• Sam Decker

How to Choose an Agency


I was talking to a good friend today looking to redesign his company's web site. He got proposals from three agencies. His director of marketing evaluated them and their proposals. What I didn't see in the evaluation were the GOALS they are trying to reach and OBSTACLES most important to overcome.


Matty (my co-founder at Spinach) and I think in terms of Goals, Obstacles and Hypothesis (GOH).


An agency is a hypothesis to overcome an obstacle(s)... to reach a goal. This is because an agency is a solution, an effort, an output. Hypothesis always take the shape of something done -- process, tech, people, programs, projects. The work an agency does fits here.

So if an agency is a hypothesis, how do you choose?


In the case of my friend, there were three agency proposals. One agency was very design/brand oriented, and was twice the price. The second one was more tech-oriented. And the third was small and scrappy... straightforward but a jack of all trades. #2 and #3 were close enough to the same price.


My friend leaned toward the design/brand agency that was twice the price. He said they "need to do branding work to bring the story to life" and "I don't want a web site that just scrolls".


This may be good gut-instinct from a founder. However, we often live in side our jar and don't see things from the outside customer perspective, let alone the business goals. Our gut instincts need to be checked by the alignment of most important goals and obstacles to overcome.


Clients often go with the 'design' agency because they love their brand and want to see it in 'lights', so to speak. But how do we know that the current web site -- not bringing the story to life -- is holding back business. Where does he get new clients? Where is growth to come from now and in the future, and what role does the web site play in the pipeline of his revenue.


So, as a thought exercise, we got to talking about SEO. He described his business one way. I came up with three other ways. His company didn't come up on the first page of search results. So I asked if SEO was important for clients to discover the company, or do they all come from salespeople prospecting. He said that discovery was very important, especially on new terms in these COVID times. And yet he's about to spend double on an agency that will excel in imagery.


When you embark on spending time and money -- internally or externally -- that effort is a hypothesis to overcome a business or customer obstacle in the way of a measurable goal.

In the case of my friend, the work hasn't been done to correctly choose the best hypothesis (agency).