The work of marketing agencies has changed a lot since the era of Mad Men. Back in the day, marketing agencies did everything from drawing the logo to writing creative copy and arranging for your ads to be placed on billboards around the city. Then, agencies needed a limited number of specialists: copywriters, copyeditors, illustrators, and account managers. All of these specialists worked in-house, and there was rarely a need for outside expertise.
Today, a digital marketing agency has to address a number of challenges to make sure its clients are seen in the midst of all the information on the internet. As soon as the word “digital” started to precede the word “marketing,” we began talking about multiple new channels for promoting brands, including on social media and in software products, primarily websites and mobile apps.
But each marketing campaign is unique, and although digital marketing agencies are expected to provide the creative foundation for every campaign, nobody can realistically expect them to have all the technical expertise that is required for full-stack in house development.
What are the biggest challenges that digital agencies deal with?
1. Integrating marketing across all channels to make brands recognizable.
2. Working with projects that vary greatly and require wide technological expertise.
3. Meeting close deadlines and staying within fixed budgets.
If we combine all these elements into a bigger picture, it makes perfect sense that digital agencies often outsource the technical part of their work to technical companies. Imagine a decor and furnishings brand approaching a digital agency with a request for a marketing campaign. As part of that campaign, the brand wants a mobile app that uses augmented reality to show users what their rooms will look like with the brand’s collections.
A digital marketing agency is unlikely to have an in-house team of mobile developers working with the technology stack necessary for augmented and virtual reality applications. But they can successfully outsource the development part and still manage the whole campaign.
Hiring an outsourcing company is often seen as risky, and the idea of working with one is often discarded by product owners who want to be constantly updated about the status of the project. However, it’s possible to benefit from outsourcing technical expertise and avoid all the negative aspects; but getting the good without the bad requires knowing where to look for a trustworthy development company.
How can a digital agency find a technical company to serve as a long-term outsourcing partner?
1. Look for companies that provide client references and testimonials.
You can learn a lot about a development company from client testimonials and reviews on the company’s website. On top of what the company shows on its side, it’s also advisable to check third-party resources that accumulate company descriptions and reviews.
These resources will give you insights into the reputation of a company: they rate companies based on multiple client reviews, and as such present an objective picture.
2. Look for companies that aren’t shy to show off their work on professional community networks.
On top of going through reviews on a company’s website, check out a company’s profiles on Dribbble, Behance, and GitHub. Examining a freelancer's GitHub and Dribbble profiles is a common way to pick a freelancer but it is often underestimated when it comes to choosing companies as partners.
Why does it matter if an outsourcing company has a well-established presence and ranks high on GitHub and Dribbble? An established presence and a high ranking on these sites means that:
This company is willing to invest in open source projects.
This company encourages its developers and designers to work on projects that benefit the community, and as such is more likely to have a stable, long-term presence on the market.
This company is giving you an additional opportunity to check out the quality of their code.
3. How can you learn which technology stacks an outsourcing company is good at using, and how can you evaluate the quality of a company’s code?
There are two major ways to see if an outsourcing company is a good fit for your project: give the team a test task and look at the code, and examine existing proof of the team’s expertise in the form of case studies.
What should you look for in great case studies?
High-quality case studies focus on three main aspects of a project:
1. Technological challenges and how the team coped with them.
This aspect of a case study gives developers an opportunity to provide evidence to support their company’s claims about expertise. A lot of digital agency owners and managers have personal experience with design and development, which means that they can assess the quality of code and UI interfaces and get a general impression about the quality of work.
2. Deep knowledge of the product and the market.
On top of checking the technical expertise of the team you want to hire, you also need to understand the domain expertise of the team. Digital agencies can use case studies to see if a company has worked with similar projects before and if a company has experience with app development in a particular industry.
3. Recognizable names.
Case studies of a particular company can give you valuable insights into how well established on the market the company is and who its clients are. Small development companies may have done serious work for global brands, and if so they won’t hesitate to show it off in their portfolios.
How is outsourcing development beneficial for digital agencies?
Outsourcing technical expertise is cheaper than hiring a full-stack development team in-house. Contracting with a team of experienced developers when you need them is less of a long-term burden on an agency’s budget. Employees are on a constant payroll, but chances are your agency will only need to work with this particular technology once in a while.
Outsourcing development gets agencies the latest industry expertise and access to the newest technologies. Trends in app and web design and development, as well as the corresponding technology stacks, change quickly. That’s why training a new team for each separate project would require too much investment on an agency’s side. With outsourcing, digital agencies get to handpick technical experts for each particular project.
Outsourcing gets you a wide range of services: design, development, and quality assurance, all under one roof. And as a bonus, all of these specialists are used to working as a team, so you won’t have management issues that are typical when people have never worked together.
Another aspect of outsourcing that digital agencies are often wary of is trusting a remote team with access to sensitive data of the end-client. When your clients are world-famous brands, you have to be particularly careful regarding copyright protection laws. Choosing companies that have clear NDA and confidentiality policies will guarantee that your digital agency can cooperate safely.
Outsourcing technical expertise has become an essential part of the workflow for many digital agencies, and for good reason. Finding a reliable longer-term development partner poses a number of challenges, but is often worth the effort.