How to Choose a Design Agency

Jon Prest - July 19, 2017

You’ve a great business with a great product, but deep down you know that your marketing is turning customers away: it’s in desperate need of some TLC. It’s time to blow your competitors’ socks off with a brand new strategy, armed with creative and unique design. This article could be the saving grace for helping you to choose the right design agency, launching you to success and beyond.

Things have changed. The rise of digital marketing has encouraged businesses to develop new websites; use new tech; and adopt social platforms that make you stop, think and click. This has ultimately allowed agencies to diversify the services they offer.

Change can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. You’re surrounded by countless agencies, shouting about their services, left right and centre, but how do you choose the best one for your business? What should you look out for? Seed have created this handy guide to help you overcome the difficulties you may face.

What’s the difference between a design agency and a creative agency?

A design agency will commonly focus on your graphics, both digital and print. If you only require these services, a design agency with specialist knowledge will be perfect for you. They are especially useful if you have internal teams or you outsource your marketing communications.

However, when working with multiple agencies, you may have encountered some of the following problems: communication breakdowns; multiple account managers; and agency politics.  

A full-service creative agency, also known as an integrated design or digital agency, can cut out the bickering: often, the same team works with your design, marketing and communication strategy. Less hassle for you, and your brand remains consistent. Happy days!

Full-service creative agencies encompass media, PR, advertising and marketing all under one roof. In simple terms, if you need to outsource the full spectrum of your communications, your first call would be a creative agency.

What does a bad agency do?

Creating a flashy website, fancy logos and clever graphics is great, but this is only valuable when your agency truly understands your business and your brand. Bad agencies often refuse to listen and can be too precious over their ideas. The danger in this is that they forget what really matters: your visual identity.  

A good relationship is key. Clients must understand and respect the creativity of the agency; in turn, suppliers must meet the needs and wants of the client.  When this relationship works, the outcome is pretty close to perfect.

Icons similar to Adobe design software

What can you gain from working with an agency?

There are some things that you should never outsource, and some that you should: design is of the latter. If you want to thrive in a competitive market, setting aside a design budget is a must!  Being professional, consistent and relevant will dictate your brand perception. If you look tired, dated and inconsistent… well, you can guess the rest.

A creative agency can not only improve your brand image, but can also streamline your brand communications and introduce new technology and systems. In turn, this will increase your traffic, exposure and sales. Profit. Profit. Profit.  That’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

Are there any drawbacks to working with an agency?

Because creativity is personal and subjective, people have very different ideas and opinions. Mix this with a tight budget and you’re likely to have some friction brewing, which can create a challenging environment for the agency and client. To tackle this, our Creative Director, Jon Prest, believes that working with an agency should be a fun process. It’s not only important for clients to choose the right agency but agencies should also choose the right client.

Image of design agency studio

What does a successful agency do?

A successful agency keeps your vision at the forefront of their work. Good creatives are loyal and love working for great clients. If you want results, effective communication is vital. Think of your agency as a member of your team: put them on your Christmas card list; be polite, and perhaps even get them their own coffee cup for the cupboard. A strong working relationship is essential, and many creative agencies will put their favourite client at the top of the agenda when you really need them.

Ensure the agency understands your brand

Your brand is undoubtedly your most important business decision maker, so needs to be at the heart of all communications. Work with an agency that really ‘gets’ your business and takes good care of your brand so people don’t forget you!

To create a strong brand identity, both you and the agency must understand your customers. It’s not just about knowing what they like and dislike, it’s much more than that. Use your agency’s skills and expertise to analyse the market and understand behavioural trends and positioning.  Don’t forget about your competitors. A good agency should assist you with market and competitive intelligence tools that provide insights and inspiration for marketing, sales, and product management.

Illustration of computer monitor, surrounded by design-related objects

Don’t scrimp on your design

Seed Believe, “design is everything”. It’s how your customers interact with you; what gets them talking, and crucially, what keeps them coming back for more.

Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all about digital. Both print and digital are fundamental. From brochure design to website design and banner design, the right agency can help you to take your customers on a journey, where they can explore with ease and are left inspired by fresh ideas.

Choose an agency that gives your logo the respect it deserves. Revitalise it, refresh it and remember it.  Your logo is one of the main ways your business gets noticed. It’s a graphic too important to leave at the bottom of your to-do list.  

Do you have a set of brand guidelines? Continue with the variations, stock images or, even worse, clip art, and your customers will never recognise you. Whether it’s print or digital media,  it’s important to keep things visually consistent, coherent and professional. Wherever your customers engage with you, maintain your credibility, because your business is worth it.

Utilise motion NOW!

How many short documentaries, animations and GIFs do you come across every day? Video has now become a crucial part of digital marketing strategy. Join in and watch those likes and shares soar.

Telling your story through an animation or short film can be a powerful way of connecting emotionally with your customers. Think outside of the box. Motion graphics are also a great way to leave your mark and bring your business to life.

When choosing an agency, a good place to start is by looking at the agency’s portfolio. What is the agency capable of producing? What are clients saying about them? What experience do they have? If their showreel doesn’t get your attention, how will they excite your customers?

Get social savvy

Social media is dynamic and fast-paced. Any business operating in the real world must produce a social media marketing plan. Have a nose at the agency’s social media: do they practice what they preach?

We’re increasingly getting more and more of our news from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube: their videos are on the brink of overtaking television views. With that said, there is plenty of room to make an impact, but it’s not just doing it: it’s doing it well and measuring the success of your campaign. Working with an agency can help you boil down what worked well and what didn’t work so well.

Your customers want to cut to the chase and will keep scrolling until something catches their eye. Stop the scrollers and add a little personality. There are talented people behind your business, bursting with passion and individuality. People buy from people: show your customers what goes on behind the scenes and the great work your staff do.

Invest in your website

Wondering why you’re ranking low on Google? It could be because your website is too big, too slow, too complicated or, the worst crime of all, not mobile-friendly. Declutter, simplify and redesign, to avoid leaving your customers beelining for your competitors.  

A good design agency will understand the importance of setting up an SEO infrastructure, incorporating mobility and organising content. Customers get an easy and enjoyable experience and you get more leads. Win-win.

If customers are having to trawl through several pages to find one simple answer, they will click the dreaded ‘back’ button. That only means one thing: down drops your Google ranking.

Let Google find you. Ditch the camouflage and give your customers the relevant and high quality information they want. Keep your web page simple, professional and welcoming. With the support of an agency, UX (User Experience) testing will help you to understand how customers use your website.   

What next?

Hopefully you found this article useful for the next step in improving your business. If you’re looking for a fresh start, you’ll be glad to know that Seed can help with all of the above, from building your brand to generating traffic to your website. Just click below and apply for a free consultation!

This article was developed and written by the team at Seed

Jon Prest

Monica Jinabhai

Chris Gray