4 things to look for when hiring a digital agency

Digital agencies are popping up all over Australia and New Zealand, and with hundreds to choose from, it’s important to select one who not only knows what they’re doing but also understands your specific needs.

As the importance of creating and maintaining and online presence continues to ramp up, so have the number of digital agencies targeting small businesses to help them succeed.

READ: Small businesses spend $5000 a year on social media. Want to get it right?

But if you’re not fluent in arcane jargon and the technical minutiae of the digital world, you may need a bit of guidance on what to look for in one.

Brad Amos is the founder and managing director of Helium, a digital agency in Sydney, one of the agencies which is looking at the small business sector.

He says while the digital landscape can be confusing for the most tech-literate out there, there are four main things to look for when talking to a digital agency.


1. Your first conversation


Amos said that when you first meet with an agency, their first objective should be to get a solid grasp of the brief.

“Often a client brief is simply a surface explanation of issues that may have deeper origins,” said Amos.

“But a good agency will want to get to the root of the issue in order to best achieve your goals.”

After a research period, a prospective agency should spend some considerable time gaining an understanding of your business.

“That means working out exactly who you are and what you stand for, but also who your target audience is,” said Amos.

“If you’re talking about the nuts and bolts of code and technology within the first few meetings, it means you’re having the wrong conversation.”

When deciding that agency to work with, make sure you look for one that performs solid research up front. Only once all parties agree and understand the problem should the ins and outs be discussed.


2. Their portfolio


Most agencies will have their portfolios available online but if not, Amos believes it’s fair to ask for a summary of work they have undertaken in the past year or so.

Amos recommends looking at a handful of recent jobs to get a good idea of their style of approach.

“A portfolio of projects that are all very similar in execution can mean that the agency is just churning out ‘cookie cutter’ websites or solutions based on a template or structure that they’re most comfortable with,” says Amos.

“This means that the solution they offer may suit them, but might not be the one to best suit you.”

Look for an agency with a range of experience, but with solid results across each project.

You want one that shows creativity and takes a thorough and holistic approach to customer objectives.


3. Client retention


Something else Amos suggests considering is how long an agency has been working with their current clients.

“If the company tends to burn through clients, this could indicate an issue with communication,” warns Amos. “If clients feel out of the loop during a project, it can cause dissatisfaction between an agency and client.

“Sometimes low client retention can also be a sign of poor management and workmanship meaning you might end up with a website you cannot build upon or maintain, or it may be a symptom of poor customer service or inadequate follow-up.”

READ: How to bounce back from losing a client

When it comes to overall agency health, customer satisfaction and retention are the most important factors.

If these are lacking, warning bells should start ringing.


4. How they speak


One of the commonest gripes concerning digital agencies is the overuse of industry jargon and acronyms.

Amos feels that jargon is often a manifestation of a deeper issues.

“People who rely on jargon often cannot properly explain what they are trying to say without it,” he explained.

“Making sure your client understands the entire conversation should be of utmost importance to any agency, and they should have no hesitation in taking the extra time to explain things in plain English.”

From working out their objectives, speaking to their target audience, providing overviews, strategies, solutions and updates – your agency should make sure you understand what they are saying and offer to explain things further if you don’t.

The digital industry can appear daunting at first, particularly if it’s not a world you’re used to, but just like with any client-oriented business, a good agency should not only be technically skilled but also adept at understanding your business’s needs and ensuring that you are happy during the whole process.