January 14, 2021

Set the bar high for your next agency: 10 qualities they should have

Caroline Goodwin

COO

Article 68

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Every enterprise business is facing the same question right now – what will it look like when the pandemic is over? To adapt to the new economy, you need to have the right partners on your side.

Whether your enterprise-level business has seen growth plateau, rise or fall, or perhaps your entire industry disrupted, no business will remain unchanged.

To adapt to the new economy and pivot quickly if needed, you must have the right partners on your side.

This is the time to be raising the bar on what you expect from your digital agency and time to look for a new one if your current supplier isn’t up to scratch.

There are ten qualities in particular that we think you should be looking for in an agency that can help you thrive during and post-COVID.

 

  1. The ability to build strong stakeholder relationships

If you have complex or multiple stakeholder arrangements, your agency must have experience of engaging people at all levels of an organisation.

Even if time is short, you must make time to take everyone’s needs into account at the start, otherwise, the entire project can fall apart.

At Tangent, we spend a lot of time doing that initial stakeholder engagement, not just from a gathering requirement perspective, but with a view to gaining buy-in for later.

For example, we’re currently working with an enterprise-level client that is looking to reimagine their whole digital experience, which spans 20-30 global websites.

We’re talking to everybody across the C-suite in multiple different languages, to understand what they want from the website and engage with people from across the sub-brands and different functional areas.

Using tools like LucidSpark means that we can hold requirements workshops across the globe.

We know this will help ensure that we get buy-in when it comes to the launch.

 

  1. Agility and flexibility

So often, what you think you need and what you actually need are two different things.

It’s easy to make assumptions at the beginning of a project that once you get going are proved wrong. If this happens, it’s important to be able to pivot. An agency that works with agile methodology will be able to do this more easily.

For instance, during the first UK lockdown in March 2020 our agile process meant we could turn around a new website for REED’s Keep Britain Working campaign in just two weeks.

If you work with a lot of different partners or third parties, agility and flexibility are even more important. Your agency will need to identify third-party dependencies upfront, so they understand the risks and can plan for them.

If your agency has its own trusted outsource partner network this is also a huge advantage if you need to scale up quickly for any reason.

 

  1. Honesty and transparency

The ability to have honest discussions about budgets, risks and capabilities with your agency not only sets the right tone for collaboration but also gives you the best chance of success.

Be very suspicious of anybody that says they can meet everything in the brief within your budget and timeline constraints without any push back. This probably just means they're not being very honest.

In turn, be honest with your agency about your budgets.

As Nadine wrote, in her article on writing a better digital brief, “The reality is that most agencies can deliver to the budget that you have. They may need to rethink their process to find efficiencies or you may be able to handle certain parts of the project to cut costs.”

  1. The human touch

Alongside honesty, you need to work with people you can be open with.

Mutual respect for each other’s skills makes a big difference to the success of the relationship and of your projects.

This can be hard to assess in the beginning. But one clue is how honest your prospective agency is about what will and will not work in the brief you set them.

As an aside, this isn’t about good account management. It’s about good relationships across all disciplines and levels.

What’s different about Tangent from other places I’ve worked is that the team tend to build strong partnerships across the organisation. Our tech team have great relationships with people in IT, our strategy team have good relationships with the C-suite and so on.

  1. Simplifying the complex

Most enterprise-level businesses and large corporations will have complex offerings and user needs, along with huge volumes of assets and content.

You’ll want to work with an agency that can help you make things simpler to navigate, use and understand.

They’ll need experience of articulating complex business or product positioning, along with working to complex business rules, such as displaying different products and pricing to different user types.

  1. Ability to see the big picture

A website is never just a website, it has clear business goals that link back to the vision and purpose of the organisation.

Rather than someone that just looks at the brief in hand, you should consider a partner that thinks long term; keeping your wider business goals and vision in mind, so every project is bigger than the sum of its parts.

Of course, no organisation sits in a silo either. It’s important to work with an agency that understands what's going on in your market and industry but also brings in learnings from other industries and digital trends too.

  1. A customer and technical focus

A proven user experience offering, with robust user research and testing methods, is non-negotiable for any digital partner.

Your agency must be able to show experience in interviewing customers, developing personas and testing prototypes with users. Along with using customer satisfaction scores and analytics to monitor how they’re performing.


However, even the slickest user experience on the web will be pointless if the site doesn’t load or can’t handle large spikes in traffic.

It’s important that new designs be built in a robust, secure way that maintains a high level of uptime.

A holistic view matters if you want a digital product to succeed.

  1. Design and brand capabilities

Brand touches everything. Not just how your site looks but also how it feels. Along with what content you create and how you position your offer.

Often existing brand guidelines can be quite restrictive and sometimes lack a digital focus. An agency who can remain true to the brand essence but push the digital brand experience is key.

Otherwise, it’s quite likely you’ll end up with a website that looks, feels and sounds exactly the same as your competitors.

  1. Working with both quantitative and qualitative data

Every agency partner needs to be able to back up their assumptions and decisions with research and data.

Even during a pandemic, it’s possible to run global and remote research projects effectively, as my colleague Rich covered in this “Complete Guide to Remote User Testing”.

However, you should be wary of any agency that has a bias towards either quantitative or qualitative research and data, as sticking with one will limit your understanding.

Quantitative insights can be very convincing for stakeholders and show you what is happening on a larger scale - for example, if you’re losing customers at a certain stage of the buying process.

However, without qualitative data, it’s hard to know exactly why your customers are behaving this way. Without understanding why something is happening, you won’t be able to address it effectively.

A blend of both quant and qual data is the only way to improve your strategy, decisions and your results.

  1. Provide maintenance and support beyond launch

Websites live on. They’re never static. They need patches, updates and ongoing security improvements.

Typically, if the agency is interested in longer-term support, it means that they're going to build it right from the off.

Thinking about that upfront - about how it's going to live on and what kind of processes, monitoring and alerting will be most effective - gives better value for money in the long run.

For larger-scale sites that are global or mission-critical, the ability to get 24/7 support will be crucial.

Conclusion

When different projects are siloed, or you’re working with multiple agencies across multiple channels, it’s hard to make consistent progress on your long term goals or pivot quickly when you need to.

Every enterprise business needs an agency that thinks beyond just designing and building one-off products. One who can collaborate with you at the C-suite level and bring together research, strategy, brand, user experience and tech to solve real business problems and create new opportunities.

If you want a true partner that supports you, challenges you and truly fast tracks your organisation post-COVID - it might be time to raise the bar.

Get in touch with us to see how Tangent can help your enterprise-level business succeed.

 

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