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In this episode, we take Brad McCrory out of his shoes as the CEO of a digital agency, and instead place him in the shoes of a business-to-consumer small business owner faced with a single question:

What should a small business look for when hiring a digital agency?

11%.

Only 11% of ALL retail transactions in the US for the year 2016, were transactions that took place online.

To me, and hopefully to you, that sounds like we’re on the edge of one of the largest industry disruptions the US has seen since the industrial revolution. Amazon is practically a household name, department stores all over the country are beginning to look like ghost towns, and your grandma is on Facebook. The value of a $2,000/month lease agreement for your brick and mortar store is taking a nose dive in comparison to the value in paying a few hundred bucks a month for a self hosted ecommerce platform where you can sell the same products at scale, to a customer base that spans all over the country, as opposed to one or two cities.

While most ecommerce platforms allow merchants access to free website builders and offer add ons or plugins to help you integrate your payment processor, fulfillment warehouse, shipping vendor, etc., the ability to deliver an intuitive, well designed, and effectively implemented ecommerce store is pretty technical in nature.

That’s not to say that you need to onboard a CTO or software engineer in order to find success in ecommerce; there are plenty of growth engines such as ourselves here at Accelerate (shameless plug) who can deliver a custom coded, elegantly designed, and fully integrated ecommerce store at a fraction of a price of the salary of a software engineer.

The hard part isn’t deciding between new hire vs. digital agency, the hard part is finding a competent agency who can produce work at a level of quality that you would expect from that new hire.

The term “digital agency” is thrown around a lot these days, and our team at Accelerate wants to help you distinguish which agencies fake it, and which agencies can help you make it.

Undervalued, Emerging Stars

If an agency leads their presentation playing on tones about how good their work is, as opposed to what they can do for your business today, they are trading off of yesterday’s success and not focusing on tomorrow’s future. If you are not asking your agency about their own internal growth, quarter after quarter or year after year, you’re missing out on a key metric of the success they can provide for you. If your agency isn’t capable of consistently growing their company at an increasing rate, how are you going to expect them to grow your company?

Be An Exciting Client

There is a difference between work and passion. You don’t need to have the hottest innovation of the century, or be the most funded project on Kickstarter to be an exciting client. If you care about your product or service enough to see it all the way to success, then hunting down the right agency should come to you intrinsically. You are going to look for someone who is inspired by your passion, who falls in love with your company’s vision, and who develops a vested interest in exceeding your expectations.

An agency willing to meet with you around the clock, who is always on call, and who continues to ask if you need any improvements are the signs of an agency ready to go above and beyond for your small business.

Traditional Advertising Agencies vs. Emerging Digital Agencies

There will always be a niche for amazing creative, and the romance of watching Don Draper from Mad Men sell the emotion of an ad campaign to a stubborn client is just as exciting today as it was in the 1940’s. In that regard, as digital agencies continue on this upward trend to becoming king, creative talent will still be the tipping point between good vs. great campaign success. However, the traditional agency that has been trying to sell itself as a “full service” agency will find themselves falling behind if they cannot reposition themselves as content producing machines, capable of combining great creative with competent technology that increases the efficiency of how many eyes get to that content at scale.

For example, the agency that once had the $250,000 yearly retainer for a client who they would produce one commercial a year for that would be distributed to just television, is likely going to fail if they cannot turn that content around and scale it for exposure on multiple channels. Cut ten different sixty second clips from the raw footage, package those clips for Instagram and Facebook videos, and then find a way to write a couple blog posts based on the same content. A great agency should have no problem turning one 30 second deliverable into a content machine that is capable of being consumed from multiple different channels, by a significantly larger audience of people.

Crowd Sourcing Talent

So what would stop you from finding a ton of different freelancers online who you can force to collaborate together to produce the same deliverable you could get from an agency, possibly at a cheaper price?

The difference is that being able to access talent, and knowing how to manage, lead, set expectations, and create a framework for people to work within is the variable for success. Talent doesn’t grow a business; you can walk into any agency and look at the resumés of all the employees and recognize that every agency has talented people. The difficult aspect that agencies provide a solution for is creating a framework that garners a result from combining that talent together to maximize the efficiency of your people’s talent.

PEOPLE are the premium.

Tune in to the podcast at the top of this page for the full episode, containing even more inside tips on what it takes to hunt down a competent digital agency to help your business succeed, and subscribe for even more content, released almost daily.

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