Choosing the right digital agency can be a complicated and time-consuming process. We’ve previously published tips for choosing a digital agency (with a downloadable agency scorecard). The core idea is that no one agency is perfect for every single client, but there is a best fit for your business. In this article, we give you an insider’s view of the digital agency marketplace in Australia.
Your choice is important
Finding the right digital partner is crucial because the work you do together is an investment in your business (not just your website or digital experience). The outcome needs to meet the brief, but how you get there is just as important.
Choosing a digital agency may seem like much of a muchness, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The type of agency you choose will dictate the result and shape your experience. Understanding your options is vital to making the right choice for your business.
The digital agency landscape
The digital agency landscape can be defined by:
- agency size
- network affiliations
- specialisation and
Understanding these distinctions will help you categorise and understand the risks and benefits associated with different types of agencies. It will also help you identify the perfect match between what’s available and your unique needs as an organisation.
The size spectrum ranges from individual contractors and freelancers who work alongside your team, to small boutique agencies, to medium-sized (50-100 employee) operations, to large global agencies and consulting firms.
Smaller agencies usually offer lower fees but bring higher risks around resourcing, capacity and rigour around process, so it’s important to consider how an agency’s size fits the needs of your organisation. For example, if you’re an SME, a large, established digital partner may not be a cost viable option and you may find the agency's approach too rigid and inflexible for your needs. Conversely, a small, edgy newcomer may be an exciting prospect, but if you are a large, risk-averse corporation it’s probably not going to be the right choice.
An agency with an established record removes much of the risk when selecting a digital partner. Finished jobs, case studies, published articles, and client testimonials and reviews all help you evaluate how well an agency is suited to your brief and how likely it is to deliver to your expectations.
A newcomer may be a good option if the founders have a great reputation and solid experience behind them. Less established agencies may provide good value and suit organisations looking for flexibility and new thinking. However, there is an inherent risk associated with unproven newcomers to the market which should be carefully evaluated.
Network affiliated agencies include names such as DDB, Clemenger and Saatchi & Saatchi which are owned by Omnicom Group and Publicis. Network agencies are different from independent agencies because they have been bought by large international conglomerates.
These agencies provide a more standardised offering compared to independent agencies, and close ties with other specialist providers – such as media and creative agencies. This may suit larger organisations looking for solutions across multiple disciplines beyond digital.
Independent agencies are usually more nimble, free to adapt to market needs, and can be more cost-effective.
The degree of specialisation within an agency can be a function of its size. For example, a small boutique digital agency may focus exclusively on building apps. While a larger digital agency may offer full strategic, creative, and web development services.
On the other end of the size spectrum, large consultancies such as Deloitte and McKinsey offer a full suite of digital solutions but in a more generalist way. Understanding both the breadth and depth of an agency’s specialisation is crucial to choosing the right digital partner. The best way to find out is to ask a lot of questions, see examples of the agency’s work and speak to other clients who have completed similar projects to your own.
The way an agency does things is as important a consideration as what it produces. What does the agency value? Which processes does it use? How does it treat its employees? What sort of difference is it making in the world? A good cultural fit between client and agency can make all the difference between relishing the experience of working together and just getting through it.
The best way to gauge an agency’s culture is to speak to staff and other clients. It's not just about hearing the right things, there’s an intuitive feeling you come away with – a ‘vibe’. If you feel comfortable, understood and positive then there’s a good chance there’s a cultural alignment or fit. If you come away from discussions feeling wary, uneasy or confused, then there may be some unbridgeable differences between the two of you.
The pandemic has forever shifted our approach to work, with remote meetings and virtual collaborations now the norm. However, as Covid risks and interruptions continue to decrease, the ‘old normal’ is starting to make a comeback.
Choosing an agency that’s geographically close means having opportunities to meet face to face – even if it’s just on occasion. This contact can help develop relationships and trust more quickly and deeply. This may be an important consideration if you’re planning a long-term partnership with a digital agency.
Where does Luminary fit in the digital agency market?
Luminary is an independent mid-size digital agency established in 1999. Our head office is in Melbourne, but we also have offices in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Geelong, Albury-Wodonga, Jakarta and Bali. We work with medium- to large-sized clients on a full suite of digital services including strategy, UX, design, content, SEO, and digital experience platform implementations.
We employ an Agile way of working to deliver a rigorous, evidence-based approach that leads to impactful project results. Luminary is proudly carbon neutral and a certified B Corp. We have also been recognised as a Great Place to Work®.
We suit organisations looking for deep specialisation and capability across digital experience projects, and an engaged collaborative style of working together.
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