Many companies wonder, at some point, about the wisdom of getting a digital agency in. Can’t they just do it themselves? It’s just social media, isn’t it? Can’t some of the young ones do it? They’re on SnapTok and TikChat all the time aren’t they? And how hard can it be to buy some ads on Facebook?
If you’re asking yourself those questions, then you definitely need a digital agency to help you grow your business. A significant portion of your audience (and in some cases all of your audience) will be on digital and if you think handing it over to a whippersnapper or just making it a part of someone else’s job will be ‘good enough’, then you’re wrong.
Of course, we would say that, we’re an agency. But there are two kinds of agencies - the ones who you rely on to do everything digitally for you. And the good ones.
The ‘good ones’ (who include us in their number) do not create a dependency in your relationship with them. A good agency not only helps your build your digital presence - your SEO, your newsletters, your podcasts and your social media - they will also build the skills and capacity within your organisation so that, after a time, you can take over much of what they deliver for you and you can do it yourself. You might want ongoing support, mentorship, advice or the ability to call on us in a crisis, but, fundamentally, we (the good agency) want to help you do this stuff yourself.
So, when you get someone in, talk to them about making sure the work that’s delivered includes the transfer of knowledge and the building of skills so that you will know that you can take it over.
It’s those early conversations which will set the tone for the relationship with your agency. Many companies specifically have a ‘chemistry meeting’ before they even get to the pitch stage to see if they actually like the people they’ll be working with.
If you want to build a constructive relationship with your agency, it’s vital that the conversations are easy, that your team feel empowered to ask questions and to make it obvious that they want to learn. And it’s got to be clear that the agency isn’t holding anything back, that they are helping your own team build a knowledge bank so that they can participate more fully in their own digital presence.
There are, of course, things that an agency can do that you can’t. Foremost amongst them is to give an expert eye on what you need. You are a master of your own industry - and a good digital agency is a master of their own. It’s the agency’s job to know trends and routes to market that you are not familiar or comfortable with. This wisdom is applied to a diagnostic phase where you are in the hands of experts who can decide what is the scope of what you need. It’s an audit phase of your current state which is invaluable and will set out both the requirements of the project and help define where you can build your own team’s skills.
From those diagnostics (‘this is what needs fixing’), an agency should give you a strategy (‘this is how you fix it’). This will show you how to improve the manner in which you are taking your message to your audience as well as, dependent on what you are selling, your ability to convert those messages into purchases. A strategy should give you a vision of what you should be doing and where it will take you, as well as the tactics and tools to deliver on that.
Implementation: You (?)
How much of a strategy your own team can deliver in-house depends (of course) on what the issues are and what the strategy is to improve things. So if, for example, you need technical changes to your website to make it more accessible to search engines, then it might be a briefing for your developers (who may also be an agency). Or it may be that you need a content strategy, which you can deliver, or a social media strategy which you can drive. But the ideal would be for your own team to take over as much of the delivery as possible, with agency support for the specialist bits you can’t (yet) manage yourself. And a process by which you can improve your team’s skills so that you can take over more and more. That’s where the quality of the agency/client relationship comes in.
Ongoing wisdom: Agency
The digital world is not a static one and your company should retain the agility and flexibility to change approach as the landscape changes. That means oversight of what you’re doing and the ability to interject with a ‘why don’t you’ suggestion where necessary. This might comprise quality assurance on what your own team are doing, recommendations for nudges and shifts in direction or, if things get out of hand, some crisis support. A retainer for your agency will give availability and input, without the expense of a big project. It’s worth it.
So find your balance with your external digital support. Work out where they know more than you and where you can take over and learn by doing, with their backing. It’s a tricky balance, and much is centred around the quality of the relationship, but the mix of real expertise and your own learning can be a really powerful partnership.