9 Tips to Consider Before Selecting an Agency Partner

Article by Javier Santana
4 minutes 43 seconds read

Your organization tasked you to solve a problem. You need to find an agency partner for a website redesign, a product tour, or some digital experience. Before you craft an RFP, ask yourself, “Are we ready to work with an agency?”

Working with agency partners can be an excellent experience, since they can help you understand your customers and their pain points. However, agencies work on timelines that require lots of client involvement and attention in order to get to the finish line quickly and efficiently.

Delaying projects can cost a lot for both you and the agency. This means that you have to be ready to have a team on-hand to keep the project moving forward.

Below are the top 9 items you should check off your list before you start your process to seek an agency partner.

  1. Understand the problem.
    And figure out if it is really a problem at all. If it is an existing product, be sure you understand the previous execution. That means you should know why it was built, any back-end or platform decisions that were made and why, along with your thoughts on why it’s not working.

    Chances are, your agency partner will recommend research to understand the competitive landscape and how your customers will use the tools before identifying what the problem is. However, don’t rely solely on a partner. Be prepared to have a POV on why your existing solution is not achieving your goals or KPIs.

  2. Know Yourself
    What’s your value proposition? If you haven’t gotten that far, you should invest some time into understanding what your company stands for, and why your customers should trust you? Make sure you understand how your customers perceive your brand, and be honest about the things they may not love about your products or offering. This is critical to helping a partner understand existing issues, which will help them plan a research strategy.

  3. Talk to Each Other
    You would be surprised by how many companies are misaligned—not because they don’t try, but because scheduling is a challenge. Schedule some time to internally discuss your thoughts about the project and learn from each other. Most importantly, align on what you hope to get out of the project. This will help the discovery process and help avoid surprises and inconsistencies when your agency partner performs stakeholder interviews.

  4. Budget
    Having a preset budget without understanding your problem is like taking your car to a mechanic and offering $100 to fix the mysterious rumbling, without letting them look under the hood. You should have a baseline-approved amount, but know that it will most likely need to be flexible, especially when you start turning stones during the research process, which brings me to my next point.

  5. Research
    You should always allow your agency partner to include some research, even if you think you understand your customers. Remember that technology evolves on a daily basis, and so do user needs.

    It doesn’t have to be a huge effort; simply understanding your primary personas and the customer journey will be instrumental to a successful product.

  6. Plan the Timing
    Be realistic about timing and understand that sometimes timelines shift. If you’re backed up to a hard deadline, your agency partner may recommend a phased approach, and that’s OK. Don’t be afraid to present that to your leadership team. Remember that great is better than fast.

  7. Define Your Team
    Have a team ready to go, and know that if you get yourself in a position where internal approvals are delayed, it’s going to delay the overall project and cost you more money. Make sure you identify the primary stakeholders and assign a primary point of contact who has the time and dedication to work in a partnership.

  8. Find Potential Agency Partners
    Do your homework and look at agencies that have great work and industry experience, and then interview them. Ask about their culture, processes, and previous client engagements. Ask for references.  Ask them what has worked, what hasn’t, and how they would approach a partnership with your company.

    Chemistry is important, so make sure you consider a partner that you feel will work well with your team.

  9. Submit your RFP
    If you decide to complete an RFP, re-read #8 before selecting a few potential partners. Try to narrow it down to your top 3, and be open and transparent. Let them know that you have a few others bidding for your business, and let them know why you selected them as a top contender. However, if you already have your favorite and have a great gut feeling on who’s going to be the best partner, skip the RFP process and just go for it. Be mindful of the amount of work that goes into responding to these requests (and the work required to review them). If you don’t think an agency has a chance, save them the time.

    If you broadcast RFPs without ever having conversations with the agencies, you will only get responses from those agencies that will treat you like a number. A good partner will want to get to know you first and make sure they’re a great fit for you, and vice-versa.

    Blasting 5+ agencies with a blind RFP will likely eliminate those agencies that could be the best partners, since your selection process is most likely based on pricing first.

I hope this list helps you in your process to find a great partner to help you grow your business and bring value to your customers.