The search for the perfect design agency for your organization can often feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. We get it. So, we’ve pulled together a list of our tried and true items to consider when it comes to selecting a partner. After all, you’re most likely in this for the long haul. You want a partner that gets you, talks through challenges, and delivers at the end of the day.

We also know it can feel a lot like speed dating when beginning these conversations–trying to make a connection in a short amount of time and hoping they’ll be “the one.” Since you’ve done the heavy lifting up front and understand your internal needs, you can compare those notes against and between the agencies you speak with. Here are a few key strengths to look for during your initial conversations:

1. Their expertise matches your needs

This is what should drive your conversations from the get-go. One way to determine this is to explore an agency’s website. Look for consistency in their messaging and keywords. The agency should speak towards your needs and explain how they work with partners. This could be through their about page, case studies, or white papers. At the end of the day, you want to feel confident their expertise matches–or better yet, exceeds–what it is you’re looking for in an outside partner.

2. They listen to you

This is a big one. An agency should actively seek to understand your company, needs and industry, getting to the core of who you are. Not sure how to evaluate this? Shoot them an email and see how quickly they respond. Better yet, give them a quick call–are they friendly and helpful? If possible, schedule a demo or introduction call and see how well they work with you to understand your goals and business. They should ask questions about your organization, industry, pain points and goals. You should feel that they are trying to understand the entire picture.

3. They’ve got a track record of delivering great results

And the references to prove it! Did a case study jump out to you on their website? Ask if you can speak to the client and see their take on project engagement with the agency you’re exploring. Speaking with past and present clients will give you a sense of the engagement process from start to finish. You’ll get a true sense of what it takes for the agency to deliver results.

4. Their culture aligns with yours

You get the feeling that they just “get you.” Service is the essence of who they are. They aren’t happy until you’re happy. You’ll be able to see this throughout their messaging, but most importantly, in their communication with you. The same tone and attitude presented on their website and other materials is evident when you engage with them, whether over the phone, email or face-to-face.

5. They seek out long-term partnerships

Most agencies work well when brought on for long-term projects although they can work on a project-by-project basis. The magic really happens when they view your success as their own. Ask who they’ve had the longest partner relationship with and how many projects they’ve done with that partner. Ask who their longest client partnership is with and how many projects they’ve done with them? This will give you an idea if they’re a one-stop shop for specific projects or are an integral part of an organization’s team and long-term strategy.

There are several factors that will contribute to your final decision, but the above list will help give you a few markers along the way. Above all else, your agency should really feel like an extension of your team. Where one leaves off the other picks up and allows for seamless communication.

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