When was the last time you used a matchmaking service? Chances are it was today. Platforms like Amazon, Airbnb, eBay and Uber (as well as the proverbial dating sites) have transformed matchmaking into an everyday adventure in which everyone finds exactly what they’re looking for.
Except when they don’t.
Using a professional matchmaker to find the right talent for your hardware product or connected device is more important now than ever. Why? While funding for hardware and connected devices has exploded in the past few years, the total number of companies receiving funds has dropped almost 10% from 2015 as more resources are given to fewer companies. Are you the next Fitbit, Nest or Beats? Using a technology platform or message board to find an agency to help you create great brands like these is like investing $100k into a blind date. Sure, there are a few cases that result in happy unions. But the more likely scenario is a wasted evening talking about ex-boyfriends and cats.
The perfect match is more than a financial transaction.
Yesterday’s best practices aren’t sufficient in helping you disrupt today’s IoT scene. A solid understanding of brand strategy and compelling story development are required of your creative agency to stand out from the competition. Technological platforms miss the subtle nuances that only an experienced matchmaker can identify. Industry knowledge, expertise, cultural fit, work style, budget, and availability are all items to consider. Real success lies in the personal relationships cultivated by the matchmaker - not in fancy algorithms (apologies, eHarmony).
Modern business matchmakers are consummate connectors who have both a deep understanding of their client’s creative needs and a diverse pool of pre-vetted talent. They make sense of the fragmented and confusing landscape of digital agencies, provide expert guidance and help identify areas your startup may have overlooked.
Using a business matchmaker enables you to start developing your new video in days instead of months, complete your new brand identity faster, and cultivate a deeper relationship with your creative team, enabling them to work on more projects and minimizing the need to manage multiple vendors.
As a business matchmaker for the last 20 years, I’ve curated talented agencies to help hundreds of companies from innovative startups to the Fortune 100 across a dozen disciplines. While you’ll save the most time and have the biggest advantage with a professional matchmaker, here are a few tips to consider.
#1: DON’T PROCRASTINATE
Depending on the project size, it can take up to six months to develop an RFP, research and select agencies, wait for a response and make a final selection…not to mention the lengthy process of budget and timeline approvals.
Yes, Google can reduce your agency search to seconds. But do you know how to source, evaluate, prioritize and ultimately select the ideal partner? While you think it might be easy to find an agency, many of them have particular project and price requirements that prevent them from partnering with you. Be realistic, align expectations on budgets and timelines, and start your search early.
#2: FIND THE RIGHT FIT
Sites like Upwork and 99Designs are large graphic designer marketplaces. If you’re on a tight budget and not picky about quality, they might be a good bet. That said, a website built by an overseas designer for $10 will likely not impress investors. Hardware startups looking to create a transformative brand would be smart to find an established agency well-versed in their industry. To find this, research brands you want to emulate and seek out who helped design them.
Besides price, consider location. Do you prefer in-person meetings to Google Hangouts or Basecamp? Understanding the dynamic of how your team likes to work given the project requirements will help narrow your search.
#3: ASK BETTER QUESTIONS
Ask questions, both internally to define project needs, as well as externally with your prospective agency. What happens if a deliverable is missed? How will they prevent project creep and missed deadlines? How will the agency take you from where you are to where you want to go? As Tim Ferris says, if the answer isn’t simple, it’s probably not the right answer. Select an agency that shares similar values and vibes.
Steve Kirsh is Founder + Managing Partner of KindKhameleon, a free business matchmaking service dedicated to connecting cannabis companies with top-level creative, marketing and development agencies. He is also a mentor at the Cannabis incubator, Gateway in Oakland, CA. Learn more at KindKhameleon.