It’s a big decision to outsource portions (or all) of your product development to a design and dev agency. If you’re a startup, this is often a necessary step to attract a team, initial customers, and raising capital. If you’re a larger organization, you may need to build a new software product (website, mobile app, etc.) that isn’t in your wheelhouse. In these cases and others it might be best to bring in an outside design and dev agency to help you do what they do best – deploy a successful software product.
As you weigh your options, Here are some questions you should be asking yourself:
- “How do I know when the time is right?” If you’re finding that you’re stretched and doing a million things at once – this could be a good reason to hire a dev agency – especially if building software is not the thing your startup or organization does best. One of the things we see our customers struggling with time and time again is building their customer base – so if you’re starting to suffer here, you may also be at a point to bring in external help. Eventually, you’re going to come to the point that your competitors are doing a lot more than you, or that you’re focusing too much on perfection.
- “What does it mean to work with a dev agency? What should I expect?” It’s not hire and forget. You’re going to have to guide the dev agency account team and be VERY involved and hands-on in the process. It will take a lot of work on your end, and there needs to be balance on both sides for a real partnership to work. A dev agency can’t just pull something out of thin air – it has to come from the substance and value that you create/make available.
- “How much are you paying to acquire customers?” Working with a design and development, or digital agency (Baked & Branded has all three branches at its disposal) can help bring that cost down – this is one the chief advantages of working with an agency. If you have a pretty good sense of what your cost to acquire a customer is today (a program around measuring it, that is), then you can hire an external agency for the cost of what you would like this cost to acquire to be in the long-run. Over time and sales, lowering the cost to acquire will begin to payoff – and will be worth the cost of hiring the agency after a break-even point. And we’re not just talking about cost to acquire from a digital marketing perspective – you can lower the cost to acquire from a design and development perspective too, by re-building and optimizing your website and software to key conversions. Focusing on the core message of what you’re offering and weeding out non-qualified prospects will save you time later.
- “Does agency approach matter?” Make sure the approach of the dev agency you’re considering fits your budget and needs. Make sure the agency is tailored to your company’s business stage; an agency should not approach a startup as they would a Fortune 500 brand. There are agencies like Baked & Branded that are well suited towards early-stage ideas, including prototypes, Alpha/MVPs and Betas. The “early-stage” concept approach can actually apply to startups as well as a large organization – it’s the tailoring of the approach that will be different. Besides the cost of the services (and remember, you often DO get what you pay for) – also think about the style you want. Don’t be afraid to request a meeting and chat with the team you would be working with. Do more than just look at the agency’s portfolio. Dig deeper, ask questions. Be comfortable about the quality AND the quantity of work that they’re doing. Make sure their strengths are aligned with your scope.
- “What’s a scope document?” Make sure you walk away with a contract or scope document that outlines specifics and deliverables are written down. We always work up a statement of work (SOW) for our clients that specifies the scope of the project, as well as the phased-delivery approach and budget. Check out our President Eric’s post of preparing a scope document to learn more about our process. Having this SOW defined and signed is better for all parties involved, and serves to eliminate all doubt upfront. This is critical not only to protect yourself but also so that you don’t waste your money. It’s also key to setting expectations. You are a valuable client, but you’re not the ONLY client. It’s hard to think that way as a startup – but it’s a fact. You need to find a balance because you’re not ALWAYS the number 1 priority. Definitely feel free to ask questions about frequency of contact, preferred method of contact etc so that you know how many calls a week you should typically be having with your dev agency.
Besides the key questions you’ve probably been asking yourself, we also have a few tips on how to make the most out of your dev agency engagement:
- Commit to your decision. After you’ve hired the dev agency, remember that you chose to go with them for a reason. But, you have to give your agency a chance to do what it’s good at and stretch its wings. Don’t just dictate what to do. If you really want a strategic partner, you have to give them leeway to flex their creative muscles.
- Be honest. Bring things up early and often. Speak up as soon as you see something that works or doesn’t work and explain why; don’t wait until it’s too late. This will help build the relationship and make sure you’re moving forward together in the right direction. If you’re getting external pressure or if there are constraints, talk to your dev agency – they’re not mind readers, and they can probably work with you on it and help.
- Look at metrics. Whether or not YOU like what your agency has come up with – the metrics don’t lie. If it resonates with your customers and you’re getting conversions, then it doesn’t matter whether you like it. If you set up a metrics and analytics program, you can get the feedback you need to ensure you’re on the right track. Baked & Branded offers several creative ways to do this through design, without spending much time coding the back-end. Contact us to learn more.
- Keep your eye on prize and stay out of the weeds. Make sure you have actionable items that have been discussed upfront, and have been defined key deliverables/milestones so that you can look back at them as you go, and avoid unnecessary tangents.
You expect and deserve success from a dev agency engagement. The bottom line is that if you don’t value the expertise or service that the agency provides, then you’re probably not ready to jump in with an agency. You going to have to justify the spend, because it won’t be free. Of course, saving you time and wasted resource is the biggest factor – summed up as efficiency.
Baked & Branded is here to help deliver success and efficiency to you. As always, we’re looking forward to working with you bringing your idea to life! Contact us here.