’s a leap of faith.
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