Early Stage Business Growth Hack
Why hiring a digital agency keeps your business out of the fishbowl.
You want to ensure that your team is built with top-tier talent.
Cultivating a skilled team means knowing the right time to pursue team growth. Before we dive into growth hacks, let’s discuss how companies tackle expansion issues.
The most common times for businesses to seek growth are when they are:
- Ramping up for their busy season.
- Tackling new digital product projects.
- Readdressing issues on existing platforms.
- Looking to rebrand or redesign their company website or product UX.
Preparing for expansion is as much of a balancing act as it is a strategic process. You want to spend time finding the right employee for the job, but you also want to avoid postponing deadlines. Being mindful of prioritization in the midst of expansion is of the utmost importance.
Meeting allocation demands for app development or custom software can be a strenuous, labor-intensive task. Growth can take many forms. There’s a wide variety of hiring options out there, including outsourcing work to a digital agency.
Businesses commonly source new resources by:
- Hiring a recruiting firm.
- Hiring a talent scout.
- Sourcing freelancers and per diem contractors.
- Working with a technology or creative partner
Businesses seeking more specialized help will favor the latter.
Technology partners fulfill growth needs by meeting fluctuating demands or catering to specific needs with custom-built teams.
Think of this approach as a deep dive into business growth. Because of their wide pool of experience, digital agencies can build projects ranging from mobile apps to e-commerce websites to decentralized blockchain projects.
Outsourcing your work to a technology partner also means that the agency is responsible for the success of major aspects of the project.
Digital Agency Specialties
Project Validation: Time spent upfront conducting market and consumer research is costly. Tackling these tasks while simultaneously scoping out the project can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars down the road.
Development and Design: Building a digital project or custom software requires skills that utilize both functional and design thinking. Agencies are adept at these skills, including wireframing and UX design. Working with a technology partner offers custom teams of skilled engineers and designers as a resource to optimize a project.
Maintenance: A great alternative to hiring in-house tech support is to retain engineering support from your technology partner. These developers are already familiar with your project and will keep it running at maximum performance both after launch and between iterations.
When you need to make a push for a project, how do you decide between internal and external hires? We might be biased, but we see a digital agency partnership as the more valuable option — which is why hiring a digital agency is our new favorite growth hack.
At the same time, we like to keep an open mind. There are other options out there, and it’s worth discussing the pros and cons of each. In this piece, we discuss growth strategies so you can build your business without the growing pains.
Pros and Cons of an In-House Team
Depending on the growth of your company, the industry you work in, or other product-related factors, you’ll need to consider developing an internal team.
Pros of using an in-house team:
- Onset understanding of your product or service.
- Familiar communication styles and handoff processes.
- Ability to set expectations for team culture.
With proper onboarding, support structures, and culture checks, in-house teams can lead to more productive employees.
It can be challenging to hire the right employee, especially during today’s ongoing tech talent acquisition war. Hiring an operations-focused employee dedicated to finding the right fit for your team is usually necessary.
Setting cultural and performance expectations are necessary to keep the bar high, but we dive into that later.
Cons of using an in-house team:
- Fishbowl perspective.
- Operational overhead and employee taxes.
- Inability to reactively scale team size based on project needs.
- Limited network reach.
Internalizing a team can stifle creativity and create product bias. When unexpected problems do happen, your in-house team might not have the resources or insight available to react properly.
Forming a service-based relationship with a digital product agency helps balance your team by supplementing gaps in knowledge and work allocation.
A common strategy is to allow the agency team to join the project as an ad-hoc “Chief Creative” or “Chief Technology” position. Once the project ramps down or moves into another phase, your supplemented talent is reactive to the needs of the project.
This method provides a cost-effective alternative to the high growth layoff culture often found with large-scale projects.
Talent Acquisition Considerations
Is your business ramping up to tackle a new project? Great. You’ll need to analyze your team’s current skill set and determine where the gaps in expertise, ideation, and execution fall.
If you choose to develop an in-house team rather than work with a technology or creative partner, the first step is talent scouting.
Top companies understand the importance and strategy behind sourcing new employees. A rushed process to meet project demands can:
- Critically endanger your company’s profit margins.
- Harm your team’s work culture.
- Result in ineffectual project assessment, road mapping, and production framework.
- Stifle your team’s ability to deliver on time and on budget.
While the right hire can be a great addition to the team, an improperly vetted new employee has the ability to detrimentally impact team collaboration and project viability.
Some of the factors you may want to consider when growing your in-house team:
- What skill sets are critical to project success?
- Are there gaps in seniority that need to be filled?
- Do you need highly focused expertise, or the ability to positively impact multiple aspects of the project?
- Will you utilize a talent scout or recruiting firm to ensure high-quality applicants?
- How will you redistribute talent once the project transitions from the build-stage to maintenance and upkeep?
Hiring an in-house team takes time
It most certainly doesn’t happen overnight. Due diligence is imperative when building a successful team.
Making the right decisions upfront can significantly amplify your ROI down the road. Cutting corners only hurts the team. Dedicated employees must sift through the hundreds of resumes, then take time to further curate possible candidates.
Hiring and rehiring employees is an expensive process and hurts team morale. Don’t believe that employee retention is essential for in-house teams? The average cost of employee turnover is 6-9 months the position’s salary.
The business world never stops moving. Make sure you plan for an in-house hire by aligning with your team’s short and long-term project goals. Hiring during busy periods can prove detrimental, especially if the hiring process delays the progress of a project.
What do you do after you’ve chosen a winner for your in-house team? Training.
Efficient training and onboarding require that the employee:
- Understands the company’s and its goals.
- Understands team projects and how they fit into the company as a whole.
- Is properly trained on tools, processes, and software.
It’s possible that the training process will compromise short-term initiatives. Plan for your new employee to start when your in-house team has more flexibility in their schedules.
When your business is hard at work, putting aside time to onboard new hires can be difficult. Partnering with an agency can offer immediate team support without stretching your employees too thin.
Hiring for Company Culture
We mentioned the importance of retention, and a large portion of in-house retention is attributed to company culture.
Building a supportive company culture results in happier, more productive employees — which translates to higher employee retention. When hiring for an in-house team, look for candidates that align with the company’s culture and impact it in positive ways.
Employees view job positions as temporary, but a company culture that prioritizes personal and professional growth can motivate employees to stay.
That’s not to say every team member should be like-minded — in-house teams benefit significantly from peers with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Outside organizations, like digital agencies, keep your team open to fresh ideas without threatening the health of your company’s culture.
When is the Right Time to Hire New Employees?
Take a step back and evaluate your current in-house team. Do your team’s abilities cover a broad range of skills? Do your employees have specialties in different areas?
Your company might already have enough internal talent to develop your in-house team. Allocating resources dedicated to building out employee skills, such outside training sessions, might be enough to sustain your team.
Keep in mind that this runs the risk of overburdening your employees. Employee burnout is counterintuitive to company culture. Throwing employees into situations where they’re forced to wear too many hats is the quickest way to achieve employee burnout.
Hiring a digital agency can fill in those skill gaps without putting too much stress on your employees.
Keeping Your Team Close to Home
Choosing the in-house agency route means projects will continue at their current pace. Your team won’t need to hold off time to scout for new talent, but attempting to accelerate project progress can strain the team.
If you choose to stick with your current internal team, remember our bit on company culture.
It’s necessary to invest in supportive internal and external resources to prevent employee burnout. Presenting new challenges to your team, like integrating employees into existing processes, will incentivize workers to stay.
Pros and Cons of Partnering with a Digital Agency
Digital agencies often evoke strong feelings in the business world. Companies either love the idea of agency work or prefer to keep things in-house.
We’re here to quell your fears about partnering with a digital agency.
Each digital agency is different, and your experience will differ depending on what your project needs and your team’s current skill set.
Pros of partnering with a digital agency:
- Culminated experience from top agencies.
- Experience partnering with all businesses, from startups to enterprises.
- Cross-channel learning.
- No employee overhead costs or planning for growth/layoff phasing.
- Expenses are already incorporated into the business roadmap.
Cons of partnering with the wrong digital agency:
- An inexperienced agency can lead to poor results.
- Your team must ensure financial transparency on scope of work and project budget.
- Potential for inefficient communication.
The most important takeaway when partnering with a digital product and innovation studio is to identify red flags up front. Conflicting styles of communication should be immediately addressed to increase long-term efficiency.
In most cases, the collaborative nature of an agency partnership results in high-quality products. Be sure to consider how a digital agency fits in with your team structure to maximize the partnership’s success.
Things to Consider Before Hiring an Agency
Would you invest in a new employee without properly vetting them? Our guess is no, especially if you read the earlier sections of this post.
The same holds true when looking for a digital agency. You must conduct research for choosing your partner, and you might not find the ideal partner right away.
Researching your agency options ensures that you gain maximum value from the partnership. Ask questions throughout the decision-making process to fully understand how an agency partnership can benefit your team.
One agency may specialize in creating technical solutions while another might have more experience designing visual elements. In many cases, digital agencies and innovation labs have overlapping expertise which can be framed to better fit your company.
Finding a Digital Agency
Unsure of where to start when looking for a digital agency? You’re not alone.
Every agency that you consider will position themselves as the best in their field. With so many options out there, it can be tricky to decide which digital agency is the best fit for your company.
Research the following factors when looking for a digital agency:
- Check how long the agency has been in business.
- Research what companies the agency has worked with in the past.
- Ask the digital agency for work examples.
- Research the agency’s online reputation.
- Ask the agency for service referrals from past or current partners.
The list doesn’t end there. Partnering with a digital agency can provide teams with a wide variety of benefits. It’s up to you to prioritize them based business needs.
Do you prefer working with a local company for easier communication? Perhaps you’re interested in a specific concept, like data-driven design.
Research will tell you if the company possesses the specific qualities and experience you are looking for.
Benefits of Partnering with a Digital Agency
Many businesses choose hiring a digital agency over working with an in-house team because outsourcing provides value.
Digital agencies give you more than just the services you pay for. Partnering with experts leads to inevitable knowledge transfers. While your employees aren’t receiving a formal education, hands-on work with an agency will cause them to pick up on tips, tricks, and best practices.
While we’re on the subject of value, it’s almost always cheaper to hire an agency than to start an in-house team.
We spoke earlier on lengthy hiring processes and the steep cost of employee retention.
Partnering with a digital agency also eliminates the need to pay for:
- Tax deductions.
- Tax liabilities.
- Employee overhead.
- Employee benefits.
Investing in an employee can be risky for businesses that are not financially ready for growth or are unsure of their exact needs. Rushing through the hiring process might ensure a project gets completed on time but can leave you in the red.
Partnering with a digital agency provides access to a pool of resources beyond that of your team. While your team might only work directly with a few account managers, those experts can fall back on collective agency knowledge to solve tricky design problems.
This also comes in handy for rapidly testing new features. It’s likely that a digital agency has worked with products similar to your own. That means your digital agency will have a clear understanding of project ideas that will work, and ideas that have high potential to fall flat.
Say your team has an idea for a product, but they don’t have the resources available to build and test the idea. A digital agency can build a minimum viable product to get UX and design feedback. While the digital agency works on the MVP, your team can be hard at work on other project initiatives. Collaboration at its finest.
Combining a digital agency with your team’s in-depth product knowledge maximizes the potential for product success.
Cost of Hiring a Digital Agency
There’s no set price for any agency. In most cases, the cost will depend on your scope of work.
Whatever project you want to incorporate a digital agency into, the agency will approach the problem with layers of strategy. All initiatives take time and effort. Partnering with an agency can take that burden off your team.
You can hire a digital agency to handle:
- Marketing strategy
- Project management
- Digital product development
- Web development
- Design UX/UX
- Branding strategy
This list is only scratching the surface. A digital agency partnership means you can delegate tasks to your outsourced team, allowing your internal team to focus on other initiatives.
Projects involving design work are a great example of how the cost of a digital agency partnership tends to be project-based.
Design work might cost between 20k – 50k depending on the scope of the project. But, in many cases, additional work is needed beyond just design. Marketing and branding strategies are usually needed on top of design work to ensure the project reaches its fullest potential.
Don’t be discouraged if an agency suggests these changes — they can actually save you money in the end.
Why You Shouldn’t Postpone Agency Work
Imagine you are working with a digital agency on design work and they recommend an additional branding strategy, but you decide to postpone branding until a later time.
When you’re ready to take on the brand project, the price will be more expensive.
- You need to repeat the process of hiring an agency or internal employee.
- The project will require a fresh round of strategizing and learning.
Catching these opportunities for growth early on in the process saves resources by eliminating the need to make additional hires.
While digital agency work may seem costly upfront, most partnerships result in high-value products. Boring websites, apps with bad UX, and other half-baked projects will more than likely lead to poor ROI.
Partnering with an agency is a resource-efficient growth hack. Take full advantage of your outsourced team to maximize project results.
Making the right choice for your business
We know there’s a lot to consider when looking into hiring a digital agency or building your internal team.
There are general steps that you should follow before diving into your decision to hire a digital agency or an in-house employee:
- Map out your goals.
- Identify team strengths and weaknesses.
- Allocate a 6-month and yearly budget.
- Weigh the benefits and risks for in-house teams and digital agency partnerships.
- Exercise due diligence.
Both options have their pros and cons. Conducting research on the needs of your business and what is needed to move forward can help validate one option over the other.
Use any and all resources that you can to help make your decision. Personal referrals and practical use cases are great ways to finalize a decision because they can be attributed to your business’ specific needs.
No matter what route you take, remember that both options are an investment. Take the time to pick the right option, and your company will enjoy long-lasting benefits.
We’re always interested in working with new, interesting projects. If you have an idea for a digital product, get in touch with our team of design professionals.