What do agencies look for in clients?

James Cannings, CTO and co-founder of MMT Digital

James Cannings, CTO and co-founder of MMT Digital

There are many blogs out there pointing out what customers should be aware of when deciding on a new agency. It’s important to find the best fit since the final solution simply tends to be better. However, it’s not only customers who do this. Agencies too are aware of picking the right clients.

MMT Digital, a UK-based digital agency and long-term Boye conference partner, focuses on a number of things when they decide on which clients they would like to proceed with. In this blog, CTO and co-Founder, James Cannings explains what exactly MMT Digital are looking for in potential clients:

How to select the right client?

As a company this is often a question that we find ourselves asking because it is important to us that we work with the right clients. However, it’s a tricky question. For many agencies it might be about targeting a particular size of company or focussing on specific sectors. Looking at the size of our clients today it is extremely wide ranging from large national and global clients such as BACARDÍ and the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company Actavis to small, start-up businesses who we work with to create innovative digital products. 

We currently operate in over 12 different sectors (and this seems to be constantly expanding). As we are a specialist design and build agency who can take a project from its concept stages, through the whole UX piece and onto design and technical solutions or complex integrations for any sector. Whilst this is a great strength for us it is also a big challenge when it comes to marketing across such a broad range of sectors.

So what do we look for in a client? We think that a core requirement is an organisation who is excited by a collaborative approach to the development of the solution that they are looking for. I suspect a lot of agencies say the same thing. It sounds a bit clichéd so we need to expand what this means little further.

Will the customer accept an agile project methodology?

One of the things that we do well is agile development. This means using processes like Scrum, Kanban, XP and Lean to get solutions developed rapidly but with a high degree of stability through automated testing approaches. This terminology is far less important than what this actually means for our customers. It means being focussed on getting a product out to market very rapidly but then being able to iterate on that solution to improve it based on customer feedback. Of course how rapidly we go to market and how “lean” the initial version is a broad spectrum that depends on many factors (and are beyond the scope of this post).

The process integrates the whole team (stakeholders, product owners, designers, developers, architects, marketing and other areas of the business) so that MMT Digital and our clients focus on becoming a single team tasked with delivering against a specific and agreed vision. Designers and developers can communicate daily with the product owners (and vice versa) creating a completely transparent working environment where all team members are fully responsible for the iterative delivery of the vision. When done well it is an amazing way of de-risking the possibility of a development going over budget or (perhaps worse!) a team delivering something that the end user (our  clients’ customers!)  does not actually engage with in the way that was originally assumed.

Of course, many of our customers have no agile experience and some worry that the process sounds like a big investment of time on their behalf. To help this transition for our clients we’ve tweaked the standard agile processes to introduce Product Owners on our side who can help and support our clients through the process if it is new to them or they don’t have the time to fully commit. Overall it doesn’t necessarily require our clients to spend more time focussed on the project, it’s just that the time is perhaps more spread out through the delivery than it can be on a more traditional approach.

As a specialist agency we can also integrate well with clients who use other agencies for marketing, branding and creative work without causing friction as agencies fight over common ground. We find that this is a real benefit when working with some of our larger clients. Whilst we are proud of our creative team we are equally proud of our ability to integrate our iterative approach to development with creative agencies who are perhaps geared to working in a more traditional way. One where they believe that all assumptions about a product or website can be solved with enough post-it notes, interviews, user journey mapping exercises and wireframes. These can be great to define a vision but there is nothing like putting users in front of an actual solution to really test some of those “leap-of-faith” assumptions.

It takes true commitment to be a good customer

Key to the success of these agile projects is the creation of a well bonded, motivated team who really understand and care about the vision. If the people on the team (both the MMT Digital staff and our clients) get to know each other well then commitments around what the team will achieve in the next 2 week iteration become far more powerful since they are a commitment to peers and friends rather than just following a plan that has been laid out in a Gantt chart by a project manager. Again, when this is done right we see huge benefits for our clients in terms of the amount of work that is achieved for their budget and the speed in which their vision comes to market.

So that’s it really. What we are looking for are customers who are able to define a vision of what they would like to achieve and an open mind on how we can get there. In today’s world, rapid speed to market (with a highly stable solution) in order to quickly enable rapid changes based on customer feedback resounds strongly with most of our clients and potential clients that we talk to. Whether it’s a new marketing website using the latest in marketing automation technologies or a completely bespoke digital product, we have some great case studies from our clients who have worked in this way.