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A Guide on Choosing the Best Digital Product Agency

By Nick Epson on June 8, 2021

You have a few different options at your disposal to get an app to market – as a digital product agency, we want our prospects to be as informed as possible before starting this journey. While there are any number of agencies around the world that can design and develop an app, there are few that can combine engineering and design prowess along with strategic insight to help businesses launch successful, revenue-generating products

Knowing what to look for is key to getting your needs met. Here, we’re going to discuss the various options at your disposal then cover a handful of qualities you should seek when going with a full-service digital product agency.

A quick look at the DIY method vs the dev/design shop vs the digital product agency

Some will opt to assemble internal teams when they’re confident enough to know the exact skillsets required to bring their vision to life. In the past, we’ve talked about what to look for in an app developer when piecing together a team as well as additional, necessary talent you’ll require such as User Interface (UI) designers, Product Managers (PMs), and Technical Product Managers (TPMs; also sometimes referred to as Engineering Managers.)

With their powers combined, you essentially have a design and development lab on your hands that can handle creating and supporting (well, hopefully) the product. The configuration is similar to what you would find with a development and design shop but you’ll have to scale on your own with new staff, contractors, or vendors as you go. The benefit most shops offer is that they can tap into their extended network as a project evolves to supplement their efforts with additional people. This saves you a lot of time and worries as this can be a challenge when your product begins to grow.

While this works for some, a digital product agency offers substantially more services than just design and development. A true digital product agency marries the ability to build with services spanning marketing, business development, and overall design strategy.

Choosing the best digital product agency

Most (but not all) design and development labs are focused on getting the product out the door. You should also expect that they won’t be fully autonomous which means you or some appointed individual will be responsible for feeding them instructions. An agency can work alongside you to offload some of the responsibility as well as use data at their disposal to continually refine the product and strategy. Though the following isn’t an exhaustive list, the best digital product agencies should do the following.

The best agencies use a Design Sprint process 

We’ve talked about the Design Sprint process extensively over the years – it’s something that we know from our vast experience is vital to dialing a good idea into something sustainable for the long term, ideally with a great amount of growth potential as well. During this week-long event, you work with a team to research and nail down your strategy then ultimately build and test your prototype.

A digital product agency will be able to help you refine your product and business model so the two work in harmony. The Design Sprint in itself is a form of validation that tells us how close we are to our hypothesis and the deliverables required to launch the MVP so your business can start gaining traction. The architecture of the Design Sprint accomplishes what formerly took months of disjointed communication exchanges in a short timeframe which is essential to entering the market as quickly and effectively as possible.

A digital product agency will take around a week to produce a proposal for most projects 

A proposal for an app with any depth isn’t something that’s produced on the same day or even overnight. There’s a lot that goes into building an accurate estimate – the more sophisticated or novel the digital product, the more information the team will need to parse to figure costs. We recently covered this topic in detail so visit our blog “Understanding an App Development Proposal” to learn more.

They have proof of work in the industry you’re planning to enter

This is something that isn’t always completely necessary but it can help substantially in certain industries like healthcare and finance where anything electronic is subject to regulation. Mostly, it shows that the agency is well-versed with the audience’s needs and familiar with technology like well-developed, third-party APIs used to build certain feature sets.

As we’re seeing an acceleration in digital transformation across the board, it’s fairly common for agencies to be tasked with building something truly innovative. Rather than try to find a product in a company’s portfolio that perfectly matches your idea, try to picture the more granular-level details of what your product does and compare it to a parallel product. Usually, a good rule of thumb is to find a company with a diverse portfolio as this tends to indicate flexibility and creativity.

Choose an agency when you need the marketing and business support

Agencies handle much more than just the building of the product as these processes like business strategy and marketing all intertwine with one another. Though the phrase “under one roof” is becoming more of an idiom these days (many agencies are mostly virtual like us), benefits stem from the fact that these processes fall under the care of one entity.

It’s ok to partner with multiple vendors for certain portions of your business but the various processes an agency handles need cohesion to be effective. For us, our focus is on the big picture and making sure everything moves together in a system. Putting together separate entities can leave gaps, especially when their services are more cookie-cutter in nature – a lot of times, each “piece” in these more fragmented setups is usually only concerned with getting what they’re contractually obligated to deliver. If there’s some hiccup from one group, it typically translates to missed deadlines whereas, in an agency, there’s inherently better teamwork and results because of design.

In short, we collaborate better than the rest!

Agencies should provide post-launch and ongoing support

Though your first major milestone is getting an MVP to the market, that’s just the beginning. Once a product goes live, it needs to be monitored and analyzed to grow accordingly. At this point, a digital product agency becomes arguably even more valuable as our mission is to cultivate a successful model. Learning from user feedback and behavioral analytics teaches us how can improve the app through updates and future major releases.

Like any other complex system, an app needs to be regularly maintained to ensure functionality and security. We also make sure that products stay in good standing with their respective stores by keeping your app in compliance with Apple, Google, or other platform guidelines.

Great agencies are gymnast-level flexible

No, don’t ask one of our partners to do the splits. However, if we need to change something up for the best interest of your business, that’s what we do.

Blue Label Labs takes ownership of the products we help build so we want what’s best for everyone. In some cases, we take on more responsibility but other times, we adapt to business changes by toning down certain tasks when companies either build internal teams or bring on another firm to help with something. Ultimately, we just want the people we have the privilege to support through the products we create to do well.

We are a recognized digital product agency for a reason

We’ve been around the block, learning a ton from our successes and failures. We subscribe to the notion that custom, connected business services in digital product development are crucial for our clients to succeed in highly competitive spaces – we’re like the business equivalent of a Transformer in the sense that we’ll take on whatever shape we need to help you hit your goals. For more information or to discuss your idea, reach out to us today.