How to Find the Right Interactive Agency

Many clients come to us because they may have recently been looking for a new interactive agency or looking for alternative options to their existing vendor.  The challenges we hear about are varied, but more often than not, it’s because an interactive agency has overpromised or underdelivered on their expectations.

For clients, building confidence with an interactive agency is very important and when that fails it’s simply a lack of the agency managing their client’s expectations. Clients need to understand their businesses – and in many cases, we find that clients can have a better experience if they understand what to expect to find in the right interactive agency.

If you’re a small to medium-sized business, what are some preventative measures you can take when engaging with an interactive agency that might not be the right fit? How do you find the right agency to suit your needs?

We’ve been working with clients for so long that we’ve heard plenty of stories about client/interactive agency mismatches, so here’s a checklist to help you prepare a proper request for proposal and information in selecting your next interactive agency.

Checklist: How to Find the Right Interactive Agency

1. Communication

_____ I have an opportunity to speak to the account manager  before committing.

In many cases, an engaged sales or business development associate might be your first point of contact, then pass you off to a team that will work on your project, but they generally won’t be your point of contact. It’s important to establish upfront, who will be the day-to-day contact on your account and make sure you feel a comfortable synergy before you commit.

_____ I understand the communication strategy and deliverables.

It’s important that you establish upfront what the timeline which should consist of milestones and associated tasks.  Make sure to ask for weekly or bi-monthly updates on the progress of your account. 

2. Expectations

_____ I understand what is expected of the interactive agency and my company.

Before you engage with any interactive agency, expectations should be established well in advance. You should understand what is expected from you such as what will be needed to get the project started and throughout the project as well as understand what deliverables you will be receiving along the way.

_____ I understand that design, user interface and experience is subjective.

Often, we hear that clients, were unsatisfied with their prior agency because they felt like the work was not to their satisfaction.  One important factor you need to consider is that sometimes this can be because the agency did not understand your needs or simply they were not the right fit.  In any case, you should determine an early termination fee, in the event that in the early stages, if you feel that design concepts that are presented and can’t be changed to your satisfaction, you should be able to have a means to end the project.  Generally there will be a fee associated with this, but it gives you the ability to find another alternative early on.

3 . Request for Proposal of Information

_____ I have prepared a thorough 1-2 page document explaining my business objectives.

The best way to find the right interactive agency is to make sure you are well prepared.  Write out a 1-2 page document that describes your business objectives, branding requirements and a simple outline of the site architecture.

_____ I have sent my Request (RFP/RFI) to a few interactive agencies.

It’s important to send out the document you prepare to several interactive agencies.  You should indicate your expectation as to when you expect delivery on proposals and give them at least 5 business days or more depending on the size of the project.  Set up phone calls with at least two of the interactive agencies and make sure to send a nice email to the ones you did not select.  You never know, you might need them some day.

This naturally isn’t a comprehensive list, but it goes over many of the things we hear from our clients when discussing experiences with past agencies. It’s not a perfect science and it varies depending on your needs, the size of your engagement and industry.


Adam Boalt
About the Author Adam Boalt

Serial Entrepreneur and Emerging Technologies Evangelist. Interactive Strategy, User Experience, Search Marketing, Search Optimization and Social Media enthusiast.
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  • Amber T

    SUCH a good post – it’s difficult to have been burned by agencies in the past. I had someone overseas take off with $500 of my money, and there’s not much you can do about that. Definitely useful.