How to choose a digital agency: why the process matters more than past industry experience

As part of our recent Kintsugi rebrand (and my training), I’ve been tasked with doing some market research for digital agencies in Perth. I’m very new to the industry, so it has been really interesting to learn what kind of information (and misinformation) there is out there for clients about how to choose a digital agency.

There’s a lot of articles out there about “how to choose a digital agency”, and one of the many recurring ideas that appear to be popular among industry experts, is the advice that you should NOT use agencies that haven’t worked with clients in your respective industry before.

To rephrase, potential clients are being told they should ONLY work with a digital agency that has worked with their competition. Or let’s face it – are possibly STILL working with the competition… because if that relationship is working out, why would they leave…?

Allow me to explore that a bit from my perspective – which while I’m new to this industry, having previous employment in the defence force, hospitality, helping run a small business for many years, and as a volunteer in a committee role which allows me to work with people from many other industries, along with plenty of other interesting life experiences – is actually a pretty broad perspective…

The main objective in hiring a digital agency, no matter which services you’re paying them to provide, is to be able to sell your business better. Whether it is creative & engaging content, AdWords and PPC research, or hitting every SEO target you can imagine… you want to beat your competition.

Any decent marketing agency will follow a process of discovery, that is tailored to your business, to best deliver you those results. A large part of this is an honest and open discussion about your business strategy, and learning all about the inner workings of your business.

If your agency is working with the competition, there’s always the risk that you could find yourself wondering – is one of you getting slightly less than what you’re paying for?? Hard to know. Also hard to know if it’s you, or the other guy.

I’m willing to bet, the second you see their business appearing above yours in a Google search, you’re going to wonder if it’s you…

Does it matter if the Agency has not worked in your industry before?

How about giving a little credit to an agency with fresh eyes? What’s to say the agency you hired, who did online wonders for your competition, hasn’t become a little complacent in your area of industry knowledge, or even worse, shares your information?!

Here’s a purely hypothetical example of just one of the ways in which an agency could skip a step in their process, due to relying on a past clients performance:

Perhaps you’re in the business of selling toilet seats. You decide to go with the agency that has worked within your industry before. Your shiny new agency has been palming the industry research off to the junior assistant for the last 18 months. He pretty much reckons he’s an expert in dunny seats now, and he’s kind of sick of researching keyword phrases in that area… ‘best dunny seat perth’ achieved the results for the competition. They sold out of toilet seats in a week, after running that campaign…

Now might be a good time to ask yourself, “am i getting recycled research for my dunny seats?”. Maybe.

Little did anyone know, a NEW toilet seat retailer just opened up in town, and their online campaign was centred around ‘comfy dunny seat perth’ – because they hired an agency that saw their business as something new to dig into. This agency stuck to their process, and did their research.

They also read an article recently about the latest research into toilet seat comfort reducing erectile dysfunction. FIFO Wife Mummy Blogger shared it, and it went viral.

So guess which new little toilet seat retailer is thriving, and has now got the cash to rebrand themselves as a ‘boutique’!

I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t use an agency who HAS represented your local competitive market before, but would definitely recommend that’s not the ONLY reason you hire them, and consider the implications of it if you do.

I simply think it’s also not such a bad thing to give another agency a go, bringing fresh eyes into your industry. You may find their approach could be less stale and rigid, because they know they need to stick to their process, and HAVE to get to know you properly to create the right strategy and deliver your results.

They also probably have a really comfy dunny seat (just in case you need to go, when they invite you for a client meeting).