If you plan to develop and launch a digital product, the worst approach is to throw spaghetti on the wall and hope that something will stick. After all, hope is far from a sound business strategy.
A better way to go about it? Work with a digital agency to bring your idea to life cost-efficiently. You can tap into a wide range of expertise offered by a professional product development team, streamline the design and prototyping process, and reduce your time-to-market.
However, finding the right digital product agency isn’t like ordering a taco from UberEats. The wrong choice will not only cost you financially but also set you back months in your go-to-market timeline, which could lead to lost revenues and even impact your market leader positioning.
There are many aspects to consider when selecting an agency to support your product development project. Here are some key steps to follow:
Start your selection process by creating a shortlist of candidates that are a potentially good fit for your needs. But you may wonder, “where to find digital product agencies?” Here are some channels on which to start your search:
You can learn a lot about an agency — from its unique approach, value proposition, and company culture to its area of expertise and client experience — on various social media sites. Besides the usual suspects such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, you can also explore specialized platforms such as Clutch.co and Dribbble.
Pay attention to how an agency interacts with its followers and responds to comments or reviews. A team that’s responsive and receptive to feedback is more likely to put its clients first and willing to go the extra mile to help your product succeed.
Google is awesome but what to do when you’re staring at a blank search box? Start your online search by looking up reviews of top digital product development agencies. In addition to information about individual companies, you can gain an overall sense of what the market is like and learn about trends that you should be aware of during the selection process.
Besides a general search, you can perform a geographic search by including your state, city, or region in the search term if you prefer to work with a local digital product agency. While location dependency isn’t critical, a local agency could provide you with additional insights if your product is intended for a local audience.
Ask your network to see if anyone you know has partnered with a product development agency and find out what their experience was like. This will allow you to identify a few qualified candidates to jumpstart your selection process while gaining insights into the inner workings of the agencies to aid your decision process.
Don’t be afraid to ask the referrer questions. For example, you should find out if their products or markets are similar to yours, how involved the agencies are in the entire product development process, and what specific results their agencies have helped them achieve.
Research your favorite digital products, as well as those that are successful with your target audience, to find out who built them. If the information isn’t publicly available, reach out to a contact at the company that owns the product. If it’s built by an external agency, then you should add it to your shortlist!
In conjunction with compiling a shortlist, you should also get clear on some specifics about your product and what you expect from your agency. The better you can communicate your requirements, the more likely you’ll find a product development team with the right skillset.
For example, what kind of digital product are you creating? Who’s the audience? How’s the product supporting your overall business objectives? What does success looks like after the product is launched? How can the agency support your go-to-market strategy? What’s your product development roadmap and what kind of support do you need in the future? What’s your timeline and budget?
A well-defined set of criteria can help you quickly narrow down your shortlist and focus on a few highly-qualified candidates that can meet your needs. Instead of getting lost in a sea of candidates, you can get to a decision and start your project sooner.
Before scheduling a call or consultation with the various agencies, refine your shortlist by researching the various candidates:
• Visit the companies’ websites to evaluate their capabilities and see if they’re equipped to fulfill your product development needs. Find out the range of services they offer, read up on the background of their core team members, and learn about their approach and philosophies.
• Evaluate work samples and case studies on their websites, particularly those that are in the same sector or have similar requirements as you do. Consider the products’ aesthetic and user experience, key benefits to the clients, as well as the span of industry experience and technical knowledge involved.
• Look for reviews on trusted third-party sources (e.g., Clutch.co,) especially posted by clients who have similar needs and objectives as you do. You can cross-reference these clients with the agency’s online portfolio to gain a more in-depth perspective about their capabilities.
• Do a Google search on the companies to see if they have been featured on trusted websites and publications as a top agency. While a high ranking isn’t the be-all-end-all, it’s a good sign that a company has a strong work history while being recognized as a legitimate and skilled agency.
• Review the agencies’ social media profiles and blogs to learn about their approach, processes, priorities, company culture, and what you can expect in a working relationship. Such content also reveals if a company is a thought leader in certain subject areas.
To further narrow down your agency shortlist, set up an initial consultation with each candidate. Having a conversation with a company’s leadership team can help you decide if the agency has what it takes to build a digital product that’ll bring your vision to life.
You should come prepared with the right questions to find out how the agency plans to approach the project, its process for estimating the timeline and budget, what your project team would look like, how you would collaborate with the team, how it manages progress measurement and reporting throughout the project, how fee schedule and billing works, as well as how its unique value proposition can help your product succeed.
During the conversation, pay attention to how the leadership presents itself. While you aren’t looking for a BFF, you do want to work with an agency that matches your values and personality, which is a good sign that you’ll be able to work well with the team.
Also, ask about the agency’s various engagement models to see how it can support you now and in the future. For example, it may provide you with a full-service project team at the moment to build a specific product and later on, develop a long-term relationship in which it’ll act as your portfolio partner to manage multiple products.
When you work with a digital product agency, you’re entrusting it with your product idea. Make sure that it’s not only building a high-quality product for you but also taking care of every stage of the product lifecycle including product strategy, development roadmap, go-to-market strategy, as well as audience and revenue model.
Your digital product agency will become your partner in this entire process, which can turn into a multi-year relationship. You should look for an agency that’s not only competent in its area of expertise but also shares a similar philosophy, perspective, and commitment to ensure seamless collaboration.
As such, it’s important to do your due diligence to research your options, clarify your requirements, and thoroughly interview various candidates to make sure that you’re choosing the best possible partner for your product development needs.