How to choose the right digital agency

5 minute read

There’s no denying that choosing the right digital agency for your project can be a tricky process. With the number of agencies growing by the day, there’s a vast array to pick from. Not only that, but each agency will specialise in certain areas (software development, design, marketing etc.), with its own unique approach and culture. 

So where to begin? Well, before you leap head-first into the depths of Google, start with our succinct guide to choosing the right digital agency.

Wireframes written on whiteboard in loft office

Specific requirements

Probably the most important box to tick before you begin the search for a digital agency is understanding your specific requirements. Although this might sound obvious, having a clear outline of what you need will make life far easier for both you and your potential partners. Aside from the idea itself, what does the project actually require? Will it need bespoke software? UX? Branding? Perhaps a marketing campaign, including design and social media. There’s plenty to consider.

Many agencies offer all of the above, whereas many will specialise in a certain area. Understanding your requirements from the get-go will act as a sort of agency filter, and also provide those you select with a clear brief — something that agencies find extremely useful when discussing projects

Budget

It’s absolutely crucial that you have a strict budget in mind when prospecting agencies. Getting value for money is one of the most important factors for stakeholders, so having a clear idea of what you have at your disposal will be a key part of the process. 

Also, you should know what you’re willing to spend — how flexible is that budget? Like any industry, different agencies will have varying costs depending on reputation, experience, personnel, location etc. A London-based agency will typically charge more than a Bristol-based one, for example. 

Remember, when discussing costs — if it feels too good to be true, it probably is. Here’s some insight into how we go about determining an accurate estimate for project briefs provided by our clients.

Demand transparency

When you’re researching an agency, demanding full transparency should be standard practice. Review their website for a contact address, team bios, and evidence of client projects/case studies. It’s also worth checking their social media channels for recent activity, even if it’s just a LinkedIn page or a Twitter feed. If the aforementioned aren’t present, then consider it a red flag. If it’s an agency in the UK, you should also be able to find them registered on Companies House.

Gravitywell team meeting

Credibility

So you’re happy with the validity of the agency, but how credible is it? Check for client testimonials on previous projects. These can usually be found in a decent case study. You should also research client reviews on independent platforms like Google or Yelp, which will offer an honest appraisal of the agency and what it’s like to work with. 

If you’re looking locally, then consider asking around — the chances are someone will have experience working with the agency, or at least know someone who has. Good agencies receive a lot of new business via word-of-mouth, so it works both ways. As mentioned above, an agency’s social media output can be a good barometer of their credibility. Are they well maintained, offering valuable, quality content? 

Methodology and skillset

Really understanding what an agency offers in terms of skillset and approach will help you make a properly informed decision. You don’t need to fully understand the job roles of each team member, but a browse of the agency website should offer a flavour of the type of work they’re capable of. The team bio section is a good place to start. 

Methodology will differ wildly from agency to agency. The skillset might determine this, as might the size of the agency. There isn’t a ‘correct’ approach — the specifics of your project should determine the route you take. A one-size-fits-all approach has its merits, although at Gravitywell we like to be flexible, understand the needs of each particular client, and move forward accordingly.

We also like to devote time to R&D (research and development), as well as regular hackathons. Client projects will often take the form of a hackathon, such as our innovative ‘real-time’ timelapse platform for Interval Films.

Culture

Big-name or boutique? There’s a huge range of agencies out there, and company culture should be an important factor in your decision. The agency website should offer a good clue as to what the culture is like, but arranging a meeting, paying a visit to the studio/office, and putting faces to names is the best way. Your decision should hinge on the type of culture you’re personally comfortable with, or what aligns with your project.

Something to bear in mind is the difference in working process depending on agency culture. It’s crucial to find out how long the ‘chain’ will be from the developer who is actually building your project, through to you, the client. Some agencies will have numerous personnel involved in every project — Account Executive, Project Manager, Creative Director, Developer, etc., whereas smaller agencies are more likely to offer a more intimate, flat-hierarchical approach.

View of Bristol from Gravitywell studio

Location

This might not be applicable for you, but the chances are it will be. Being in close proximity to the agency you choose to work with has its benefits, especially if the approach to your project needs to be highly collaborative. Working with a local agency isn’t essential, however. The majority of contact will be remote — email, phone, Skype etc. and it’s more important to partner with the right team, rather than the one that happens to be down the road.

 

Hopefully these points will help you make an informed decision when choosing a digital agency to work with. It’s an important choice, but don’t overthink it too much. Essentially, you have to ask yourself this: can they do the job, and can I see myself working with them? If your response is positive, then you’re on the right path.

If you would like to chat about your project or learn more about the Gravitywell process, don’t hesitate to get in touch.