Inconvenient truths about agencies

If you have worked in the industry for a while, you are bound to have come across a few failed digital projects led by various agencies. To be fair, it doesn’t always turn out this way, but failed projects are not rare. So, what should you know before you get started?

Agencies offer services for strategic, creative and technical development of digital offerings, which can include graphic design, SEO, CMS implementation and much more. In the J. Boye groups members use many different agencies, most of which consider themselves industry thought-leaders various ways – rightly or wrongly.

Here’s how you get the most out of working with an agency:

  • You may only hear of the miserable failures, but the agencies would not have grown and remained in the marketplace had they merely produced failures. Talk to references.
  • There are very few established best practices. Agencies themselves don’t agree on much and if you ask them to do a project, they will each propose very different solutions with significant differences in their methodologies. In general you should never tell an agency how you want things done, but rather focus on what you want. When dealing with agencies, be open to some alternative solutions and make sure to communicate regularly with the agency, even though it takes time.
  • You will need good project management at your end, even though agencies would gladly sell that service to you. Without good project management on your side of the table, how would you control the direction and avoid risk and unpleasant surprises?
  • An important factor is your relationship with the agency team — and not necessarily impressive resumes. Almost every agency has some very smart people working for them.
  • You will not become a key account unless you continually buy many different services (e.g. creative work, strategic work and technical work). Even big spenders that only buy creative work, or only buy technical work, will not be treated as a key account.
  • Most agencies have a handful of customers that make up the vast majority of their revenue. Some of the biggest agencies have individual customers that make up more than 20 % of their revenue. This means that if a very big customer leaves, you might be able to get some fresh talent onto your agency team, but the agency might actually be in big trouble.

There are no safe choices, even among the largest agencies. Do you have any additional truths to share?

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