Episode 11 'Choosing an Agency' Season 2

Published on September 20, 2022 by Alex Holliman

Episode 11 with Doug Dinwiddie is now out.

Shortly into his career in the digital marketing industry, Doug noticed ways for agencies to improve their service offering. This led him to start White Digital, an agency specialising in website design, development and SEO. 

Doug spoke to Alex about how clients and agencies should be setting expectations to get what they want and more, as well as how to run pitches and structure briefs to understand which agency is right for you. 

He also covered values, awards, budgets and how to check an agency’s reputation. 

Episode eleven, series two transcript

Alex Holliman: Hello, and welcome to choosing an agency. My name is Alex, founder of search agency climbing trees. And I’m here to talk about how to set the right agency to grow your business. So today, I’m joined by Doug Dinwiddie, the founder and managing director of the awesome White Digital. How you doing, Doug?

Doug Dinwiddie: Very well, thank you.

Alex Holliman: So for people who are just meeting me for the first time, could you share a little bit about who you are? And what you guys do?

Doug Dinwiddie: Yeah, so my name is Doug Dinwiddie, obviously, I started White digital in 2015. When it was actually just me in the back bedroom house ringing people up asking if they want to buy websites, to be honest with you. But we quickly acquired an old agency that I myself used to work for, and my first employees used to work for. And that kind of gave us like, a bit of a startup start off. And then we’ve kind of grown from there, we’ve gone to a few acquisitions, but mostly through winning clients. And just kind of the size of the project, we work on getting slightly bigger and bigger. Most of that is kind of fixed price website development work, which is quite a dangerous place to live in. If you’ve, you know, you’re not very good at quoting, and managing the work and all the rest of it. So you learn some lessons, the tough way and some of the easy way off other people, you know, seven years on or whatever it is now, almost to the end of February, seven years on Yeah. You know, we’ve got really robust project management procedures now in place, really good quote, and processes in place. So there’s a large part of our kind of work sort of sticks around that fixed price web of work. But then four or five years ago, we kind of moved into the SEO space, and then that’s kind of amalgamated into the digital marketing space, that makes up a very large percentage of our revenue as well now, and we have like in house like strategy managers and SEO strategists. So it’s kind of culminated in us moving into a new office in December last year. So the year before last even now, December 2019. Yeah, 2019, even sorry, yeah. And I’m with you used to be a bar and we left the bar in Leicester taps on she can come up a pint in the office and all that kind of stuff. And we’ve got 14 guys that kind of work flexibly from the office and from home. So that’s kind of a really short rundown.

Alex Holliman: And that fixed price web dep everything is how’s that received by clients in terms of helping avoid, like project like, scope creep? And that kind of stuff? Do you have to manage that quite well?

Doug Dinwiddie: Yeah, I mean, scope creep, between me and my ops manager is one of our favourite subjects these days. So yeah, like we, you know, it’s part of the commissioning with us is that you’ll kind of adhere to our project managers, procedures, project management procedures. So that includes like the way feedback is given even has to be given in our our kind of way of feedback being given and we make people really clear about that. And, you know, it’s one of the things that I think when you first start moving into that realm, you’re kind of worried that it might be taken badly by the client in some way. But I think actually, it’s a reverse. I think the moment you start dictating to clients like this is a way it’s gonna work and kind of having a little bit of that creative licence. I think it kind of adds kudos and credibility to the, to the whole thing, the moment you go, like been down this road before, you don’t want to do that, you need to do this. I think all that adds so. So generally, we don’t get much pushback, we actually have a slide in our proposal now, which says all the things that are not included in a project, we actually, like, dictate it right at the very start in a nice way, obviously, but it just kind of, you know, really enforces the fact that, you know, the this is kind of defined project and defined finished day or finished article and the date at which that will be done. And as long as it doesn’t creep outside of what is included in that project, then we can hit that date without too much trouble. And I think it’s received really well, to be honest, you know, like to know that they’re going with someone that’s got history and experience, I think.

Alex Holliman: Yeah, this isn’t your first rodeo.

Doug Dinwiddie: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think if you can show that through action, sorry. I think if you can show that through action, rather than just saying that as well. You know, you’ve actually got, you can see it in the things that you say and the way your proposal looks and the certain things that you say in a presentation meeting. I think that comes across, you don’t have to sit there and say like, this isn’t our first rodeo. I think it’s really obvious to see once you start coming out with a lot of things that we say when we get to that stage.

Alex Holliman: Yeah, you’re giving a client confidence is something that a, for an agency is a really invaluable skill to have.

Doug Dinwiddie: Yeah. Agreed.

Alex Holliman: So what sort of stuff that you do on a day to day basis Doug?

Doug Dinwiddie: Personally, on a personal level. I haven’t got a finance manager here. But that’s because I quite like numbers of maths. So I do a lot in the finance manager. So I quite like that side of things. I do a lot of networking. I play a lot of golf. I used to be professional caddy for pro golfers on the European tour. So I I have I don’t know, when if I take potential clients or clients to the golf course, I generally kind of get on quite well. So I’ve got plenty of old stories to talk about the old days when I was younger and travelling the world. So that kind of helps at networking. But a lot of what I do really is networking, getting out meeting people still do quite a lot of business development stuff, although I’d never really get involved in sales anymore. I just kind of do the network and business development side of things, which is a big part of my role. And then, once a week, I sit in an SMT meeting and catch up with the guys and make sure that they’ve got all their ducks in a row in the senior management team. But then for the vast majority of the rest of the week, the guys are going to take care of running you know that kind of little part of the business and they kind of look after it for the day to day for the most part so I get to play a lot of golf basically to be honest with you.

Alex Holliman: The golf came through loud and clear. Do you ever throw games to curry favour with clients?

Doug Dinwiddie: Absolutely not absolutely not very competitive when it comes to a golf course very competitive with the thing with golf you got a handicap and yes, you can always be kind of generous with the handicap. And the golf course is an interesting one because you really get to understand the person going and playing a game of golf. Like if you get annoyed at a bad shot, like you can learn that about them. If they get a bad degrees, you can learn how they react to that if they’re gonna start trying to roll a golf ball out their trouser leg and cheat and things like that. You can also learn a lot about a person like that. So it’s a really interesting place. Plus the fact that you’re there for you know, on and off the golf course from like go for like four or five hours. So you really get to know someone. It’s like a really natural like way to kind of network and meet people, rather than sitting in a BNI and telling people you 60 seconds or whatever the thing.

Alex Holliman: Yeah, absolutely. I have never been around the golf. I’ve never I don’t think I’ve been bending clubs around the trees.

Doug Dinwiddie: Yeah, I used to bend my clubs when I wasn’t really buying them. But now I pay for them and a lot more cautious. Yeah, it can be a frustrating game. I was lucky though. You know, I started my dad started me at the age of dots. So it’s not too difficult, really. But if you’re just starting out in life, it’s a horrible, difficult game to get into.

Alex Holliman: So to get a feel for who you are, if you could invite four people past or present to a meal would they be?

Doug Dinwiddie: Very good question. I’ve always said one person, I’d like to go for a pint with Jeremy Clarkson just finished watching Jeremy Clarkson farm for the second time over it makes me want to buy a farm. And I think Jeremy can do it. Anyone must be able to do it.

Alex Holliman: I think he came across quite well in that he was still. But I think a lot of fun was posed to him. He sort of was the straight man almost.

Doug Dinwiddie: Yeah, I think he does really well being like self deprecating humour sort of thing. And but then, I don’t know, I think he was able to show exactly how difficult it really is. But then I think you’ve got to show like all the good stuff as well. And He’s surprisingly caring about the environment. And he cares about things being done, right. But he kind of portrays it in a very laissez faire casual kind of way. So he’s interesting. I’m just finishing this Will Smith’s book, at the moment which I was recommended by someone. And I never really thought much of it. Although I do quite quite like watching his films. And if you listen to his book and his life story and everything that you can literally piece together why he is the way he is as well as it goes through the whole thing. Another chapter is doing crazy things at the moment it wants to unpopular Nate Mars and all the rest of it is Elon Musk, I think it’d be a lot of people that probably wouldn’t mind having a drink or bite to eat with him. I think there’s a lot to just pick his brain actually to what he’s like in real person for half an hour, 45 minutes or so.

Alex Holliman: And to have those visions that you had in terms of to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, to make humanity a multiplanetary species and have that yeah, I’d like to get a few more clients in the business and that kind of thing. And that’s enough of a stretch for us for that kind of just next level,

Doug Dinwiddie: Another level, you know, he comes up with things that say, the world underpopulated in the house rationale for the outcome. The fact that loads underpopulated moment when the vast majority is saying it’s overpopulated. So you’d be lovely to pick his brain because he seems to see the world in a different way and most, and then often finally, just because I’m, like, geeking out on cryptocurrencies and offer alternative forms of like money at the moment is Satoshi Nakamoto. I think it’d be interesting to pick his brain the guy who actually thought of it before anybody else, you know, just to try and see where he thought it was all gonna go to or where he thinks it’s all gonna go to

Alex Holliman: What thing what a thing

Doug Dinwiddie: Crypto currency and fiat currency and hyperinflation and whether or not they’ll actually make it as an actually trusted form of money in the years to come, so called store of value or whatever the whole thing is, it’d just be really nice and pick his brain if he is even real. Who isn’t more, who knows?

Alex Holliman: So in terms of the work side of things, then What project are or piece of work, what are you most proud of?

Doug Dinwiddie: There’s a company called host and stay who we develop multiple site for in the end, very complicated kind of domain structure with like, loads of subdomains for their franchisees and things. It was a hotly debated topic at the time. And we’re still in discussions about whether it’s correct to do what we’ve done and all that kind of stuff. But their business model is changing, those subdomains are probably going to disappear in the not too distant future anyway, just because the way they’ve changed the way they were. And it definitely really doesn’t have much bearing now. So I actually met Dale Smith, who heads up that company or group of companies now playing golf, actually, he checked in on me to get a half at the end of around the golf once. And we just became really good friends and stayed in touch ever since. He used to work in the automotive industry, but his family had a lot holiday lets, and then he decided he could start managing those holiday lets a little bit better than the people that were managing them. So he started managing his family holiday, lets, I think they’ve now got 450 properties that they look after. And that’s been in a very quick, I’m guessing, certainly not more than four years. But I think more than three years kind of journey now for them. And white digital was like a really big part of kind of moving them along and, and helping them both go their direct book into their own site, but also helping to like generate enquiries for properties to manage as well. So they’re kind of quite a big success story for us, really, and also quite close to our heart because they’re good friends as well. So they’re probably better we want to talk one thought. The other reason why sorry, just to carry on with that the reason why that’s such a nice piece of piece of work for us is because we pride ourselves on more complicated work. We want to be asked questions that we don’t necessarily know the answers to straight away. And that was kind of really ticked those boxes, you know, it made us think outside the box about a number of different things, not just the domain structure, but also the way that API’s integrate across multiple sites and things like that, as well. And then multiple API’s are different accounts as well. So it was like, it was quite a complicated thing to work on. Now, we’re less focused on focus on the development, we’re more focused on the marketing side of that thing. And it’s kind of asked in a couple of other different questions as well as there. So it’s been a good project, because we’ve been able to, like, grow our own offering. But it’s also been really nice, because even though we’re growing, it’s kind of still sits right in our wheelhouse, which has been the perfect kind of projects.

Alex Holliman: Absolutely. And sometimes it’s the more complex briefs, which place significant demands on you and the team, that really gives you the opportunity to step up the simple ones that you look at in the open spec at the pub, there’s Yeah, not so much of a challenge there. But it’s the complex ones, where you really have to be on point and tested to the sort of limits where you sort of really grow.

Doug Dinwiddie: Yeah, and I think this like, that’s that one thing, like, you know, especially when you’re starting out, you may be more in a position where it’s like, can you just say yes to things and, you know, jump off the cliff and try and build your parachute on the way down sort of mentality, I think when you get to a certain size of business, that’s probably not really the right attitude to take a lot of the time, you know, like, we’re not going to jump out tomorrow and start, I don’t know, building like a CRM system for someone or something like that, because it’s just not really in our, in our wheelhouse really to do that. And there’s no real need to do that for us. Whereas like a host and state comes along and the questions that we’re being asked, it’s, it’s a, maybe you’re testing yourself, but it’s still in the wheelhouse of the things that you do. So you’re not jumping off a cliff, you may be just setting your sights a little bit higher. And I think it’s kind of understanding where you are in that as to whether or not you take things on or don’t take things on.

Alex Holliman: So the whole point of this podcast is to try and help clients select the best agencies to help them with their business objectives. What’s one of the some of the worst piece of advice, you’ve heard client be given or sort of the shadiest thing you’ve heard an agency do?

Doug Dinwiddie: I mean, the obvious ones, like just pricing ridiculously low for things. And I think it’s a difficult a difficult one on that pricing thing, because, you know, we certainly not the cheapest agency, when it comes to web dev, it’s going around, but we don’t price unfairly actually in fact the development team actually don’t even see the financial numbers that go on a proposal at all, they literally work just in time and nothing else. Because we don’t want them to be looking at something and thinking, Oh, this is going to be too expensive, or this isn’t going to be expensive enough. So we just want them to just be honest with the time that it’s gonna take to deliver something. And then we multiply it by a day rate. And that’s how we get to the financial side of things. So it’s kind of completely removed, but then you you know, you might go and quote a project to 10 grand or something like that. And then the client comes back and said, oh, this person said, they’ll do it for 1000 pounds for us. And you’re like, yeah, yeah, they’re gonna charge you 1000 pounds, but that’s going to be a completely different finished article than what what we’re discussing over here? Like they’re two completely different projects, you know? And very rarely is it the, you know, is it necessarily the right decision to take the cheaper one, I think the big, the big thing for them, really for me is make sure that you’re  comparing oranges with oranges, really, you know, like, having to find, like, understand like what kind of business you are, and like what sort of finished product you’re actually looking for. And then actually kind of go and choose choose from what you think is going to be the best finish article. Because sometimes cheap can be really, really, really expensive. Like you could end up having like a lot of missed opportunity down actually not really getting the job done the way you wanted it to be done in the first place. So I think it’s really trying to make sure you pick an agency, and given that agency enough time to actually be able to deliver the finished article that you’re actually looking for.

Alex Holliman: Yeah, absolutely. So sometimes it’s like if you buy cheap you buy twice, and you can end up in a situation where you have to then totally revisit a project six months down the line.

Doug Dinwiddie: Yeah, yeah. And we actually have had that, you know, where people have gone and chosen the cheaper option. And then, you know, they come back to it. And that was the wrong decision actually just gone with you in the first place. actually happened just before Christmas. And it’s always on the cheaper project projects, you know, it’s never on the 25, grand 50 grand project, it’s always on the one that it’s like, can you squeeze this out for 1500 quid or something, and someone comes and offers to do it for 600, it’s always on those little ones. And it’s kinda like, for the vast majority of the time appears anywhere, it’s always just like, he’s trying to watch with Penny, which, you know, it’s a case of like, if the return you’re wanting the value you’re wanting back is a website of this kind of quality, like is the agency that are doing it are they going to be getting the benefit out of that like is the amount of that I’m paying them still going to be a benefit for them, and they’re gonna get return on the investment for this piece of work as well. And it’s trying to make sure that you’re looking after the other side as much as you’re looking after your side and making sure that you’re both kind of working toward the same finished article

Alex Holliman: When when the clients briefing you how important is it that they share with the budgets?

Doug Dinwiddie: I’ve never really understood not sharing a budget, to be honest with you. Like, I understand that some people may not have the budget, because they literally just don’t really know how much this sort of thing costs. And there’s, there’s an honest kind of, there’s an honesty to that. And, you know, there’s an honesty to like, I’ve never had a proper website built for a proper business before with an integration of an API or some funky bit of functionality or anything like that, I get that they just, it says as long as a piece of string. And that’s sometimes we have to start like throwing some estimates out there. For like what you think that sort of thing might end up costing, but you get more and more accurate, over the time. But the most common thing people say is I don’t really want to give you my budget, because you’ll just put it to the top of the budget. And it’s like, but they if that’s not your budget, like if you’re saying that 10,000 pounds your budget, but you don’t want to say it because I’m going to make the project 10,000 pounds, well then tell me your budget, 1000 pounds, and I’ll figure out a product that’s going to fit an 8000 pound budget. Because the difficulty you have is, you know, if you quote in how most agencies quote, which is on time it takes to deliver a thing. And you have a scoping document that says that it wants to be an e commerce website, integrate into the E POS system that integrates with x y Zed that does this and has this really funky calculator or something on the side to build a product and bits particular product. You know, depending on how much design goes into it, and how much time spent on dev and what sort of software that can completely change the amount of time it’s going to deliver that project. It may also go go down the route where because your budget is x, you physically can’t have all that functionality right now because it just is never going to be able to be delivered by that project. So personally, I think if if you if you’re going to an agency and you want a website, developers that have the budget set aside, but tell the budget, that actually is not what you kind of hope it might be. If you’ve got a 10,000 pound budget, just kind of say that that’s what it is for now.

Alex Holliman: And then for a client then. So if if you’ve got a budget, how do you feel about pitches where a client gives the same brief like to a group of agencies, same brief, same budget, and that kind of stuff? What do you think about what can the client do to get maximum value from that kind of process?

Doug Dinwiddie: I would say that’s probably not a bad, not a bad route to go down. To be brutally honest with you. I think as long as the quality of the brief is high enough. So one of the things that we changed in our briefing process, probably two, maybe three years ago now we started using what’s called the Moscow technique for for scoping. So that’s must have, should have could have and won’t have. It’s just a really easy way of saying that. So then you can say okay, my budgets 10,000 pounds. The website absolutely must have these aspects. It really should have these aspects. It could have these aspects, but it will never regardless of budget have these aspects. That’s so then it means that when we’re trying to put together a budget proposal, a package for 10,000 pounds, we can kind of work out that, okay, it’s definitely going to have all the must haves, it’ll have all this should have. But it’s only going to have these two could haves, because we can’t fit the rest in that kind of project. So if you arranged your briefs in that way, I think and then go into agencies, other agencies may be able to, to like fit more things in or budget, or they might already have a piece of code that’s going to save them time on something like that. So I think that’s probably a really good way to go about it as long as you brief really tidy.

Alex Holliman: And what was that called? Again?

Doug Dinwiddie: The Moscow technique, Moscow, Moscow technique. Yeah, must. It’s kinda like nicking a bit bit of stuff together and ended up with Moscow.

Alex Holliman: I like it I think it’s good. So what factors are included in some of the best briefs that you’re seen Doug?

Doug Dinwiddie: It’s dependent a little bit on the type of website is I mean, like, if you, you know, some of the most complicated websites actually deliver actually e commerce sites. And it’s definitely not really to do with the actual, like, the nuts and bolts of the actual website is generally all sits around this, the product information, the CSV and things like that, you know, and like CSV work can be exceptionally long, exceptionally time consuming, and ergo accepting the expense. And if you go to the wrong place to do it, you know, because information can if especially you’ve got 1000s upon 1000s of products that can be covered, like a really time consuming thing. So if it’s, if it’s an E commerce stuff, it’s like really having a good understanding around like, what sort of position or your product information is in, you know, like, how easy is it to hand things like that. And I think if you just use that, as an example around for all projects, I think it’s just having a really good understanding of what you want out of it, of what it looks, what the end product actually looks like. And I think, like a really easy way of doing that. And it’s one of the questions, it’s in our scoping doc, as well as go and have a look at your competitors, go and have a look at the things that they’re doing well, and the things that you think that’s actually quite good. Also have a look at the things that you think they’re not doing very well, and think about places where you can kind of go and maybe do better than them on things, and then go away from your competitors as well, and go and have a look at maybe other similar sort of markets to if an estate agent, maybe look at recruitment, you know, they’re both kind of similar sort of models, they’re trying to stay engaged and try and find vendors and buyers for properties. Recruiters are trying to find clients and candidates at the same time, you know, like they  can have similar sort of models, and maybe go and have a look, look and get really good understanding of the things that you want to be in that, that proposal. So that brief before you can take it off to the agencies, maybe even get an agency to help build the brief for you in the first place. And then go and pitch it if you want it to be like that, you know, because genuinely good scope, agency that has a good scope and process will be asking you all the right questions to get that information out with you in the first place.

Alex Holliman: Absolutely. And that can’t that covers two things, one, so that you can get the most accurate quote possible. But then also for the agency is about making sure that the client is a good fit for the agency, because sometimes that agency client fit isn’t always there. And there’ll be a better agency to suit the demands of a project for whatever reason.

Doug Dinwiddie

Absolutely. And and that, you know, when you’re going out to pick those agencies accountable, how much similar work had been done in the past? You know, like how over experienced are they, as well.

Alex Holliman: Awesome. So then what sort of stuff can the client do to check up on an agency to make sure that their reputation is good?

Doug Dinwiddie: Number one is obviously looking at reviews. Like that’s the easiest place to go and find out things about an agency, read the reviews properly, like, you know, like and actually make sure that they are like bonafide reviewed, you know, like generally it’d come from a business now the business name in there, go and check the business go and check the agency portfolio page and make sure that there’s actually a portfolio piece about that business or go and check their website and have a look in the footer and see if the links in there. Google I’ve got a really interesting function on their Google My Business pages now. Where you can see the the frequency of words are being used, and in the reviews as well. So you can see how often like, for example, team, the word team is used a lot in ours. You know, so you can kind of see the real benefits of appliquer agency and what multiple people think about that agency. And so that’s a really good place to go. If you really want to be really astute, go and have a look at their portfolio page, find out some of the businesses, moving those businesses up and, you know, then ask a question, get some references, don’t ask them. I think that’s kind of what generally happens if you’re being referred to an agency. Anyway, someone’s gonna say they were really good, go and speak to them. If you’re going to an agency without a referral, you know, maybe go and try and like speak to some of them as well and get a feel for them. I think you’ll quite quickly find out who’s a good agency and who’s not who’s a bad agency. When you look at things like that,

Alex Holliman: Absolutely, and I think the whole speaking to existing clients thing is sometimes we get asked that by clients, if they come in through a more tenuous referral to the agency, they’re just looking for a bit of confidence. And we’ve got, obviously a whole portfolio of very happy clients. And then we’ve got clients where projects have come to an end, they maybe haven’t worked as well as they could’ve done. And so it’s always interesting, we’ve got one client that actually built an in house team, and then asked, shuffled us towards the door and pushed us out, we ended that situation with quite a lot of grace, so that we always then asked him to speak to potential new clients, because it gives you a view of that full spectrum, not just in terms of the onboarding and delivery the project is how things are handled at exit as well.

Doug Dinwiddie: Very true. Yeah.

Alex Holliman: So what what are the signs that say an agency is either a good or a bad fit for a client?

Doug Dinwiddie: I think there’s like a, you know, it’s a multiple of a lot of stuff that we’ve really kind of gone through so far, but I think there’s like, I would, I would say, being in an agency on is bringing on, you know, if you’re gonna bring a staff member on and put them on PAYE, and pay their pension, and pay the national insurance, and all the rest of that kind of stuff, you’re more than likely, I would hope going to set some KPIs for that individual, you’re going to have like some form of job description and responsibilities or accountabilities, you’re maybe going to have some, like, the overarching requirements of the role or something, you know, you’re gonna have a framework for that individual or work within, you know, and if you don’t provide that framework, you’re probably doing them a bit of a disservice, because they don’t really know what they are supposed to be doing. And I would say that, you know, bringing in an agency, although they’re kind of out there going to be outsourced. And, and, you know, you’re not going to have any redundancy payments or anything like that, maybe you still want to give that agency the the best chance possible to achieve the outcome that you’re hoping to achieve by hiring them. So how can it apply a similar sort of thought process towards bringing an agency on, you know, make sure you’ve got a really clearly defined like outcome that you want to achieve and set KPIs against that if you want to set, you can certainly do that, when it comes to marketing, you know, you can certainly say that, this is actually the thing that I really care about happening. Like most of times an increase in revenue, or at least inquiries or something that really matters, rather than a vanity metric, like traffic are a vanity metric value. And I don’t know, dwell time or something like that, that can be changed, but without without any actual tangible results or the back of it. So I’ve set set reasonable KPIs, and then talk to them about the expectations that you’re gonna have throughout the project, and then talk to them about the expectations, they’re going to have a view throughout the project. I mean, one of our main things is, like I said earlier, is the fact that if you come along with the project with especially the fixed price stuff, but also the market and things, we’re going to ask you to adhere to our project management procedures, because we know that’s how we can get a project delivered in an efficient way. If you’re speaking to an agency that is maybe not strong enough, and that sort of stuff. And that’s going to be going to raise some red flags, because you need to make sure that the that there’s value provided each way and that relationship by that agency is going to make profit out of you, and you want them to make profit out of you. Because otherwise, eventually, they’re not going to be around anymore to support you. So it’s making sure that that is the right agency, and they’re going to be able to deliver in a profitable way. But then you’re also sure that you’re going to hit the KPIs that you set in place, or the actual, the outcomes that you need out in the project as well. So I think, being as responsible about their side of the deal as it is about your side of the deal.

Alex Holliman: Yeah. And I think increasingly, this is what we’re recording this in January 22. And at the moment, there is a massive, like demand for talent. And so salary is going through the roof and serving agencies and agencies doing work cheaply. You have to question the actual quality of the staff that we place on the project because anyone who’s anyone, we’re just experiencing a significant inflation in wages. And that’s somewhere.

Doug Dinwiddie: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Like 100%. You know, like, you know, we’re at Northeast based agency, and the talent pool is, has been okay for us really, up until now. We’re slowly starting it starting to struggle a bit trying to find the talent that we need, really. But I think we’re seeing that across the board, you know, like, I mean, big agencies, such as the Social chain, you know, people now getting on a Dragon’s Den and whatnot. You know, two of my staff have been headhunted by the social chain in the last six months, you know, the boats are starting, they want to stay where they where they are, but you know, that sort of thing is happening more and more and more all the time. So that has an effect on agencies and all the rest of it. But it all goes back to that point you were making earlier. You know, sometimes if you buy cheap you will end up buying twice. If it’s a 10,000 pound project and someone’s offering to do it for a grand that should be a big red flag there because there’s a reason why that one person saying it’s going to be that figure and the other person’s not. So I think it’s kind of managing that side of things and making sure it is a profitable exercise for the agency, because you need that you need to make sure that they’re watching out for themselves.

Alex Holliman: Absolutely. And so when you’re pitching to a client, do introduce the team that’s going to be working on the project delivery side of things.

Doug Dinwiddie: I mean, you sort of do, like, you know, they’re in the proposal and this little picture and a bit of a bit of bump about each of the guys. But But no, not really, that’s mostly down to an efficiency thing. You know, like, my guy’s going and meeting a potential client that isn’t a client yet, when he could actually be working on a piece of work for a client, you know, would make the agency less efficient. So everything that we’ve done really is to, like compartmentalise different parts of the business to make sure they run as efficiently as possible. So when a scoping brief goes into the say, the design and development team, it is not only is it scoping brief, but it’s also what we call a quoting document, which is like a more like, which is well basically the time goes into. And then like a full kind of sitemap so we can understand what what the full sitemap looks like. So really, when the dev design and dev team go and look into that, it’s a very quick exercise for them, they can understand what the sitemap looks like, they understand what the scope looks like, and they have the document, they’re ready to apply the time to each of the tasks that are going to be involved in delivering that piece of work, we’re all in an effort to try and cut down on the amount of time that we spend quoting projects up. So when it comes down to introducing the team now that, like the,

Alex Holliman: I think what you’re doing very clearly is setting the expectation about who’s going to be working on the accounts and like, again, giving the client clarity in that.

Doug Dinwiddie: Absolutely. And what we do. So Mike is our operations manager, also a project manager, he can might have like a couple of things to say here and there. But the first part when the project gets commissioned is not the last thing to create a brief like the look and feel. And then there’s an introduction to Mike who, who like planned the whole project out. And then from that moment on, it kind of gets a feel for it. And but really, up until that point, the team’s really only responsibility to get that time in the court and done.

Alex Holliman: Perfect. So in your mind, Doug, how important are awards that an agency has won in terms of should the client be only selecting agencies that have won awards or not?

Doug Dinwiddie: Good question, I think if it’s, if it’s an award of value, I think it’s probably want to be like, like respected and, and kind of noted. And I know some quite bad agencies, agencies that have won a lot of awards. So I think I’d do research on what the award was and what the criteria was before, like putting a load of Weigh in that award. And if it’s a good award, then I would apply a lot of weight to it. I think if it’s like a lesser of an award, I think I’d probably kind of ignore it for the most part and go back to like having a look at reviews, whether it’s Google Trustpilot, wherever. And also maybe contacting some existing clients and getting a little bit of feedback and a reference from those guys, really, that’s probably where I’d put more weight.

Alex Holliman: And then in terms of for agencies, how important are an agency’s values

Doug Dinwiddie: Very. I don’t and I don’t mean values by the fact they’ve got a page about values on their website, by the way, I mean, values, I think, through the process of going through a scoping and a quoting process with an agency, I think you can probably get a feel for what their true values really are, when you’re going through that process. You know, like we’ve and I say, this has been an agency that’s got all of our values on the page on our website. Well, to be honest with you, but I think, you know, one of ours is honesty. And I think like, I would like to say that you you get a sense of that honestly, by speaking to us and going through the through a quote in a scope and and quoting process with us, rather than it just being on on the site somewhere and not really ever kind of lived. Yeah. And I think you’ll pick that up both through the scope and and quote, quoting process, and generally speaking to the agency and getting a feel, but also kind of going through, like their reviews on Google and speaking to clients, I think you’ll really get an understanding of what they’re like through that.

Alex Holliman: Absolutely. So values are met by action, wherever that is like when you’re speaking to them by the work they’ve done, how they come across the conversation, the awkward conversations. So sometimes in a client agency relationship, we will have to push back on the client rather than avoiding the issue. And so there is that sort of honesty about actually having those difficult conversations when we want to or not.

Doug Dinwiddie: Yeah, and I think that’s a that pushing back on our clients like a really, really good thing to bring up there actually, like an agency, an agency worth their salt will push back when the time is right on certain things, you know, could really, as an agency, I hope my number one goal is either providing them like really killer website or actually given a financial return on investment when it comes to marketing and things like that, like, that’s got to be my number one goal. And if I ever feel like it’s getting into a position where we can’t provide the value that they need in return for the cost of it coming back our way, then it needs to be pushed back on, you know, otherwise, you end up going down the road that has a worse outcome further down the road. So I think having an agency that is going to sit there and say, I’ll be honest, that’s not possible doing it that way. That’s actually a really great agency to have, if you find someone who’s got the honesty and the courage to stand up and say those sort of things like that’s a sort of agency I’d be looking for,

Alex Holliman: Are there any red flags, things that clients should look out for when speaking to agencies?

Doug Dinwiddie: I think you’ve, you’ve kind of alluded to one a little bit early, you know, going and getting a brief and going to speak into a number of agencies. And I think from that, you’ll probably see the outliers in that, you know, if you’re going to speak to three agencies, and two quote 10 grant and one quote five grand, you know, there’s, that’s probably a bit of a red flag for me. The other red flag, a big red flag for me is if they’re not talking about project management, and if they’re not talking about managing time, in any way, shape, or form, I think that would be a kind of red flag for me. The big one, the big one, for me, is the reason why I’m especially on a fixed price project. The reason why that’s so dangerous is if you don’t clearly define what finished look like looks like. If you don’t have a really, really, really clear definition for like, this is what is completed when this is when it has all of these things, then you’ve actually got no real way to finish a project because like scope, creep and creep in. And that project becomes a never finishing project. So I think if you’re going into a process, and the agency has not got a really defined scope process that’s asking all of the questions to garnish all of the information that they might need to be able to finish a project and finish it Well, I would probably see that as a really big flag. As an example, actually, when we moved into this office, it needed a lot of work doing to it. And I had a builder come in, and I was walking around going, Oh, that needs done that needs to manage them that needs and he was just kind of stood there nodding his head as I was like are you gonna write any of this down this sort of thing. And he’s like, no, no, I just remember it. And I was like, I don’t think that’s gonna go too well here, because I’m gonna come back to you after. So you know what, I asked you to do that as well. Oh, no, that wasn’t included. And I’m gonna go well, definitely we spoke about. So I think it’s really having a defined scoping process, which creates a really defined brief, that’s really what you need an agent to be looking at, like not skipping through it and trying to speed you through to some kind of sale like taking time and actually making sure that it’s done right

Alex Holliman: That makes that makes a lot of sense. And so then bringing things to a close that we say this is to really admire in your space?

Doug Dinwiddie: Is certainly certain ones have managed to become enormous. Like I mean, social chain, for example, like floating on stock exchange, that seems like a pretty crazy thing to have gotten to. Funnily enough, there’s some, there’s some bigger agencies that actually have ended up having quite bad reputations as well. So there’s an interesting exercise as we grow to understand just like whether you can keep up the level of service and customer care and all the rest of it when you become 200 Strong. 250 strong, like, is that even physically possible? Like that’s a really interesting game to figure out about how you manage to do that, with a small team.

Alex Holliman: Like it comparatively speaking to 250 people? Yeah, easy to instil the value of customer service customer make clients feel like, like your wife that they’re the only woman in life and yeah, approach to things. But I think then, as you grow, you end up having multiple wives. Nancy probably isn’t the most appropriate.

Doug Dinwiddie: That was definitely a road. You don’t want to go down there. Yeah.

Alex Holliman: Your care and attention. Yeah, maybe sort of slips a little bit.

Doug Dinwiddie: Yeah. And it’s interesting thing, because, like, it’s easy to go big is better, but I don’t, I don’t always know. That’s the case. Like, it’s impressive that people have managed to get to that size, like the social change and the world and everything like that. But it’s a case of like, like the quality of work that, you know, gets delivered. And we come across sites all the time that we’re like, look at that you’re really good website, really solid piece of work. And we adopt people’s paid accounts. And we think actually, this is really neat and tidy and really well structured, you get the opposite sometimes as well. So for me, it’s like the quality of the work. And I think there’s also like, I think there’s like doing your time a little bit you get some people that will grow at a rate of knots going this direction, but kinda leaving a trail of chaos behind them a little bit and I think if you look at an agency that my favourite one of my favourites sayings is the accumulation of successful actions over time. Like, I think if you just compounding one successful action after another in a road, eventually you’d have to be really unlucky to not end up becoming more successful and growing as an agency. And I think that I think that happens over time. And I think there’s like a solidity to a business that’s growing strongly. So I look at like, you know, local northeast, agencies, silver being people like that, that are like really strong agencies that have grown over time. And I think they look like they’re doing stuff. Right. You know. And I think that can only happen by having successful client relationships and successful outcome for campaigns over and over and over again, I repeat.

Alex Holliman: Absolutely. I can’t remember who said it, but it was compounding is the eighth wonder of the world. I’ll probably paraphrase.

Doug Dinwiddie: Yeah, I think it was Einstein that said that, well, you might get misquoted with that. But I’m fairly confident was an Einstein thing that Yeah.

Alex Holliman: Awesome this thing got most of the people find out more about you online?

Doug Dinwiddie: Yeah, I mean, like, I’m fairly active on LinkedIn, and generally out for coffees and lunches and golf a lot of the time to be honest with you so you can catch me Douglas Dinwiddie on LinkedIn, or you can kind of get in touch on our website, you know, you can come visit our website, get in touch and making, you know, catch up. Grab a game of golf, if you’re a golfer or lunch if you’re not a golfer.

Alex Holliman: Perfect. Thanks for joining me today.

Doug Dinwiddie: Absolute pleasure, Alex.

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