The 5 hallmarks of a top digital design agency

When speaking with new clients, I find there's often an air of uncertainty when choosing whether or not to engage a digital design agency. It's not hard to see why — the decision to work with a digital design agency (or any kind of creative agency, for that matter) can be incredibly intimidating.

For starters, it requires you to be vulnerable, opening up your business, your vision, and your goals to a group of strangers. Albeit rewarding, coming eye to eye and reckoning with potential shortcomings (i.e. an outdated website, a bloated pitch deck) can be an uncomfortable process.

Further complicating the matter, however, is the sheer number of digital design agencies around the globe — in Canada alone, there are hundreds of potential design agencies to pick and choose from.

In an effort to help entrepreneurs narrow down their options and select the right agency for their business, I've laid out the 5 tell-tale signs of a top digital design agency below.

1. They're not afraid to ask "dumb" questions

The best digital design agencies aren't afraid of looking uneducated when asking questions. They put aside their egos and get to the heart of the matter through simple conversation. Even if they've worked with somewhat similar clients in the past, they understand that no one knows your customers like you do, and that you have a wealth of knowledge to draw upon that would be foolish to ignore.

2. They seek to embed themselves within your company

The best creative agencies understand that in order to be truly effective, they have to become an extension of your business. In other words, they can't interact with your company on a surface level. For a publicly traded company, this means conversations with frontline employees and executives, reviewing relevant securities filings, and auditing all marketing materials.

What's more, the best agencies pull this off seamlessly. They make a special effort to get up to speed as quickly as possible without being a burden to your team.

3. They get skin in the game

Whenever possible, the best digital design agencies find a way to take an equity position in their clients. This way, they're not just service providers — they're partners. This is a great way of tying a creative agency's compensation to their job performance while ensuring everyone shares the same goal.

4. They're strong, responsive communicators

The best creative agencies are comprised of effective, responsive communicators that understand there isn't any room for communication breakdowns in lengthy website development projects or content creation cycles. These kinds of agencies pride themselves in replying to weekend morning e-mails and turning around time-sensitive revisions quickly, ensuring your project gets done on (or ahead of) schedule.

5. They are masters of process

It doesn't take much for projects — especially creative ones — to go off the rails. That's why the best digital design agencies have well-documented, refined processes for each service they provide (i.e. branding, web design, content creation). When meeting with a digital design agency, make sure to ask them about their process — a great agency will be more than happy to break down their work process so you have a better idea of what to expect from them.

Outstanding digital design agencies help businesses adapt

The best digital design agencies are like chameleons, effortlessly blending into their client's business environment. In the process, they help clients address their weaknesses and highlight their strengths, ensuring they outperform their competitors. With so many digital design agencies to choose from, don't settle for one that's simply capable — find one that's superb.

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