Choosing the right design agency for your business is not a big decision. It’s huge.
Your customers and clients are becoming more discerning, making increasingly quicker choices based on first impressions, 94% of which are design-related. Having the perfect visual identity for your brand is paramount.
With such a strong emphasis being placed on conveying the right message through your business’s design integrity, choosing the right creative partner comes with a lot of pressure – you have to get it right or risk losing potential clients.
And with so many different agencies out there, all vying for your attention, how do you choose which one is right for you?
Luckily, we’ve put together a handy guide to lead you through the decision-making process – follow this path and you’ll be sure to secure your ideal creative partnership.
1. Choose a style you like
It’s ok to be selfish! We all have our preferred styles when it comes to design, so it’s vital that you actually like the look of the potential agencies you are considering! Spending some time to find an agency who creates stunning work that you love is worth it in the long run – while one agency may tick all your boxes, if you can’t get excited about their style then the relationship is probably doomed before it has even begun.
One way to do this is to look at their portfolio, of which they should have examples online (be wary of agencies that don’t!) and familiarise yourself with their previous projects.
Sometimes it can be tempting to go with a specialist agency that has experience in your particular industry, which obviously has its advantages, namely previous sector knowledge.
Is this absolutely essential? Not necessarily.
By choosing a versatile agency, you can not only get a fresh approach to your industry, but also it is unlikely your competitors will be using this specific studio, so you’re almost guaranteed to stand out from the crowd.
When you have an idea of what you like in terms of aesthetic appearance, make sure that the agency’s values align with your own. What sets them apart? What do they offer? What do they care about and how do they engage with both the outside world and their clients? These are the sorts of questions you should start framing in your mind to better understand who they are.
By doing this, it will feel like you know them prior to making contact. Have a close look at their social media channels and website to get a feel of what life might be like working closely together with them.
What’s their reputation like? Obviously, a quick Google can give you a starting point – checking to see whether they have any reviews can be the first port of call.
Being part of professional networks, such as the many Chambers of Commerce, shows a real commitment to the industry. Also, check to see whether they’ve won any awards as this demonstrates that independent judges will have scrutinised the ins and outs of the agency’s business operations – this can be a marker of the agency’s capabilities, desire for success and stability.
While testimonials on an agency’s own website are usually tailored to show themselves in the best possible light, one excellent way to gain insight on a potential creative partner is through word-of-mouth and referrals.
Do you know anyone who has used this agency in the past? Even if you don’t, you can always contact previous clients they may have listed on their website!
4. Size and location
Do you choose a big agency with a lot of resources? Or a slightly smaller studio?
Going big can have its advantages, such as the availability of more in-house resources. But it’s likely you’ll to be talking to an account manager, who will be your point of contact, and who will in turn brief the relevant in-house team(s). Consequently, dealing with a bigger agency can sometimes mean that they are slower to react to your requirements, and inevitably, the more people involved in the design pipeline, the more likely it is that your comments and suggestion get lost in translation.
If you prefer rapid email responses, or simply having a familiar voice at the end of the phone where you can speak directly to the creative director and/or designer who is working on your project, smaller can often be the way to go. Just make sure that a smaller studio has the in-house expertise (or scalable collaborative network) to match your everyday needs.
In terms of location, studios outside of the capital and major cities, whose overheads are generally lower, are able to reflect this in their rates. Also, for face-to-face meetings, it can be more convenient to choose an agency you can visit…
…and visiting the agency in person is what we would strongly advise and actively encourage. This way you can really get a feel for the agency, and hopefully make sure that you are all on the same wavelength, something which is much more difficult to accomplish via email or over the phone.
When meeting with an agency, it is useful to prepare a design brief. This doesn’t have to be extensive, in fact, we have a downloadable template that takes less than two minutes to fill in!
If you’re still having trouble to prepare a brief, or aren’t entirely sure in your own mind what exactly you want out of a creative agency, don’t worry – a good agency will guide you through the process.
Remember, meeting with an agency is just like any other interview – it’s a two-way street. Make sure that they’re quizzing you about all aspects of your business and asking pertinent questions. If they don’t, they won’t have the in-depth knowledge necessary to do your business the justice it deserves. A creative agency must not only understand exactly who your clients are but, crucially, what sort of creative messages will yield the highest levels of response and engagement.
During this meeting, make sure you understand exactly what services will be covered by your budget/costs, not only for the project in hand, but on an ongoing basis should your assignment be more open-ended.
Does paying more always give you better results? As with any service, be wary of a low price – it is low for a reason. Saving a few pounds in the short term can have serious repercussions further down the road. Good design takes commitment of both resources and emotion, and the latter, although less tangible, should never be underestimated. The world’s best brands weren’t built overnight; they took years. It’s the same for every business, even B2B. Allocating a generous budget for good creative input will reap great rewards. In the short term, you will love your own brand, and in the longer term, your customers will feel evangelical – marketing your brand for you!
6. Looking Ahead
Any agency worth their salt will not only want to work on your current project, but will be looking to form a long-term partnership, and look after any future design needs.
They will want to know your long-term business goals and be at your side for this exciting journey. If you get a sense that your project is be treated as a ‘one-off’, it pays to be wary.
The term ‘brand ambassador’ is somewhat overused these days, but this is ultimately what a good agency will want to become – not only championing your business’s identity to the world, but ensuring your brand remains on a true course in the future.