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Working with a digital agency

Why and with whom?

April 4, 2022
Remmert Stipdonk

Companies are often faced with a choice when a new digital initiative is about to start: can and do we want to do this ourselves, or should we hire a digital agency?

In recent years, businesses have all been busy with digital transformations, re-platforming, launching new ventures, and other, often software-heavy, innovations. Fortunately, more and more companies have come to realise that digital is not an annoying cost center, but a potential profit center. IT has conquered a place in the boardroom and entire internal digital teams have been created, so that more and more digital projects can be realised without external help. But, one of the consequences is an enormous pressure on the labor market, resulting in sky-high salaries for the best staff.

When to hire a digital agency?

There are roughly three reasons why you can hire a digital agency:

Capacity shortage; As a company, you have excellent internal knowledge to carry out digital projects, but because you don’t have enough capacity, the projects end up too far back on the roadmap. Companies often choose to outsource such projects, especially if it’s a project that can be executed somewhat isolated from other projects. In fact, the value that the agency provides in this case is to accelerate the realisation.

High-end skillset needed: you have a digital project in mind that is so innovative (at least, for your organisation) that you need an experienced team with high-end skills for the realisation. Companies often do not have these skills in-house, and do not want (or cannot) attract them permanently. These types of people are often found at experienced digital agencies, which are also used to carrying out innovative projects under time pressure. If high-end innovation is important to your company, you can consider hiring a digital agency.

Strategic outsourcing: as a company you want to focus on what makes your business unique, and you want to outsource the digital work (for the time being) to a company of which this is the core business. This way you can quickly enter the market, without having to invest in your own digital team first. You can see that this way of working is sometimes also chosen for the matter of risk management. After all, external staff and hired agencies are not on the payroll and can easily be scaled down in the event of downsizing. It is a strategic choice to outsource part of your work.

The types of digital agencies you will find in the market is different matter. This type of company (the internet agency) has existed since roughly the mid-1990s, which is often characterised by designing and building digital applications such as websites, mobile apps, and digital marketing. A few years ago we started calling these companies digital agencies, because the work extends over so many domains and touch points that the name internet agency no longer covers the load. Take a look here to see the diversity of the type of work. There are many agencies out there, and it is up to you to judge which agency is right for you.

Which digital agency is right for me?

If you are about to hire an agency, for example for one of the above reasons, it can sometimes happen that you no longer see the forest for its trees. It also often happens that only the usual suspects are considered – the Top 3 agencies 'that we always work with'. This is a pity, because there are many gems to be found in agency land that may well suit your organisation perfectly. But where should you start looking? Three considerations:

Firstly: are you looking for an intimate relationship with a smaller agency, with the advantage of the personal relationship and dedication from the agency? Or are you looking for a large agency where you are (hopefully) assured of continuity and have a wide range of skills under one roof? This leads to the first consideration that is important for your choice: size.

What do you look for in an agency: building or thinking along?

Second: are you looking for someone who will ensure that your digital service is only built, or are you looking for someone who will ensure that your digital service performs well in the longer term? This leads to the second consideration: building or thinking along. An agency that is focused on understanding your business, and helps to translate this into the right digital service, is another type of agency than the one that is focused purely on getting the service live. With the latter type of agency, building is the goal, with the first type, business success is the goal. Many digital marketing agencies are focused on the first (conversion optimisation for example), many agencies with a focus on software development are focused on the second.

Thirdly: do you want all possible digital services under one roof, or are you looking for a spread over several specialised partners, possibly including departments within your own organisation? Then realise what the objective is of the agency you choose. Agency groups (often composed of acquisitions) exist with the aim of filling in as much of the digital playing field for you as possible and thus covering the entire customer journey. Specialist agencies opting for a focus on one digital domain, working with partners for the adjacent domains. The consideration here is whether you would like to be completely serviced, or whether you prefer to choose partners (and/or your internal teams) per topic.

Of course you can also look purely at reference cases: have they already done a similar project? But, don't be fixated on this. Most agencies have a creative approach; it usually doesn't matter much whether their job concerns a different domain than previous work.

Please note that none of these trade-offs are a value judgement. Making is just as good as thinking along, big is just as good as small.

What matters is what suits you. By now, this might be a bit clearer, but of course it remains a quest through a numerous offer of agencies. One of the places to start your search is the Dutch Digital Agencies (DDA) website, where you can filter by size and location characteristics and read more about how the agency presents itself. Unfortunately, this list also remains a sub-selection of the agencies on the market (because these are only the agencies that are members of this industry association). The website of the Digital Agency Network (DAN) can also put you on the right track. An open question on LinkedIn is always possible, and there is nothing wrong with that.

... And finally, you can always contact us, We might be able to help you on your way to the right agency. And no, that doesn't always have to be 😉 .We believe it's best for both parties to find a digital partner that is the best in their field and that is a perfect match to your companies' values and ambitions.


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