3 Surprising Secrets to Digital Agency Success

By Duncan Hendy in Development
·5 min read

Your vision for a design agency was perfect—eager employees racing to their desks past walls of framed success stories, thank you letters, and certificates, while clients wave fistfulls of money and pound on the door.

Your reality looks somewhat different. Where did it all go wrong?

When you’re struggling to get new clients in and completed projects out on time, you can’t help but notice how well some (other) digital agencies are doing. You know you put in the time and energy, you have the drive and have filled the office full of real talent. So why are these other agencies so successful? What do they do differently? What can you learn from them?

Well, we teamed up with Millward Brown to research what successful digital agencies are doing that their less-successful rivals are not, and we made some interesting findings. Interviewing 300 top digital executives across three continents, we learned that there are three key areas that clearly differentiate between the two camps.

  • People
  • Power
  • Pragmatism

People—Their Success Is Your Success

We’re all aware that an engaged workforce makes a strong company. If you’re all on the same page and share the same passion, then you’re more likely to succeed. But you can’t get employees to sign the “I promise to be engaged” contract when they join; that bit is up to you.

So how do you get your team working together in a way that supports your vision while also supporting them as individuals, each with their own personal drives and career goals? More money? More vacation time?

Well, you can’t go wrong with those... but interestingly they’re not as important to your staff as making them feel respected and autonomous, recognizing their contributions and encouraging advancement, as well as having strong company values and transparency around company matters.

When your employees feel empowered, appreciated, and motivated, the company benefits from better working relationships, more efficient workflows, and greater team output. Which in turn, puts your agency on the desired career map of the kind of industry-steering superstars you currently only dream about hiring. And once you do, they bring with them the hottest trends, tools, and technologies (as well as other superstars) that further advance you along the road to success. And so the cycle begins.

But talking of technology...

Powerful Tools Make All the Difference

This can often be a bit of a contentious issue. You may have grown up with the technology you’re using, or even built it yourself! We know what we like, and we like what we use, so why would we go and waste a whole bunch of time and money learning to use different technology?

Go ask your more-successful competitors. They know why.

Today is an omnichannel world with omnichannel expectations and if you’re not on board, you’re falling short, for yourself and for your clients. The patchwork mix-and-match approach to technology has proven to be a content, contact, and marketing nightmare for all concerned, with much inefficiency, inconsistency, and unfulfilled user expectations.

I get it; technology is expensive, you need to train your staff, and it’s forever changing, so it’s a never-ending issue.

But smart agencies (and yes, we’re a tad biased here, for a good reason) are opting for software that puts everything under one roof--clean and simple, no limits, no restrictions--just pay for what you need, always updated, always available cloud-based microservices, that are ever-ready to push your content to any device and return all your invaluable user information into one contact management hub. Omnichannel ready and raring to go.

Now what do you suppose happens when you put a team of great employees with the right know-how behind such up-to-the-minute and powerful technology?

Not only can you truly prepare your clients for the cutthroat online world they’re going into, but you cut development time and costs dramatically, meaning profitability soars and you can start taking on more projects. And so the cycle continues.

Great, so give power to the people. Then what?

Pragmatic Fanatic—More Method, Less Madness

So the whole “agile” things has been around a while. Agile this. Scrum that. Storytime, retrospective, grooming... seriously who named all this stuff?

Though it may sound like a health and beauty regime for businesses, apparently two thirds of the most successful agencies interviewed have an agile strategy in place, compared to only 41% of below-average agencies.

Smart agencies set out goals and service-level agreements (SLAs), but, unlike their less adventurous counterparts, they measure themselves against them. Their projects are all broken down into small chunks and anyone in the team (including the client) is able to see where they’re at, how far they have to go, and what the steps are in getting there. They’re aware of how their involvement and that of their team affects the project, where sticking points exist, as well as which tasks should take priority and why.

So I guess that’s why so many people are talking about agile: it takes a hot creative mess and turns it into a lean, clean, website-making machine.

It’s a streamlined approach that enables synergised workflows and makes those eye-wateringly close deadlines that we all know too well actually achievable. An agile methodology also helps you respond quickly and appropriately to new information, changes to the spec, essential visitor feedback, and unexpected changes in the market. An efficient, highly responsive digital agency is one a client will happily recommend, creating more custom...

...and so our cycle of success strengthens.

Success—Time to Get The Cycle Rolling

So it’s not that there’s anything wrong with your vision of a successful digital agency. Who doesn't love a good old race to the office with an equally motivated fellow worker? It’s that it might not have the foundation of support it needs.

When all is said and done, it’s just a case of offering good company values to a team of genuinely motivated workers who are experts in sophisticated software that is built specifically to deal with the omnichannel demands that your clients need, and a working approach that is collaborative, accountable, and transparent.

Easy.

Let us know what has been most instrumental to your success in the comments below! And you can read the original whitepaper here.

By Duncan Hendy in Development
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