Questions You Should Ask When Choosing Your Agency
Selecting an agency can be hard... And a big decision for any brand.
Every one has their own well-defined process, honed over years of practice (and mistakes). And we all tend to offer something slightly different. Apples and oranges, anyone?
As part of any selection process, it’s important to get to know the firm you are going to (hopefully) spend a lot of time, energy and budget over the months and years that follow. And during the agency/client courting period, it’s those prospective clients who ask great questions will typically find a good match to their brand.
Cutting through the sales fluff, case studies and chemistry meetings, here a few questions (alongside our answers) to a few of the critical lines of enquiry you should be raising with your prospective agency partner…
What sets you apart from other agencies?
…a question we love, as it gives us the platform to wax lyrical on why we exist and are unique to every other shop in town…
It’s important to understand – from the agency’s perspective – what is it that makes their shop brilliant and better than anyone else. Which area(s) do they consider their forte in terms of service offering, can help determine whether it is a good fit.
Not only can this help as shorthand for when ranking your favourites, it also gives you a telling read on what the agency values above all else, and if that aligns with your brand values.
At Rotate°, our point of difference has evolved over time as we’ve matured and evolved to be a specialist within the eCommerce landscape. Now more than ever before, we are a value-driven eCommerce agency. And this mindset is a guiding focus which aligns our work with a client’s partner’s business.
Through a combination of our cross functional team make-up, our close-working strategic relationships and partner profiles, we position, operate and are as accountable as your in-house agency team.
With any partner you are working with, there should be a demonstration of that return on investment, by surfacing the value we are generating as a result of the partnership.
From your perspective, what makes a successful client relationship?
Crucially, the feeling needs to be mutual with any client relationship. And we have questions and criteria which any prospect needs to meet.
Understanding from the agency’s POV what they look for in a client not only helps to appraise whether your brand is a good fit for them, it should also illustrate what are their ranking factors for a long and successful partnership. It is a two-way street after all.
In truth, it often goes beyond the freedom to adding a brand’s logo to their pitch deck. During the selection process, agencies will be evaluating your brand against their own criteria and it is important to understand that during this phase of courtship.
Here we have our 5 C’s…
Does our solution or services match their business challenge? Will the project push us forward as an agency?
Are they a good fit as partners? Is there mutual respect? Will we get along just fine now and two years from now?
Are they secure as a business with a sales history?
Does their brand/business stand out from the crowd? Are they on a mission to do something unique in their market?
Will we be able to share our partnership with potential new partners?
And if you don’t meet that criteria and an agency pulls out of negotiations, don’t take it to heart… they have avoided a lot of wasted time and energy on both sides.
Who Will I Be Working With?
Hopefully the days of ‘pitch team’ and the ‘project team’ are behind us, and all agencies do value the transparency of introducing the team a client will be working with early on in the process.
However, it is an important question to raise as agencies will engage in a chemistry session at different stages during the sales funnel. Being able to visualise and road-test the working relationship will assist you in the selection process – understanding what other clients they have worked on previously, the experience they can bring to your business, and time working together are all elements to explore during a chemistry session.
From our side, we carefully select which team is best suited to a new project. And it’s crucial they are taken on the journey with a new prospect when it is looking likely we are going to work together. At first you’ll be introduced to the Product Manager who will be your main point of contact. They lead the team on prioritisation and aligning our output with your business goals. Then, the wider team will join sessions during the sales process.
What does working with you look like?
It is important to understand what the working relationship will look like day to day – who is on the team, what are the regular touch-points, communication and process for getting work done. As mentioned above, most agencies will have their version of which church of project management (waterfall, agile, lean etc) they are disciples of.
And equally, what are the requirements from you?
How much time and energy is required from the business side to make the partnership a success? Agencies should have a good grasp of how to get the maximum value from the relationship, and what you will need to input and when.
At Rotate, all clients work with a cross-functional team of a Designer, 2x Developers and Product Manager, dedicated to you. With a cross-functional team working in Sprints, brings diversity of thought as standard. Teams working together fosters more innovative problem-solving, better solutions and a higher quality outcome for our partner's businesses.
Our partners are fully involved in our working processes (Agile), ensuring full transparency and collaboration, in a symbiotic relationship.
As a partner and key decision maker we want & need you to be an active and important member of the team. This includes working with us on Backlog prioritisation, Goal setting, Acceptance Criteria, Demos and approvals.
How are the results of your services measured?
For any service you are looking to outsource to an agency, the longevity of the partnership will directly correlate to the measured effectiveness of the collaboration. From the wider business goals, KPIs (key performance indicators) and methods of measurement – all should be agreed upfront and reviewed regularly. Having a good understanding of how an agency is set up for measuring success will give clues on their strategic thinking and how they demonstrate their value add.
As mentioned above, we share a value-driven mindset where business goals & objectives alignment are established at the start of a new relationship, with quarterly strategy sessions to keep us on-track.
With each Sprint follows a report on how the work achieved ladders up closer to our partnership goals, identifying how a new feature, optimisation or fix has improved a store’s performance.
As part of our workflow with all partners, any new feature being deployed to the live store, this is split–tested against a percentage of audience. This is to not only mitigate risk, but also affords us to understand the % uplift and business value at the feature-level. As an example, if we introduce Reviews to the store, with an A/B test we can understand and play-back the impact of this feature (conversion rate uplift) and ultimately the return on investment in future to the business.
Similarly, we help our partners understand not only what good looks like for their eCommerce store, but guide them on what to measure, and how to monitor ongoing. And with any roadmap, this is not merely a set of deliverables and dates, but rather focused upon business goals and outcomes and what initiatives will help us hit those goals.
With any luck, armed with those five questions the process of selecting an agency has become a little simpler. Drop me an email if you’d like us to elaborate further on any of the above.