For a client, the process of selecting the right digital consultants involves research and inquiry paired with relationship building. Likewise, a digital consultancy considering a potential client should evaluate whether there is alignment across product objectives, vision, and development approaches. After all, a common understanding is at the core of any successful relationship, and business partnerships are no different.
At Apply Digital, we call this critical step in business development the mutual exploration stage. It’s defined by three core questions designed to ensure that businesses partner with the right clients for a successful collaboration and long-term growth and success.
#1 A Worthy Impact?
At the core of any solution is a deep understanding of the desired outcome.
Before diving into an exploration of the solutions, it’s important to take a deeper look at a potential client’s goals. It is critical to understand the impact on their business as well as their end customer.
In Apply Digital’s case, this step would look something like this. A retailer reaches out to us about building an app in the eCommerce space. We’d examine whether an app would actually boost revenue and at the same time make the end customers’ lives better. If we discover that building an app will fail to deliver on our dual impact criteria, we will try to pivot the client’s approach to ensure business and end customer alignment. For us finding this alignment is critical as that is what makes the impact of our work worthy.
#2 Are Expectations Around Spending and the End Product Balanced?
Businesses are always looking to strike the right balance between budgetary constraints and creating a quality product that meets or exceeds targeted KPIs. But when it comes to a range of measures including return on investment, customer loyalty, and organic growth, quality outranks cost constraints every time.
The key to developing a successful product comes down to spending each dollar efficiently, and with a goal in mind. Beginning with a strategic framework and market insights, working from an agile framework, and planning for continued growth post-launch is the best way to stretch a budget while building a product that meets — and often exceeds — business goals. On the other hand, saving on cost by cutting corners may offer short-term benefits, but will never result in long-term success.
At Apply Digital, we never put cost-cutting in front of the long-term success of a project. Our focus is on whether we’re able to provide what it takes to deliver a product built to support business objectives fully. We work with our prospective clients to define the key features and benefits that would need to be included to create a competitive Minimum Viable Product (MVP). In this way, we can set realistic expectations that match budget limitations. At the same time, we build products with a foundation that can support future evolution, as its in-market success opens up more funding for refinement and updates at a later date.
#3 How Well Do We Get Along?
Each company has its own culture, a mesh of personalities, visions, and values. When partnering with a client, it’s critical to consider whether your team could work well with theirs, both on a personal and professional level. After all, partnerships come down to collaboration, communication, and many hours spent face to face solving challenges. This is an important part of the qualification process because a healthy interpersonal dynamic drives the best work.
Evaluating the ‘personal factor’ doesn’t come down to asking the right questions. Instead, it will be based on the impression left by pitch meetings, emails, and other simple interactions. Key team members should be given the opportunity to weigh in as well.
The business world is competitive, and it can be easy to get caught up in fighting to win the next client. Being chosen as a vendor out of many competitors feels incredible. But slowing things down, and leading business development opportunities with mutual exploration is the best way to win in the long run.
That’s because a business partnership is a relationship, and the success of a working partnership between a business and a client hinges on how well values and vision align. Agreement at the outset on a project’s impact, striking the right balance between budgetary constraints and expectations, and interpersonal chemistry are key to standing out in the market, meeting business objectives, and creating something worth making in the long run.
As Senior Director of Business Development, Alison Hawkyard is responsible for finding, qualifying, and closing new business opportunities that help us exceed our growth goals. She works to uncover a client’s pain points and collaborates with coworkers to develop solutions. Alison has worked in an agency environment for over 10 years, focusing on enabling growth through customer and brand experience. Co-written by Liz Goode.