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 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 meet 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.
What are the biggest challenges that digital agencies face?
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 development 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 notifies users about special offers and new arrivals when they’re near a shop or enter a mall. A digital marketing agency is unlikely to have an in-house team of mobile developers working with the technology stack necessary for iBeacon or location-aware applications. But they can successfully outsource the development part and still manage the whole campaign.
We’ve worked with several digital agencies and noticed that the way they choose a technology vendor differs. This is explained by the fact that traditionally, companies make products from their needs and business challenges, while the digital agency acts as a third party and has specific business goals. In this article, we discuss what you as a digital agency should take into consideration when choosing a development vendor.
What are the benefits of technical partnership for digital agencies?
Outsourcing technical expertise is cheaper than hiring a full-stack development team in-house. Contracting with a team of top-tier 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 provides agencies with 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. Training a new team for each separate project isn’t a good solution for digital agencies since it requires a great investment of time and money. With outsourcing, digital agencies get to handpick technical experts for each project.
Outsourcing gets you a wide range of services – including design, development, and quality assurance – all under one roof. And as a bonus, 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.
How to hire a technical company that will become a long-term outsourcing partner?
1. Look for companies that provide client references and testimonials.
You can learn a lot about a web and mobile development company from client testimonials and reviews on the company’s website. On top of what the company shows on its site, it’s also advisable to check third-party resources that gather company descriptions and reviews.
2. Look for companies that aren’t shy to show off their work on professional community networks.
Besides 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’s 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 mean 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. Check the company’s expertise
There are two major ways to see if an outsourcing company is a good fit for your project: give the team a test task, look at the code, and examine existing proof of the team’s expertise in the form of case studies.
High-quality case studies focus on three main aspects of a project:
Technological challenges and how the team coped with them
This aspect of a case study gives a team of software developers an opportunity to provide evidence to support their company’s claims to expertise. A lot of digital agency owners and managers have personal experience with design and development, which means they can assess the quality of code and UI interfaces and get a general impression about the quality of work.
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.
Case studies can also give you valuable insights into how well established a 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.
4. Pay attention to confidentiality
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.
5. Ensure that the product will be delivered on time
Digital agencies have strict agreements with clients on what and when they must present. So when choosing a technology partner, you should ensure that the work will be delivered without delays. For this, it’s worth asking about the development process in the company.
First, ask the company about its software development life cycle (SDLC). It is a framework that defines tasks performed at each step of the software development process. A good company should have a clearly defined SDLC that they adjust to their clients’ needs and that provides continuity and stability during app development.
In addition, ask your potential vendor about management methodologies they use. Good companies that have been on the market for a long time and have developed dozens of projects have their own best practices for approaching problems that arise during development. It helps the company work and communicate with you effectively. Also, there are time-tested methodologies like Agile that provides predictable cost and schedule, high engagement of stakeholders, and transparency.
6. Ask for transparency
Constant communication ensures that you’re on the same page with a company and that your vision of the product matches. You should always be in touch with your vendor to quickly resolve disputes.
There are several components that make for good communication:
Access to management and communication tools. As a rule of thumb, development companies use management software like Jira to track project progress. Ask for access to this tool to see the full picture of progress.
Calls and meetings. Ask about the frequency of regular calls. Also, a good team should provide you with a kick-off meeting, demo presentations (presenting functionality developed during the sprint), and project reports.
A person responsible for communication and managing the team. Don’t underestimate the role of a project manager in the development process. This person makes sure your project meets deadlines and budget constraints, ensures a stable flow of deliverables, manages routine, and more. Name a development process and a project manager will surely be involved. A project manager can even integrate your in-house development team with a remote team and be responsible for them. Your project manager is the first person you contact in case you have questions about the project.
Read also: Project Manager in App Development Process
Outsourcing technical expertise has become an essential part of the workflow for many digital studios, and for good reason. Finding a reliable longer-term development partner poses a number of challenges, but is worth the effort.