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Partners VS Pirates: Navigating an Ocean of Digital Agencies

written by Joe Thompson


Ready to go on a journey? Let me paint you a picture.

Your business is your island, and the internet is the digital ocean connecting you to the rest of the world. While others may see the ocean as a vast uncharted mystery, with unimaginable dangers lurking in the depths, YOU see it as a grand opportunity, a new frontier with the potential to expand your audience, grow your business, and maybe even uncover some buried treasure! But you can’t do it alone!

Your initial reaction is to hire a marketing professional, build a brand, slap together your website, and set sail into the unknown, right? But you’ll quickly realize that without the right crew, direction, and knowledge. It’s very easy to find yourself lost at sea. 

You wouldn’t be the first, and you won’t be the last. 

You’re not a designer or a developer, marketing is a full-time job in itself, and you wouldn’t know where to start if asked to map out your company’s digital strategy.  For some of you, the internet may not have even existed when you were in school, so how are you supposed to run your own business and learn how to build a digital presence at the same time? It’s tough.

Well, you essentially have three options.

1. Learn to do it all yourself

(you love yourself enough to NOT do this)

  • Time is of the essence and putting it into learning digital marketing could take more time than you can afford. 

2. Hire an in-house team of professionals

(would be great, but you don’t have the resources)

3. Offload this project to a digital agency


Luckily, this day in age, there is an abundance of sea savvy individuals available to help you reach your destination without sinking your ship in the process.

Every day, thousands, if not millions, of designers, developers, video creators, marketing strategists, and other creative professionals at digital agencies are helping companies, like yours, flourish.

These agencies are staffed with experienced professionals in every aspect of the digital realm, ready to tackle any project you throw at them. It might surprise you just how many digital agencies are out there ready to take on your next project.

All that being said, how do you know which digital agency to choose? How can you tell if a digital agency is a good fit for you and your business?

Let’s take a look at some of the key factors to consider when looking to hire a digital agency and what you can do to determine who’s a potential agency partner and who’s a potential agency pirate!

Yeah, we haven’t jumped ship on this whole nautical theme yet.

1. Research your potential candidates

If you haven’t already been Googling every company you are considering working with, now would be the time to start. Once you get past the sponsored search results, what do you see? 

  • Do they rank at all? 
  • Do they have a google business listing? 
  • What do their reviews look like? 
  • How often do they engage in social media? 

Chances are if they can’t maintain their own online presence, then they won’t do a great job with yours.

2. What’s their sales process look like?

You can tell a lot about a business based on how they follow up with you after an initial interaction with their sales team. Are they super eager to get you to sign a contract as soon as possible? Or are they willing to take some time to talk to you, understand your goals and problems, and come up with a custom solution together? 

3. Do they seem deliverable—focused or destination—oriented?

This is a huge pain point for a lot of client-agency relationships. Be wary of agencies that are ready to dive headfirst into a project for the sake of checking a box.  A shiny new logo, or fancy new landing page, is nice but if it doesn’t contribute to your end goal it doesn’t amount to much. 

A good agency partnership will help you steer your ship in the right direction even if that means telling you you’re wrong from time to time. Maybe you don’t need a new email campaign like you originally thought. Maybe your real issue is that your website doesn’t have a converting landing page for all those email prospects in the first place. Instead of being quick to deliver an order, consider whether your agency of choice is actually validating that your time together will get you closer to the X that marks the spot.    

I’m the captain now!

When it’s all said and done, the best way to really tell what kind of agency you are dealing with is to ask yourself this question: “Am I still the captain of my ship?” Meaning are you still calling the shots, or have you been commandeered? 

The best agency-client partnerships are simply that… PARTNERSHIPS! 

I’m certain that most peoples’ goal when considering hiring a digital agency isn’t to put all their eggs into one basket and let some other entity decide the fate of their business. But, unfortunately, it happens very often. If you, the client, have no idea what’s happening, why it’s necessary, or how it’s going to affect your business, then you might be dealing with a digital agency pirate. But if you can walk away from your client-agency relationship knowing that you are closer to your destination than before you started, then it’s safe to say that you chose a solid digital agency partner.

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