How can I avoid unnecessary costs and ensure best value from my agency?

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There are plenty of factors to consider when choosing a design agency, many of which can impact on the price you end up paying.

Location, experience in your industry, awards – all of these affect the price, and price in itself is matter of opinion when it comes to judging value.

And whatever factors youre taking into consideration when searching for the right agency for your needs, bearing in mind a few simple steps can take to maximise the value.

Firstly, ask what your priorities are

Many businesses place huge importance on working with an agency with a cosmopolitan address like London or Manchester – areas like this are often seen as design hubs, and some believe they will get a better product by opting for a city agency.

But that location comes at a price, and the extra cost of running a business in a city is often passed on to the customer, reducing the value for you.

Other companies look to work with agencies boasting rafts of awards, understandably believing these awards reflect the standard of their work. But design awards cost money to enter, so many smaller agencies opt out of entering them – that doesnt necessarily reflect on the standard of their work, by may impact the price you pay.

The other thing to bear in mind is that awards are often based solely on looks – and good-looking collateral doesnt always translate to successful collateral.

So what should I look for instead?

When it comes to basing your decision to use an agency on awards, ask yourself if youd be better looking at their previous work – especially in your niche. Although the emphasis for monitoring the success of a campaign falls with the client (theyll have far more detailed sales figures for a campaign than the agency), most design firms will be able to give you example of past successes.

If theyve had success in your niche, thats great, but also bear in mind that theyll more than likely be able to turn their hand to other industries.

Its also worth seeing what theyve produced for clients in your niche – although just because an agency seems to specialise in a particular industry, that doesnt mean they cant turn their hand to anything else.

And unless location is hugely important to you for logistic reasons (you need an agency right on your doorstep, even if that does mean London), considering agencies further afield is always worthwhile.

Is there anything else I can do?

Its always worth meeting face-to-face with your prospective agency, as this will help you get across your project expectations, as well as getting an idea of how the agency likes to operate.

In a similar vein, its certainly worth checking the terms. This may seem like an obvious statement, but there are so many extras that agencies can (and do) charge for that its worth ensuring youre up to speed with everything that could incur you extra charges.

Authors corrections are a great example of agency terms that will vary from agency to agency – certain agencies include a round or two rounds of changes in the quote price, whereas others will be more flexible. The worst-case scenario, of course, is being charged for every amendment, as this is a prime way for initially low-price jobs to escalate in cost.

Other bills that vary from agency to agency include overtime fees, artwork pdfs, printers proofs and, on rare occasions, phone calls.

The best way to ensure youre still getting the value, you need to create a clear brief. Even the most lenient agency will requote if your initial brief changes significantly over time, so its important to get your project aims clear before work starts.

By including all the relevant information – aims, project background, pet hates likes fonts and colours, industry details – youre increasing the chance they will get it right first time and cut down on the costs you face.

By clearly identifying what you want from an agency, and by making it clear what you expect of them, you can increase your chances of getting the most from every project.

Theme Group
www.themegroup.co.uk