What is a Digital Agency?

The sign above Granite Street in Manchester, NH identifies CommonPlaces as a Digital Agency, but what does that really mean? Couldn't any company immersed in today's digital landscape be called a Digital Agency? Or, are we employing a pretentious term to simply describe website design and development?

According to Wikipedia: 'Digital agencies may differentiate themselves by offering a mix of web design/web development, search engine marketing, internet advertising/marketing, or e-business/e-commerce consulting...'

Multiple Platforms

In fact, the term Digital Agency is relatively new. It applies to companies which deliver multiple Internet-based solutions to their clients. These solutions could be the more traditional need for web design and development or server hosting, to newer demands such as mobile app technology, blogging, and social media management. If I start listing the services of a Digital Agency, I'll inevitably forget a couple, and another one will suddenly be invented to add to the list next year. The Internet is a fluid place to do business.

Technology

Any digital agency worthy of the label will constantly monitor for new trends and concepts. Today's innovation, however, is tomorrow's cliche. The beauty of the digital age is the speed with which information travels. The most difficult part is assessing which of that information is genuinely valuable. It then falls on us to follow best practices in carrying out whatever task we're hired for.

Old media, such as newspapers, radio, and television aren't utilized by digital agencies. The days of a catchy slogan and slick ad campaign may not be dead, but they are antithetical to what a digital agency is trying to achieve. Email campaigns, blogs, social media, and podcast and video services are offered instead. This is a new world of marketing, one that Don Draper and Roger Sterling of the Mad Men era could never recognize.

Specialty

It is, of course, very important to have an area of expertise to build your agency around; the axis on which the whole business spins. For some agencies that could be content marketing, for others it might be open source web development. It can be a very specific niche. An agency could have in-house expert Magento or Drupal developers, for instance, and build the rest of their digital solution team around those experts. It's similar to how a football team structures their offense around the abilities of their quarterback.

Strategy

A careful review of the clients' needs and goals can propel any project toward success. By establishing and maintaining a partnership with their clients, digital agencies find it easier to customize a strategy built around trust and respect. Whether it is a web development project or a marketing campaign, everything is specialized to fit specific demands. This is a far different business approach from the traditional client/agency paradigm.

Companies in the 21st century understand that nothing is as it was. You have to build an online presence around a complete strategic plan. By analyzing target audiences, business operations and goals, and your competition's strengths and weaknesses, you will have a solid foundation for success.

In Demand

So why are digital agencies like CommonPlaces in such demand? Tracy Lewis of PR 20/20 outlined the state of the market in her blog, declaring that digital marketing is critical to today's economy, yet few companies have the expertise and know-how.

Some of the key facts include:

  • 90% of companies lack the digital skills in areas of social media, mobile, process automation, and performance monitoring and analysis
  • 44% of marketing leaders say they cannot find the right combination of people and skills in the job market
  • 78% of executives indicated digital transformation will be critical to their organizations within the next two years
  • 63% felt the pace of their organizations was too slow

Today, as Lewis notes, the buyer is in control, and performs 90% of the sales cycle on their own before they even contact a provider. They've done the research, they've found you. Now what? In order to compete successfully you need to integrate all these disparate elements which, combined, make up a digital agency.

It is impossible for any company to keep up with this fluctuating, highly technical marketplace. The top performing marketing agency can't pretend to also have the technical acumen of a hot-shot development agency, and vice-versa. Digital agencies have surged in popularity precisely because they leverage multiple Internet disciplines into a successful partnership.

Ben Bassi
By Ben Bassi

Founder and CEO of CommonPlaces, is a seasoned Internet veteran and marketing executive. His extensive experience in Web-related business dates back to the early ‘90s; with a career specializing in digital strategy, planning, and marketing.

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