Tips on Selecting an Interactive Agency
Here at Native Instinct we’ve been asked to bid on quite a few projects recently, including some standard “Web sites.” While we’re up for lots of challenges, we like to work with potential clients up-front to make sure that we are the right agency for them, and they are the right client for us. If you or your company is looking to hire an interactive agency, here are some tips to make sure you select the one that is right for you.
1. Decide on your goals.
It sounds obvious, but before you begin a new interactive design/development project, decide on what you want to achieve, before you begin the agency selection process. “Our Web site is two years old and needs a redesign” is NOT a good reason to start a project. Instead, you should come up with goals that follow the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) guidelines. So your goals should say things like:
- Increase user registrations/email newsletter sign-ups by 20% per month
- Re-organize site to reflect new product priorities • Improve SEO so organic site traffic from Search Engines increases by 5%.
- Increase unique visits to the site by 10% and time on site by 20%.
Qualitative goals are also important, as long as you have underlying quantitative goals that support them. Examples of good qualitative goals are:
- Engage the user through a better use of story telling.
- Better reflect our new brand
By defining your goals up front, the agency you are talking to can better explain how they will help you achieve your goals. This will help you decide if the agency has expertise that you don’t already have in house, and also insure that you and your agency are aligned in what is trying to be achieved. Also, socialize the goals through your organization to make sure all the decision makers agree on them.
2. Write down your requirements.
Web development is no longer a straightforward common set of features. Every interactive project has unique requirements – do you want social elements? How important is the mobile market? How do your users currently accomplish the tasks that you want them to complete on your new interactive solution? Do you want to use a content management system?
These questions should be answered before you select your agency, because different agencies have different expertise. Unless you are talking to one of the large 100+ employee agencies, most agencies don’t do everything well. Write your requirements down for the project. Typically, high-level creative, technical and business requirements can be written down on 3-5 pages, and this will be sufficient to let an agency know what you are looking for. [Native Instinct has a standard list of requirements questions to help you complete a draft requirements document. Contact Us for more information.] The other advantage to writing down your requirements is that then you can have multiple agencies bid on your project, and they will all be bidding on the same information that will allow you to realistically compare bid-to-bid.
3. Meet with the agency in person.
Most of our client engagements begin with a three to four month project, and then continue for months and years as we work with our clients to enhance and improve what we’ve built. So it’s important that when you select an agency, you’re comfortable with the people who you’ll be working with day and night to achieve your goals.
Just as you wouldn’t hire an employee without an in-person interview, you don’t want to hire an agency without meeting the people who will be working on your account. While most agencies can’t guarantee a particular designer full time for your project, they will be able to identify a project manager and senior creative and technical team members who will be working on your account. Meet these people in person, understand their past skills and what they hope to achieve by working with you, and get a sense if you have common interests. Your agency is a long term partner – spend time to get to know them before you select them.
4. You get what you ask for.
If you expect an agency to do “Spec Creative”, then you need to be prepared to spend time with the agency to clearly explain what you are looking for so that they can deliver. If you ask an agency to do spec creative, but only give them a one page creative brief, then there is a good chance that the agency is going to deliver something off-message. Your needs are complex – quality agencies won’t throw ideas together until they really get an idea of what you want. So if you want to test your prospective agencies to see how they creatively respond to the challenges you face, be prepared to hold one or two briefing sessions to get them running, and be prepared to pay them for their efforts. Most agencies will request this, even if it is a flat fee stipend. Agencies want to know that you are committed to the process and hiring an agency. If you don’t place any value on their time before there is a relationship, they’re concerned you won’t value their time after the relationship has started either.
These are a but few simple tips about selecting your agency. Follow these, and with a little luck, you’ll find an agency that will make your dreams come true.