How to spot the BS when hiring a digital agency


With literally hundreds of digital agencies to choose from, it’s important you choose to work with an agency who really knows what they’re doing.  But if, like most of us, you don’t understand the ins and outs of the digital world, how will you know whether the agency is right for you?

Brad Amos, Course Coordinator and lecturer at the University of Sydney Masters of Marketing Program, has provided his insight to help navigate the whole onboarding of a digital agency process.


Your first conversation

If you’re talking about the nuts and bolts of technology in your first conversation with a digital agency, it means you’re having the wrong conversation.  Any prospective agency should be spending their time getting an idea of who you are, what your business objectives are and working out exactly who your target audience is.

When meeting with a client, no matter what the agency size, their first task should be understanding the reasoning behind your brief.  Then, after the goals, or objectives are understood, the agency should then research the target audience as they’re the people who will be using whatever the agency creates!

The ins and outs of the specific technology should only be discussed once a very clear image of the problem has been achieved!

Their portfolio

Most agencies will have their portfolios available online but if not, it’s fair to ask for a summary of work they have performed recently.  These are often in the format of case studies, and you’d want to look at about five of their recent jobs to get an idea of what they do.

A portfolio of projects that are all very similar in execution can mean that the agency is just churning out ‘cookie cutter’ websites or solutions based on a template or structure that they are most comfortable with.  This means that the solution they create for you will suit them, but it might not be the one that suits you the best.

Look for an agency with a range of experience, but with solid results across each project.  You want one that shows creativity in their solutions and can tie their solutions back in with their original customer objectives.

Client retention

It’s important to know how long an agency has been working with their current clients, or how many projects they’ve undertaken for them.  This information may not be readily available, but an agency with nothing to hide will have no trouble providing answers to these questions for you.

If the company tends to burn through clients, you might end up with a website you cannot build upon or maintain, or an experience with poor customer service which would stop you using them again.

Say what now?

One of the biggest gripes that people have with digital agencies is the overuse of jargon.  Like with any industry, some familiar terms and phrases will creep into any conversation you have, but if your find your agency constantly speaking to you in terms that you’re not familiar with, you need to work out why.

People who rely on jargon often cannot properly explain what they are trying to say without it, so it’s always been important to Brad that his students, and his clients understand everything he says.  The same should be said of any Agency.

From working out their objectives, speaking to their target audience, providing overviews, strategies, solutions and updates – your agency should make sure you understand what they are saying and offer to explain things further if you don’t.


Brad Amos, Co-Founder, Helium Creative.