This deck takes you through the process of BUYING web design services. There is no silver bullet or single way to buy web services. Tips shared here come from sitting on the other side of the table for two years SELLING web dev services as Marketing Director for Atlantic BT.
These "inside baseball" tips may help you feel better, spend less and get online faster (those are the goals).
I like to use the lowest level form to start contact as it is a good test of customer service. If an agency doesn't answer its "contact us" emails in a timely manner NO WAY your project work gets created on time.
Response TIMES & quality = INPUT to Decision Matrix
As part of your "Evaluation Matrix" use things like how responsive they are to your query. I like to include things like:
* Price / Value. * Ratings and Reviews. * Strengths / Weaknesses (might do a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats analysis). * Outputs from social & content marketing matrix. * Size of team or company capitalization. * Working process (Agile or other process methods unique to the company like CQS or Customer Quality Score at Atlantic BT).
VIDEO content is something you can never have enough of. Video, Video and Video some more. Leave hat stinks on the cutting room floor and keep your videos short and daisy chained together (Call To Action at end of one video pitching another related video).
Don't be in a RUSH to go there. Any Web Development agency's home turf has been created for a single mission - to separate your from your cash.
If that sounds like VEGAS you are getting the idea. Once you DO visit spend as much time as you can inside the company's "regular days".
Hang around. Use their WiFi. Go to lunch with them. Visit on multiple occasions. Just BEING in the office can and will teach you a lot about how the company handles crisis, whether their public mask matches private reality (they never do, but you want as little dissonance as possible).
Internet marketing meetings can stretch and go as brainstorming keeps suggesting ideas. Set a deadline and live by it since too much time in these meetings is just confusing and makes you more compliant. This is the "strange rhythm" of buying web design.
Web design, again much life VEGAS, is mesmerizing and fascinating. We could talk literally for days and you may only understand a tiny bit of those conversations.
We all want to peer behind the curtain and know how the great and powerful OZ works. Don't fall for it. Limit your meeting times, write notes after, be open to new ideas but don't get into the endless brainstorming this fascinating content can create.
WARNING Their place was created with one overriding mission - separating clients from their money. The way they do that is to fly around on scooters, play Foosball and generally appear to be leading that CREATIVE LIFE everyone dreams about but few live.
Just because there is a Foosball table doesn't mean you aren't looking at a sweat shop. There is a reason Google cooks and does its workers cleaning - they want those brains behind those screens for LONG DAYS JOURNEY INTO NIGHT.
When you are being romanced CUT everything you feel by at least half and multiple what they tell you things will cost by 2.
MONEY is STUPID and a useless way to think about web development. You will always have the money you need to do what you need and you will (or should) get your money FROM THE WEB.
After you put up the first cash all other cash should be house money (you are paying out of the proceeds). NEVER spend $100K on your first website since to do so is goofystupid. Spend $10K or $15K and GET SOMETHING UP NOW.
Work with that new website for a few months, watch the metrics like a hawk and then tweak and invest more. THEY want you to give them as much money NOW as possible.
Here is the problem. If you give them too much they relax too much. If you don't give them enough they don't think you are for real. You must find the balance so don't talk MONEY. He who talks MONEY first LOSES.
Profiles for anyone you talk too (LI, Twit, FB, G+).
Ask how organized & check LI for execs.
What are SOCIAL counts for sales & top execs?
Ask your friends, your social nets for help.
Your info should be EASY to find, not volunteer.
The MORE you know, document and can articulate about THEM (potential web dev partners) the better you will feel about your decision. Write stuff DOWN since the act of writing makes you reflect and think.
Treat the process like you are on a journey and one of the work products at the end is a play that described the journey you took. Who are the characters. What were your goals. How did your goals change?
Start publishing content to the web as soon as possible. The sooner you share the faster you build a tribe. The bigger your tribe is at launch the less work and the greater chance for success.
If it feels like you are pushing a rock up a hill DO SOMETHING RADICAL to see if you can make the process easier and more fun. Break the usual rhythm of a meeting and call attention to your desire to put aside the normal trappings of MEETING and get down to a more genuine and connected place.
One tactic that can prove helpful is to CALL ATTENTION TO WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW. The process of creating trust is like Japanese Kabuki Theater - highly ritualized. Break the ritual since rituals are another form of VEGAS-LIKE hypnotism.
HAVE YOUR SHIT WIRED Never diagram on white boards with web dev agencies. You are paying lawyer rates when you work with them, so create organization and highly visual and very specific documents THEY respond too.
When you are organized you reduce your costs by 20% TO 40% and clear roles and responsibilities are set from jump. This is NOT to say don't allow your agency to have input or ideas, but don't ever "brainstorm" with 5 people from their side in the room since the combined billables for that team is $1,000 a minute.
Confused customers do many things BUYING is rarely one of them. You have to SELL THEM to take your money. Crazy I know but there is more web marketing work than good people to do it, so you need to sell them too.
Sell them by:
* Being organized. * Being visual. * Pitching but LISTENING too. * Curating their ideas into your process. * Breaking down barriers between YOU and THEM. * Learning how they work to access if there is a fit. * Learning who they REALLY ARE to know if you are making a wise investment or are going to be baited and then switched.
This slide is interesting. My advice is to exaggerate your sense of TIME during the first half of your evaluation. If you would normally set a week's deadline make it 48 hours sometimes.
Other times SLOW WAY DOWN. If another task would take 48 hours give it a week. By varying your rhythm you reduce chances of being swept away.
You also throw an interesting and seemingly illogical wobble into the company's sales process. Seeing how they respond to the unexpected is a CSF (Critical Success Factor) so do some weird shit and see what happens.
We aren't trying to make friends or go on dates. We are trying to do some of the hardest things any marketer does now - make people love us online so be a little crazy in the beginning.
How has SEO changed? Does design matter? WHY & HOW?
Why WIN Business? Lose?
Describe last emergency. What do? Why?
Ask to describe BEST clients & Get Refs.
The nature of selling and being sold is it goes in fits and starts. At your place you are sharing your requirements and sharing who you are. At their place you are listening more and seeing what they did with the visit to your place and all the other inputs you've had.
Don't get offended by presumption and do get offended if it doesn't feel like your work isn't a priority or the preparation is poor. You are on a honeymoon. If the agency doesn't knock your socks off now you are in for some tough sledding later when they have your baby half born and most of your money.
You will NEVER see performance as responsive again. Once the contract is signed responsiveness will be cut in half, so mentally cut response time, quality and other variables in half and ask if what is left meets your needs.
At M&M/Mars when we created the 5 Principles of Mars Mutual Benefit was a biggie. Mars understood that their long-term health depended on an army of similarly healthy suppliers. The average engagement with a web development agency is several years and some relationships may go on for decades.
Changing your servers and software isn't EASY or without peril so find a home and stay there for 2 to 4 years (or the costs of moving will make it hard to have positive ROI).
One thing the Big C taught me was stressing changes nothing. This is not to say I don't worry or stress anymore, but Internet marketers must ACT and damn the consequences.
You can't afford perfection. Perfection or "Sistine Chapeling" your website is the kind of arrogance that will get you fired. Sure UGLY may get you put in the fire too, but UGLY and LIVE is closer to BEAUTIFUL and RICH than reworking stuff best to have customers help you change.
No debate you will EVER have is as helpful as one day's data.