Buyer Beware: Skills Gap in Digital Agencies

Skills Gaps in Digital Agencies.

Buyer Beware, Skills Gaps in Digital Agencies

You need a new website and you’ve got some highly specific needs. You shop around your project to a few digital agencies, looking to get a solid quote, only to find that there are no companies out there that seem to have the ability to provide you with what you need.

Finally, you find an agency that says they can provide you with everything you desire. Web development, search engine optimisation, digital marketing support — the whole shebang. Their quote is incredibly high (much more than you were hoping) but they talked a good game. Plus they’re the only ones willing to take on the work. You offer them the contract and they take it.

Sometime later — several weeks past deadline — your agency declares your site is done. You excitedly point your web browser at it, only to find it a mess of broken links, poorly-written content that’s been optimised incorrectly, and low-quality design elements that make your site, and your business, completely amateurish. What in the world just happened?

The Biggest Problem of the Modern Age

Welcome to the most prevalent issue of the 21st century: the digital skills gap. Generations of marketers and designers have been finding their skills rapidly being outstripped by the march of technology, resulting in the ability to perform to these new technological standards clustered around a very rare few.

The digital landscape has undergone an explosive evolutionary process. At a blistering pace set by Silicon Valley, new technologies and applications have been coming fast and hard, making it nearly impossible for all but the best of the best to keep up. As a result, digital agencies have begun to struggle to cope in this increasingly hostile environment, attempting to interact with design and marketing elements they no longer understand.

Older digital agencies or marketing companies that have grown used to how things have been done decades or even just years prior lack skilled experts to bring their businesses into the modern era. These same agencies can’t gain access to these experts, as they are all either working full-time for the handful of modern digital agencies out there. These agencies are so inundated with work because of rocketing demand for services that they can’t keep up. Meanwhile, skilled contractors are so highly sought after that their rates are too high for these older agencies to afford.

The Skills Gap is Real

Before going any further, it’s imperative to establish that yes, there is indeed a skills gap when it comes to digital marketing. A number of scholarly articles have been published on the subject, and independent research has been conducted to uncover evidence of the skills gap and where it stands.

One of the most telling pieces of proof of the existence of the skills gap we have comes from education and career organisation General Assembly. After testing the digital skill understanding of upwards of 10,000 professionals working today, GA discovered that there was an outstanding difference between the skills of corporate marketers (those that primarily have experience in traditional marketing environments) and digital-native marketers (those with little or no traditional experience).

The difference was extraordinary. Digital natives, those with a strong grasp of digital marketing standards and practices, outperformed their traditional corporate marketers by an gob-smacking 73 percent. In other words, the vast majority of today’s marketing professionals are woefully under skilled when it comes to providing proper digital marketing services and support.

What the Industry Needs to Do

As bleak as the future might look at first blush, the truth is that there are ways that the digital industry can reposition itself to begin closing the skills gap. The primary concern agencies have now is to adhere to a more focused team building approach that can provide roadmap design for clients while enlisting specialists outside the agency to provide delivery.

These outside teams are ideal for providing senior strategic and technical support to agencies. In this way, experience can be offered in a wide array of new digital skillsets, allowing these outside teams to act as extensions of these agencies. This allows new digital skills to be introduced into the workplace with as little investment as possible. Clients can thus be serviced meaningfully and effectively without having to be cross-sold or up-sold services to increase agency profit margins due to the costs associated with investing in permanent teams.

Meanwhile, it’s not just technology innovation that matters. Adopting new ways of working will let the most forward-thinking agencies increase their ability to provide high-quality services to their clients even as the industry at large begins to transition to better overall digital training methods for the new generation of agency professionals.

Your Place in Avoiding the Skills Gap Trap

Industry-wide reforms to digital skills education are all well and good, but that’s hardly a solution that’s going to present itself overnight. In the meantime, you’ve still got projects that need completing. Whether it’s apps that need development or mobile site content that needs to be optimised for search, you don’t have the luxury of waiting around for the industry to right itself when it comes to skill acquisition and training.

Instead, you’ll need to develop a solid strategy for navigating the virtual minefield that is today’s digital agency environment. Keep the following guidelines in mind if you want to survive this experience:

  • Seek multiple price quotes. While it may be tempting to go with the first low bidder you come across, especially if you’re working on a time-sensitive project, don’t be too hasty here. Seeking out multiple price quotes can help you identify bidders that are either low-balling or overcharging you for the same work.
  • Always request a portfolio. If a digital agency you’re vetting doesn’t have a portfolio of prior work to show you or doesn’t have one expansive enough to your tastes, this is a strong indication they might not be the best fit for you. Look for design or marketing elements you want to see implemented in your own project.
  • Seek out prior clients. Once you’ve narrowed the field down to just one or two possible agencies, actively seek out prior clients to get a frank opinion on the agency’s abilities. This will provide you with a more complete view of the agency from the position of a client.
  • Request regular progress milestones. Once selecting an agency, ensure that you have the authority to request progress milestones on a regular basis. Doing so will enable you to evaluate the progression of the project as well as provide you with opportunities to examine the quality of the work being done on your behalf.

The Key to Success is Understanding

The skills gap is, indeed, a serious problem when it comes to sourcing work through digital agencies. However, understanding what this gap is, why it has occurred, and what you can do about managing the landscape left behind by it will make it easier to find the help you need. Learning how to spot and partner with digital agencies that do indeed have access to these integral skills will position you, and your business, for a better return on your investment.

Digital agencies seeking to partner with SEO specialists to provide delivery for client projects, or digital marketing experts  for senior strategic and technical support should contact Evolver for a confidential discussion.