Being a digital agency ourselves, we've seen the best, the worst, and everything in between when it comes to client-agency relationships. Many companies don't take the time to ask the right questions before looking for a digital agency - but you're smarter than that!
The truth is, with even the best intentions and a strong desire to hire an agency, it isn’t always the right fit. Some organizations are simply not structured in a way that complements an agency relationship in terms of hierarchy or communication style. For example, if key decision makers are stuck in their ways or quick to dismiss new ideas, your organization may not work well with an agency. However, when a client-agency relationship is built on aligned goals and reinforced with trust and the ability to see eye to eye, the possibilities for value are endless. The best way to find out which camp your business is in is to do a little bit of homework.
Questions To Review Before Making Your Decision
- Is working with an agency right for your company?
- Do you need your agency to be a strategic partner?
- Does your agency have experience working within your industry?
- Do the agency's values match your company culture?
The first step to achieving the perfect company-agency relationship is to take a step back and look internally at your organization. Think through the questions below to help determine if your company would work well with an agency.
Do You Need Your Agency To Be A Strategic Partner?
Once you have determined working with an agency is the right approach for your digital marketing needs, the next step is to decide what type of agency you need. Not sure which type of agency is right for your company? Let's unpack the three main types of digital agencies: those that only focus on strategy, those that only implement the tactical work, and those that can do both.
This partner will:
- Want a “seat at the table” during strategic planning sessions
- Develop a strategic plan that ties your company objectives to tactics
- Demonstrate a clear understanding of your brand and messaging, your customer’s mindset, and your C-level thought process
Tactical Implementation Partner
This partner will:
- Display a high degree of expertise and competency in one or two areas
- Have various certifications that demonstrate their expertise
- Engage other resources to complete tasks they do not specialize in
This partner will:
- Demonstrate the capabilities of both a strategic and tactical partner
- Demonstrate competency in all areas of digital marketing
- Assist in your digital marketing plan from start to finish
- Provide multiple levels of experience
Do The Agency's Values Match Your Company Culture?
While it is one of the most important factors to consider, cultural alignment is trickier to measure. It’s more of an art than a science and if you’re doing it right, you’ll know it when you see it.
Culture and values mean more than whether the agency has a game room or 'bring your dog to work' days. Those can be part of getting a feel for an agency partner, but there’s more to it than just that. If you’re looking for a partnership that will last, find an agency that is passionate about and true to their values and willing to commit to the culture you’ve created.
When looking at a potential agency, consider the following:
- What is their work environment like?
- Do they have a culture of accountability?
- How does their overall approach to their craft mesh with yours?
- For example, if you’re in a highly regulated industry that limits how you can market, you may not want the agency that has clients with a reputation for push-the-envelope shock value (or vice versa).
- Ask, “How did your culture get to be what it is today?” Find out their priorities and what they've learned along the way.
- Do they have a full-time staff? Sub-contractors? Both?
- There’s nothing wrong with using sub-contractors. Actually, this often makes the most sense for an agency (highly trained specialist, not enough full-time work, etc.). Still, make sure you understand exactly who is going to be working on your account and why the agency feels the approach makes sense.
Did you make it through all four steps? You're ready to find an agency! Armed with the right tools and insights, you're well on your way to building a solid company-agency relationship.