You need a service for your website, online shop or web portal? Your idea seems to be crystal-clear, and now it is the time to find someone who can properly implement your idea, you face the agency selection process!
The process is not easy, because
- there are too many agencies
- the prices can differ by several times
- the right agency for one may be the wrong one for another
- many promise more than they can do
- the customers do not always know what they really need (for many customers it is not clear that it is often the main reason for the failure of a project).
In our guide you will find many tips which help you to select a right agency. If you do not have enough time to read the article completely, please scroll down to the checklist below.
Freelancer or agency?
Generally, it is so, a good programmer will never be able to create a good web design, and a good web designer has little understanding of programming. The generalists are only halfway good in all things.
An agency can afford to hire professionals for each field. Therefore a complex project can be completed faster.
At an agency you will be assigned a project manager who will discuss all the details with you, and will always assist you in all important matters. If you are lucky, the person will have enough experience to consult you, this brings added value.
Advice → Get to know your project manager before the start of the project in order to avoid unpleasant experiences!
The decision to engage a freelancer is often justified on financial grounds because his services seem to be cheaper. Will a person be able to do everything you need? That's a big question. In addition, one should keep in mind that all freelancers have one thing in common: “to temporarily disappear”. You should be ready that a freelancer may disappear from time to time for a week or two (yes, yes - that's always the case!).
Advice → Work with a freelancer only when the necessary competence for your project can be completely covered by one person, and this person convinced you to 120%.
Which agency is the right one?
There are many types of agencies - full service agencies, media agencies, web agencies, SEO agencies, marketing agencies, advertising agencies or "just" agencies. The designation is not decisive, but the specialization is, you can learn about that from the agency's website or from a telephone conversation.
Basically, you need to know that the agencies which have a narrower specialization can fit your project more. For larger or complicated projects, the decision is difficult. You may be lucky and find an agency which has enough expertise in all things you need. In practice it is rarely the case.
If you do not want to rely on luck, separate the competencies and divide responsibilities among more than one agency! Thus, the risk is better spread, because all agencies cannot fail at once. Thanks to the higher degree of agency specialization the quality of the results will generally be higher, as when the project is being fulfilled by one agency.
Of course it is important, that the collaboration between the agencies is right when it is necessary. Our agency often collaborate with other SEO or marketing agencies relating to the online shop creation or support - they give us the tasks and we implement them, very simple. In 90% of cases, such collaboration worked very well. When it comes to CRM or PIM implementation, we are the right partner for you.
Customers are wrongly afraid of it, because if the competences are clearly divided, the responsibility for the work results is also clear and there will be no unpleasant quarrels if everyone knows what they are responsible for.
Example 1 (collaboration between agencies is not necessary): One agency prepares conception and design of the online shop, and the other implements it. The projects can be realized one by one.
Example 2 (collaboration between agencies is necessary): One agency offers technical support (programming), the other one is responsible for SEO and SEM.
Advice → Often it is recommended to have a project implemented by two agencies, e.g. an online shop can be supported by one agency in terms of SEO and online marketing and technically by another
Ask for advice
The best agencies or freelancers hardly care about the customer acquisition, because most new customers come by themselves, on the recommendation of the existing customers of the provider.
Advice → Ask your friends for a recommendation, often the solution is closer than you think.
Freelancer/agency around the corner
Nowadays, it is no longer necessary to meet the provider always in person. The communication channels in the age of Skype (Internet-(video)-telephony) and TeamViewer (Remote Desktop Sharing) are almost unlimited and you can do everything just as well on the Internet as without it. This assumes, of course, that the provider is also aware and actively uses the techniques.
Advice → it would be better to find a professional freelancer or a professional agency from far away, who can implement your project really well, than one who can be visited quickly, but has less competence, because you need a result, not new friends!
Evaluate the website of the provider
The website of the potential provider is the first place where you can learn more about the provider. It is not just about the design of the website, but much more about the content. The website is good when "everything is right":
- The website has a good web design
- The website has a good usability - is user-friendly divided
- The website is informative - the company does exactly what you need and the content is not outdated.
Of course, the website is not always informative, sometimes it is neglected by the provider. Some agencies do not need the website to get new projects because the new clients come on the recommendation.
Advice → Pay attention to the information on the website of the provider, but do not draw the conclusions too fast.
Evaluate the application and references
Take a closer look at the agency's references to get an idea of the provider's skills. Has the provider already implemented similar or comparable projects? So he can certainly estimate your project better than someone else who has only guesses. The references, case studies and other project descriptions of the potential service providers are particularly important for the agency selection process.
To get an informative, and thus assessable application, you should create an informative and detailed request. A request "I need a new modern online shop" is not informative enough to get meaningful applications. It can also be a proper RFP (Request for Proposal) if you have the time and the clear expectations towards the applicants.
Advice → Select the provider for the further consideration only if the application for the order and the references of the provider match.
Talk to the customers of the providers
We are all people who communicate with each other. Talking to the customers of the potential provider can be much more valuable than all the other factors taken together. In 15 minutes you can find out a lot of information and this investment of your time is more than worthwhile. It is best to prepare for such a conversation and write down all the questions that interest you, so that you don’t forget anything.
Always make an appointment so that the people you want to talk to have time for you. You want to find something out, so it may definitely take longer than five minutes.
Please keep in mind that the customers of the provider you will talk to have been selected by the provider and not by you. Therefore, it is expected that these should be loyal and satisfied. Don’t be afraid to ask awkward questions.
Advice → Ask the provider to name two or three customers with whom you are allowed to speak, better ask the provider to prepare a list. It is not so important to talk to everyone, it is more important that the provider has such a list.
Talk to the provider
Write down all questions that interest you and seek a personal interview with the provider. Of course, it is best to talk with the project manager who will also manage your project to directly assess competencies of that person. Because in the end the project will be managed by one person, not by the agency.
The projects are a matter of human communication, so the chemistry between the customer and the project manager of the provider should also be right.
The goals of this conversation can be:
- to get to know the provider better,
- to get professional advice from the provider concerning the project (for free!),
- to convince itself of the competence of the contact person,
- to get the first possible solutions suggested.
To get to know the provider better, you can ask the following questions:
- How long is the company on the market and how experienced are the employees (does the company have enough competence)?
- What is the focus of the company (does your project fit into the portfolio)?
- Has the company participated in comparable projects?
- How do the company deal with the safety aspects?
- How is the quality of work ensured?
You can ask the following questions regarding your project:
- How do the provider imagine the project process (project phases)?
- How long will the project take?
- How and by whom will the project be managed?
- Who will be the contact person, will it be an individual?
- Which specialists will work on the project?
Cheaper is often too cheap
Never accept the cheapest offer. Regardless of how the provider determines the price, he always keeps his effort in mind. A cheap offer may mean that one provider will count on the lower time investment than another. Sometimes it's because he just underestimates the right amount of work.
Never accept the most expensive offer. If the provider demands the highest price, he can afford it. Strong midfielders can do the job, and if your project is significant to them, you can even arouse more attention for it and generally get better service and quality as a result.
Advice → Never accept the cheapest or the most expensive offer, because the reasons of both these providers play not for you. (Because this cannot necessarily be the right choice?)
Faster is often too fast
Never choose the one who says he does it the fastest. With such an approach, the concept won’t be sufficiently thought out and, as a result, the implementation will suffer. You cannot build a good house on a weak foundation.
Afterwards, for all improvement attempts the implementation time and the additional costs will be needed. In the end, it takes twice as long and will be twice as expensive as if you had it done by a right provider from the beginning.
Advice → Never choose the fastest agency!
Flat rate keeps the costs under control
If you want to compare prices, you have to make sure that the offered service is comparable. It is only if the order is 100% clear, understandable and precisely described for both parties in the form of requirements specification / catalogue of requirements or other written documents.
The price can vary considerably, it should never be decisive. If the provider informs you about a flat rate, you should be ready to assume that this is an estimated value. When necessary, the provider will be forced to correct the price again. If it will be impossible, he can lose his "fun at the project".
When providing services, a lower price almost always means a poorer quality. A higher price, however, is not a guarantee that the scope of services and the quality is better.
Advice → Your goal should be to get for a higher price better service, also in terms of quality and quantity, not to knock the price down.
Give the provider a test task
If you still have doubts, the actions and results can say more than thousand words. If circumstances permit, look for a way to judge the provider's services based on the results achieved, not based on his promises.
You can start a common mini pilot project to see how the collaboration works and whether the intermediate goals achieved correspond to the expected ones.
Advice → Give the provider a test task in order to evaluate his skills in practice.
Listen in time to your inner voice
Pay attention to your inner voice not only when searching a right provider, but also in the project process.
Because if a provider is the wrong one, he will also remain the wrong one, it won’t change, even if you will have very much hope for it. The faster you recognize it, the faster the right conclusions can be drawn. So do not hesitate, because you only lose more time and money.
Advice → Make your decisions in time and learn from your own mistakes!
Agency selection process - detailed checklist
All the points described above I summarized here in the form of a small checklist.
- Decide if a freelancer or an agency is the right choice.
- Decide if one or more providers come into question.
- Ask for advice.
- Evaluate the website of the provider.
- Evaluate the application and references of the provider.
- Talk to 2-3 customers of the provider.
- Talk to the provider himself.
- Understand the price of the provider.
- Give the provider a test task.
- Listen in time to your inner voice.
It is not necessary to take into account all these tips, but the more tips you follow, the more successful you become when selecting an agency. Feel free to figure out whether our e-commerce agency is right for you. The success factors speak in each case for themselves. I wish you to find the right agency! Also with the agency selection process one shall have a little luck.