To meet the ever-changing needs of clients in an increasingly online world, many integrated marketing firms – including ZAG Interactive – emerged as full-service digital agencies. We define a “digital agency” as a company that combines the disciplines of strategy, design, technology and marketing to offer primarily interactive tactics for businesses to increase their bottom line. So, why should your organization consider partnering with a digital agency like ours? The answer lies in our experience, expertise, effectiveness and energy.
While the Internet has been around for decades, businesses didn’t really start taking advantage of online marketing until the turn of the century. After the “dot-bomb” bubble burst, companies shifted their focus from being volatile online businesses to businesses marketing themselves online. During this leveling-off period, many traditional agencies began offering more online marketing services, while vertically focused digital agencies also sprouted up. The latter best describes how ZAG Interactive came into being back in 2002, after starting off as a one-person operation created by current President/CEO Larry D. Miclette. Today, ZAG brings together decades upon decades of combined experience from professionals from all kinds of industries and areas of focus. Most of our team are either died-in-the-wool digital professionals or businesspeople who gravitated towards online specializations, while working in financial, healthcare, retail, and other niche industries. Many members of our staff migrated from traditional agencies, bringing skill sets with them in account and project management, print and brand design, as well as copywriting and advertising. Everyone on the current team demonstrates specialized skills for today’s digital landscape.
Some of the roles you’d expect to find at digital agencies like ours include account managers, application developers, business development specialists, conformance experts, client service reresentatives, digital strategists, graphic designers, project managers and web developers. We employ over 50 employees, spanning from entry-level staffers, fresh out of college with new ways of thinking, as well as seasoned veterans from the corporate world, who now prefer to ply their crafts in a fast-paced, entrepreneurial environment. The staff is diverse, featuring folks from all walks of life, which is beneficial in brainstorming sessions, as well as client relationships. Well-versed in both business-to-consumer and business-to-business engagements, the team at ZAG knows how to establish and market companies on the web.
Expertise Across Disciplines
A key advantage of partnering with a digital agency is the expertise that a company focused on emerging tactics and specialty markets brings to client engagements. Whether setting out to offer electronic services or evolving to offer integrated solutions, a dependable digital agency will have a strong technological background. To wit, ZAG’s foundation was built, first and foremost, on development. The programming basis from which ZAG started still permeates every internal and client business decision throughout the office today. Whether scoping interactive tactics or enterprise solutions, our lead technical staff assist the business development team in scoping and quoting projects accurately. In turn, this ensures our client’s initiatives complete on time, spec and budget, because our developers influence the recommendations up front. Our deep bench of programmers provides insight, recommendations and innovations early and often throughout the project lifecycles, resulting in less rework and better outcomes. While ZAG debuted with a development skillset, other core competencies organically arose – including design, marketing and strategy – each demonstrating its own well-earned specialization. Even though ZAG offers these unique areas of expertise, most projects require influence from all these specializations. Furthermore, while our digital agency is organized by departments that reflect our four main pillars – strategy, design, development and marketing – everyone on the team is expected to think along these same lines. The entire staff contributes to creative discussions for the advancement of client goals, understanding that subject matter experts will be counted on to lead the collaborative conversations.
On top of being proficient in digital offerings, ZAG is known for its industry-specific expertise, focusing primarily on delivering websites, applications, marketing and support to financial institutions. Our early business relationships with Internet banking providers blossomed into ZAG providing the front-end sites for several banks and credit unions. As the digital agency’s reputation grew throughout the financial sector, ZAG produced more and more websites for institutions over the years. In response to institutional needs and an expanding knowledge base, ZAG incorporated other online initiatives and even offline offerings into its services. These days, most of ZAG’s client base centers around servicing banks and credit unions with everything “electronic” – including enterprise-level consultation, custom web development, digital strategy, market research, financial literacy content, as well as ongoing maintenance and support. A major benefit of ZAG maintaining hundreds of relationships with institutions is the ability to hit the ground running on project work. We inherently know the difference between banks and credit unions, understand how to market their distinct products and services, and navigate the compliance and conformance issues facing institutions. Working on these distinctive projects, ZAG has fostered vendor relationships with the top third-party providers of content management systems, interactive tools, online banking solutions, and more, which makes integrations that much easier. To stay sharp and learn from other verticals, ZAG also services clients from outside of the financial industry, including non-profits and businesses ranging from communications companies to parking providers. ZAG’s financial focus and diverse portfolio allow us to make better recommendations for our clientele. With over 250 current ongoing retainer relationships, ZAG passes on its intellectual equity on to our appreciated clients. It is our expertise in our disciplines and specialization in the financial marketplace that gives us a leg up on other digital agencies.
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Efficiency of One-Stop Shopping
Another hallmark of a solid digital agency is its ability to be efficient. As budgets and staff are increasingly being slashed and consolidated, businesses must make wise decisions when partnering with an outside firm. A key feature of an award-winning digital agency like ZAG is the ability to offer a one-stop solution. Something that sets us apart from a lot of digital agencies who farm out or offshore crucial capabilities is that ZAG offers all its services in- house, under one roof. This competitive advantage benefits our clients in terms of cost effectiveness, convenience and expediency. Relying on our truly turnkey solution, our clients need not waste time, money nor effort in coordinating multiple outside vendors or hiring new employees to handle interactive projects. Our digital agency maintains the resources and knowhow to plug into any and all points of a project lifecycle, serving our clients as they see fit. A typical engagement might include an initial consultation, a website redesign with API integrations, a site launch campaign, ongoing search engine optimization and social media marketing, as well as ongoing hosting, maintenance, management and support. Countless hours and dollars can be saved from not having to reinitiate disparate service providers to achieve a business goal or marketing objective. Here, everyone works in the same office building in Glastonbury, CT, although we take advantage of communications technology to meet and greet clients near and far. Nothing is outsourced, so communication is continuous to make projects as seamless as possible at ZAG. Ramp up time is minimal, because the status of our client accounts is shared throughout the agency at weekly staff meetings and through departmental handoffs between team members.
While digital agencies need to be versatile enough to meet client demands, the most successful ones impart some form of process to keep everyone on track. Early on, ZAG realized that there are great efficiencies gained by following the right steps within the context of each engagement. As a result, everyone on our team is familiar with our project flow, from our office administrators to our quality control personnel. Whether we’re quoting new work with business development, surfacing change orders through project managers, or making new recommendations from digital strategists, ZAG is very open and transparent with its clients, giving multiple options and citing ramifications to timeline and budget. Our digital agency is disciplined enough to adhere to its own internal process for most every project, and flexible enough to adapt to the preferences of its clients. Imparting a modified waterfall model, ZAG’s preferred project management involves an iterative approach that allows for frequent internal and client collaborations. We borrow some of the attractive aspects of the agile workflow to ensure that we stay nimble and flexible along the project lifecycles. There is enough of a framework to keep us and our clients focused on the end goal, while building in enough latitude for innovation along the way. With end-to-end electronic capabilities offered from one agency, ZAG can be counted on for everything from concept to completion.
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Effectiveness from Goals to Reporting
When evaluating digital agencies, it is paramount to measure each candidate in terms of effectiveness. As far as we’re concerned, results go way beyond the final deliverable. At the onset of every engagement, our strategists work with your key stakeholders to identify success metrics for the end product, answering the critical question: “What will make this project successful?” We could be tracking and reporting on results from a website redesign, a social media marketing campaign, a search engine marketing campaign, an email marketing campaign or an enterprise-level application. Together, we determine what we need to measure from both a qualitative and quantitative standpoint. Most often, this involves tracking the customer journey based on user interactions (ad exposure, click throughs, page views, form submissions, application completions, etc.), capturing warm leads and ultimate conversions along the sales funnel. Additionally, our team plots how to monitor and measure these results, by adding custom forms, integrating tracking code, setting up custom dashboards and reports, and providing regular campaign reports. As with most interactive initiatives at ZAG, analytics requires a concerted effort between our account management, digital strategy and client services departments to make sure that we’re capturing the right data, delivering comprehensible results and making the necessary adjustments to assure ongoing performance.
Because ZAG prides itself on being a results-oriented company, our team is committed to delivering what we agreed to produce every time. That means we often surpass our clients’ expectations, while delivering solutions that suit them. Everyone strives to hit the individual milestones throughout our various projects, because timing is often mission-critical. Equally important is making sure that the final deliverable performs as expected. That’s why our online initiatives are thoroughly tested by our quality assurance specialists before launch or release. To ensure continuous uptime, we offer ongoing hosting, maintenance, training and support overseen by our systems administration staff and client services team. Before, during and after our engagements, we build in various checkpoints to ensure that we’re meeting or exceeding goals from a client point of view. These come in the form of routine calls, customer surveys, and frequent follow-ups. Larry himself is known to contact our clients personally to see how things are going. We believe that this attention to detail goes a long way to building our agency’s reputation. We’re not perfect, but we strive to be every day and the work speaks for itself. But just don’t take our word for it; we’ve got dozens of web awards to prove it.
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Energy that Gives You Confidence
Perhaps the most important, yet overlooked, criteria in selecting a digital agency is the energy that the team brings to the table. As you are researching and contacting different digital agencies that seem to fit your exacting needs, ask yourself some questions that go beyond that fact sheet. What kind of vibe do you get from the prospective agency? What can you glean from their website and social media channels? How stable and secure is the digital agency? Does the staff have a lot of turnaround from what you can tell online? What can you pick up from your initial outreach? Does the consultation team seem confident, capable and competent on the preliminary calls? Is the owner engaged in the day-to-day operations and invested in the agency and the success of its clients? Does the team have a balance of seasoned professionals and engaged newbies? Does the agency maintain any relevant certifications or routinely win awards? Do they offer informative case studies and client references to help in your decision making? Is the agency willing to work with you on pricing, timing and functionality? Are these people that you can see your team working closely with for a short- or long-term project? What kind of enthusiasm, attentiveness and responsiveness does the agency show you during your vetting process? When you’ve narrowed down your candidates to a short list of digital agencies all offering the same relative capabilities, costs and credibility, the answers to these questions may be the deciding factors for your final decision.
When you are deciding on a digital agency, if you can afford to be choosey, pick the one who you feel most comfortable working with. At ZAG, just about the only thing we take seriously is the work – and perhaps our annual Salsa-Off Challenge. The vibe here is fast-paced, yet comfortable, so people perform their best. There is no strict dress code nor mandated work shifts. Employees bring their dogs to work and play cornhole during their lunchbreak. This freedom is paid back by employees cheerfully coming into the office early or willingly working late, because we care about each other and our clients. The entire staff is passionate about what we do individually and how that all comes together. A fair share of us found our way to ZAG, because we were tired of working to live instead of living to work, so we try really hard to provide a painless experience for our clients on projects. We keep it real, yet respectful, with each other and our clients, treating others how we wish to be treated. We’re accustomed to talking things through to figure out the best and most cost-effective recommendations. And, we prefer not to waste time with pretense and instead place a precedence on transparency. As a client, you can ask us anything and get a straight answer. Our shared philosophy stems from a belief in always being forthright and honest with our clients, because we are in the business of building relationships. Putting a lot of faith and trust, you’re paying us to do a job and we appreciate that privilege. We understand that it can be difficult for a prospective client to distinguish us from other leading digital agencies, so when all things appear to be equal, we hope that the enthusiastic energy we bring to the equation wins us the work.
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Choose your digital agency wisely
Quite simply, a digital agency is an advertising agency that has adapted to meet the evolving needs of an increasingly screen-based society. With it all becoming too much to handle in house, businesses today simply can’t afford to wait for their traditional agency to get with the times or pay several boutique firms to meet all their marketing requirements. That’s where a digital agency comes into play. When you need strategic, creative and technical support, find a digital agency that meets your criteria for capabilities, capacity, convenience and cost. Remember not to discount the connection you feel when evaluating your agency candidates. It’s that intangible quality that can really make the difference. The digital agency you award the work to needs to be more than just a “web shop,” and instead a trusted companion on your road to project success. We hope you’ll choose to partner with ZAG when considering your next digital agency.