Free agent

Now the clocks have gone forward for another year and we've 'lost' an hour's sleep it's a reminder that time is of the essence! Work in particular seems to be always picking up pace and some days I can work flat out without even glancing at my task list.

To sustain this fast pace it's important that we are partnered with the right digital agencies. If you're not meticulous when selecting these agencies deadlines (and the quality of work) will slip. Taking the right amount of time to plan before you even start shortlisting is essential. This process, and spending the time it takes to do it right, is almost as important as staff recruitment.

Here are my 7 top tips for selecting the right digital agency to work alongside on your next big project:

1. Know your digital

If you are the main person tasked with bringing in an agency you need to be digitally literate. I've seen lots of examples of agencies who have been bought in based on the fact they know the latest buzz words alone. Then, when they're asked the difficult questions they crumble. If you are a skilled digital practitioner yourself it makes it a much more interesting conversation. You can discern whether the person you are talking to can add the value you need.

2. Plug the gaps

Many agencies boast that they can deliver your entire digital strategy from social media to website design. But in reality the majority of them have specialisms which you can tap into. You need to work out where an agency can compliment the skills you already have in your internal team. But what if you don’t know what you need? Then go back to the first point and learn more about the different Digital Marketing elements and how they can help you.

3. Practice what you preach

Do your research on the agency before you meet them. Are you impressed with their website? Do they blog and position themselves as thought leaders? I've been told by agencies in the past that their own website is poor because they are so busy with client work which is an easy get out. If you can't visibly see them adding value to social media groups online the chances are they don't know their stuff.

4. Full transparency

Your chosen agency are going to be working with you through good times and bad! This is why it's essential you feel that you can have honest conversations with them. The best agencies I've worked with function like an extension of the team. A good test is that they're willing to share the raw design assets with you. This shows a confidence in the quality of their work.

5. Do you history homework

As with recruiting a new team member you need to be gathering your proof. Take a look at their portfolio to determine if the type of work they've undertaken before is what you're after. Almost all agency pitches contain a slide of company logos of who they've worked with. The real test though is delving into what they actually delivered and the proof that it worked. You also need to tap into your own network for advice from fellow professionals on their agency experiences.

6. Hard questions

I like to leave an agency meeting feeling that I've been challenged. If they've asked me a lot of hard questions then this is proof they are as invested in the project as me. It may not be that enjoyable to begin with, and it may be quite tiring, but this is how you get results. Being surrounded by a team of sycophants doesn't bring out the best in anyone. Good agencies know how to say no.

7. Bring to account

Continuity of account management is essential. Without this you're left explaining your working methodologies and work ethic over and over. A good account manager should be the mediator who ensures both client and agency are getting what they want. As the client you don't want to feel that they are just paying lip service to your needs. They need to care about the project succeeding as much as you.

I still feel like I'm always learning and so are the agencies. It's about being able to take this journey together. At this time of year, when we're all a little bit more tired, we need all the help we can get!
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