A familiar phrase that we all heard as children when we were being cautioned about making bad dietary choices.  Guess what, that sound advice that you received as a kid, is equally relevant within the Digital Agency world.  Specifically, the type of work that firms’ do, over time, defines them in ways that are easy to overlook without a thorough examination of their internal and external processes.

A few examples may help make my point more tangible.

Working with Fortune 500 companies requires the ability to manage and interact with a complex organization and to (potentially) deal with a variety of contending organizational goals.  Typically, their value proposition is well understood, as is the profile of their customers and their distribution channels.  There is less latitude from a branding perspective and there are typically a variety of assets to work with from a creative perspective.

A Digital Agency working with a series of Fortune 500 clients, out of necessity, gets better at client management.  Internally, they might expect that the project moves in a reasonably linear fashion, even if the process itself may have challenges.  The Digital Agency probably manages their Project Managers & Producers on the basis of their on-time and on-budget project delivery, as well as client satisfaction – after all, large-scale clients are viewed by agencies as potential annuities.

Working with Start-ups on the other hand can be a very different experience.  There may or may not be any preexisting corporate identity.  There may or may not be multiple product lines and whatever positioning exists is likely subject to change.  While the organizational structure is simpler, the ambiguity of the communications needs introduces its own set of challenges and fundamentally changes the nature of a digital marketing engagement.  Many of these projects take on a more “Agile” development mindset given the difficulty in initially knowing what the end-goal is, while the evolving target frequently impacts time and budget expectations.  Close communications and a more collaborative approach are vital to maintaining client satisfaction, but initial time and budget conformance can be casualties of responding to evolving needs.  This requires some nimbleness on the part of the vendor and the client.

In either instance, the issue is not one of end quality, technical or aesthetic talent, it is simply a reflection of the differing needs associated with different types of customers and the ways that some of those needs can, over time, be incorporated into the processes that digital agencies use to both work with their clients and internally manage their people and projects.  To say nothing of the self-selection bias that can also occur in the hiring process.  Food for thought as you commence with your next Digital Marketing initiative.  Recognize that differences between Digital Agencies extend well past the jpgs on their websites.  Better food choices lead to healthier people and more “aligned” Digital Agency selection lead to better agency working relationships.


Image: Death to the Stock Photo