If you’re in business in any way, at some point, you’ve had to shop for web design.
You’ve had to figure out what criteria you’ll be judging a web development firm on, and then go through your list of candidates. Hopefully, that list is small rather than large.
But here’s a question.
What happened to your old web designers? Where happened that means you’re not working with them today?
This is something for both web professionals and the businesses that work with them to think about — What steps can we take to ensure our working relationship will be long-lasting and provide maximum benefit to the client business?
Why Are You Looking Today?
Like a lot of businesses, you probably got your site built, and you both went your separate ways. Time passed, and now, for whatever reason, your former web design provider is no longer available.
Perhaps you worked with an individual who end up getting a job with another company. Perhaps the company who built your site doesn’t have great customer support, and you’re ready to move on. Maybe your business has grown and your old web company doesn’t specialize in what you need to take it to the next level.
For whatever reason, you’re looking for a new web partner. This means you need to think about the criteria you’ll use to evaluate your next web company.
Choosing a web partner is arduous work. Many businesses look for clues that tell them that they’ve found the right web company.
Since buying web design is something most businesses don’t do all that often, many buyers focus on the wrong factors, like trying to find their particular solution in a design portfolio of other people’s solutions, or selecting strictly by price comparison.
But let’s think about this deeper. What’s the thing you’re really looking for?
Smart businesses are looking for a consultant that can listen and communicate effectively, figure out what their problems are, and devise a solution that will take the business towards it’s desired goals.
Since every solution is unique, and businesses encounter many different problems as they grow and the market changes, it’s beneficial to partner with a company that can advise and help them over the long haul — not just find someone to be a set of temporary hands. Selecting a web partner is like starting any other relationship — you should be picky, because it’s painful to have to go through the search process again.
Here’s some of the filters that most web agencies need to get through to become your new strategic partner.
- 1. Core competency — Do they have the ability to build what you need? Can they build you something that works correctly, looks professional, and — most importantly — generate more business for you?
- 2. Will you receive a significant return on your investment? No matter how large or small your investment is, that investment should generate revenue or save money in a measurable way. (Lockedown Design aims for a 10x return on all project investments).
- 3. Is this web consultancy going to be there when you need them in the future? Many businesses don’t think about this until they start to get larger, but it bears consideration. Ask other business owners, and they’ll agree — It’s difficult to find a web agency that is trustworthy, does good work, and will be here a year, two years, five years from now. You’ll need this agency to advise you as the web continues to evolve, and to grow with you as your business grows.
- 4. How invested is your web company in seeing you succeed? I want to emphasize this next point, because only a portion of web companies embrace this philosophy. When we (web agencies) hand you the keys to your website, and you launch your new site, the real work is only beginning.
What do I mean by this statement?
The Work Begins At Site Launch
When you launch your new site, it could be beautiful. It could win design awards.
But if it doesn’t achieve it’s intended goals, the project is not a success.
Let’s look at one of the criteria points we outlined earlier: being able to provide a return on investment.
If your web design company is no longer involved after the site launch, how do they know if you’re reaching your intended goals?
The only way to measure the success of a web project is to maintain an ongoing relationship with the clients we do web projects for.
Let that sink in for a moment.
If the web agency that built your site does not have an ongoing relationship with you, there is no way for them to measure whether your web project is a success or not.
I believe an agency should measure their effectiveness by how many of their projects reach their intended goals. Measuring stats like number of sites built, years in business, or industry awards won is completely irrelevant if those websites don’t improve business for their clients.
There’s a big opportunity for web agencies to maintain the relationship with their best clients and be a resource for advice and direction — either through their blog or personal consultation.
Pretty websites are a baseline. Measuring results and refining strategy are what provide value.
I’d be happy if all web agencies were dedicated to helping their clients for the long-term. I’d love to see all web firms focus on providing consistent value to their clients, and being able to sell their services as a result of that consistent value.
It would be awesome if website design was just the starting point for client relationships in web firms across the land, and not the culmination of those relationships.
The reason is twofold.
If you only talk to your web firm every year or so, for small changes, it makes it difficult to keep momentum going. Things change very quickly in web development, SEO, social media, and online marketing. Things probably change within your business over time as well. After long stretches of inactivity, your agency will have to catch up with what is going on with your business.
If a company just sells you a site and walks away, you’ve only got part of the value.
You’re going to need an ally who keeps up with the tumultuous changes on the web to be your advisor as you continue to evolve your online marketing, and to make sure your website is as effective as it could be.
The companies I admire most in the online space are the ones that have long-standing, ongoing relationships with their clients.
They have kept track from the day they’ve been brought on board until the present. The ones that are there to plan the next phase of how those clients will scale up, helping them navigate the obstacles that come with growth. The ones that are proactive about helping their clients prepare for the future.
It doesn’t necessarily mean they talk to them every day. What it does mean is when clients need someone to tell them “this next thing you want to do is a good idea or a terrible idea” — they are there. Someone who is not afraid to shoot straight with them and point them in the right direction to continue growing their business.
That is a consultancy that stays in touch with their client base.
As a web agency, here’s the advantage in doing that.
You know whether your advice paid off or not. You can measure whether your campaign or redesign increased revenue. You can see whether your custom web development saved your clients time or not.
Because you stay connected to your clients, you have verification that your work made a positive impact.
For me, that’s one point of differentiation that matters a lot.