So you’re on the hunt and have questions about selecting an agency to build your new corporate website.
Let’s face it, the people you choose to work with are important. Not all professionals are equal; not all vendors are equal. When considering a new agency to work with on your new corporate website, let me suggest the following 5 tips for a successful hire.
Tip 1: Get 3-4 Website Estimates
Your first call was a hit. You enjoyed his pitch, he seemed put together, they had a good portfolio. It’s very tempting to move too quickly, selecting an agency after only talking to 1 or 2 companies. Don’t do it. There are several big benefits to shopping around and get 3-4 solid proposals.
One helpful benefit of getting multiple bids is you’ll get a sense of how long it takes the agency to get back to you- both after your initial inquiry and throughout the sales process. Pay attention to who seems the most interested and engaged with your project. Good agencies know who they want to work with so a quick response may be a good signal of a match.
I do a bit of real estate investing and getting multiple estimates has been a huge money saver. I once had a somewhat rude plumber quote me an exorbitant amount of money to replace a drain line. After being a bit turned off by his salesmanship, I remembered the principle of getting multiple estimates. I disciplined myself and waited for two full bids to come in. In the final analysis, I was able to get a much more reputable company at half of the price. I’m certain the first salesman was trying to pull a fast one on me.
Price isn’t everything and a good website is expensive. But multiple bids will allow you to benchmark the proposals against each other. At minimum, you’ll be able to tell if a certain agency was trying to scam you with an unrealistic price.
When you’ve only talked to one agency, it’s very easy to get tunnel vision regarding your project. On the contrary, talking with multiple firms will expand your horizons on both approach and additional services that you may not have considered.
There’s nothing worse than getting a proposal with a sticker-shock price and very little detail. Reputable agencies don’t do this. They understand that clarity protects both sides. You need to be able to see clearly what’s included, and they need handles to grab onto in order to push back on scope creep.
When considering a web design agency for your next website, make sure their proposal is detailed or you may find yourself with rocky waters ahead…. or worse, a failed project.
Tip 2: Look at Each Companies’ Process
When talking to a firm: Are they organized? Are they using modern project management tools or do their systems seem archaic? Do they do business in a way that seems like they’ve thought through the finer details?
Whenever we purchase something, it’s very easy to focus on the sales experience and get swept away in the “prospect” of something working. But, where are the goods? Try and understand how the agency will work. A good firm will have a mature process – they’ve thought through the things that can cause hiccups or bumps. Here’s a list of questions you can ask a web design firm that you’re considering:
- How will we determine what is and isn’t included in our agreement?
- What is the overall process that you’ll take us through – IMPORTANT: Don’t settle with a vague answer. Good agencies are proud of their process and will be able to easily articulate each step.
- How do you manage the overall project timeline?
- How will communication work throughout the project?
- What will it look like to administrate the website after it’s complete?
Tip 3: If They do Everything, Run!
There’s a saying in design that if everything is bold, nothing is bold. Many agencies will boast that they can do everything, but this is usually a sign of immaturity than maturity. In business, and in agency work in particular, it’s important to know not only what you do, but also what you don’t do.
At Jordan Crown, we’ve had to go through this process of discovery to determine what makes us unique. You just simply can’t do everything well; successful businesses know this and determine to niche on verticals, technologies and project types. For instance, at our shop, we decided years ago that we would only do WordPress. At the time it was scary because we started to turn away projects that could make us good money.
The problem with doing everything though is that you’re never really building intellectual capital. If each project is different how can you apply what you’re learning to future jobs? Here are some important considerations for selecting an agency for your next web project:
- Technology: Does the agency specialize in a certain platform (our agency focuses on custom WordPress development), or is it possible that my project and the technology they use could be experimental and risky?
- Verticals: Does the agency have certain markets (i.e. real estate or health care) that they specialize in? In the same way that niching on technology can strengthen a firm, so also choosing certain markets will inevitably build expertise.
- Project Types: Does the agency know what their sweet spot is in terms of the types of projects they take on? (i.e. application development or marketing websites). Or will they simply take on any project that they can close on?
In summary, here’s an important question to ask an agency: “What sorts of projects would you not work on?”.
Tip 4: Make Sure to Talk to References
So easy to skip out on this. Who has the time or wants to put the effort in to make 1-2 hours of reference calls? But, what if those calls could save you a ton of time and headache down the road? Any agency can toot their own horn, but what do their past clients have to say?
A good question to ask references is “How would you rate the overall performance with XYZ agency on a 1-10 scale?” (Disclaimer: I’m stealing this question and adapting some of this material from the book WHO– a resource we use for hiring top talent at my agency). This question is super helpful. 6s and 7s are neutral, 8s are good, 9s and 10s are what you’re looking for. Here’s the truth: if you have multiple references that are saying 9s and 10s, you’re much less likely to experience constant bumps during your project.
Try to find clients in the agency’s portfolio that are similar in your business and request to talk to those clients specifically. Don’t just accept the references you were given but select a few particulars and you’ll avoid the agency cherry-picking only clients who think favorably about them.
Here are a few additional questions you can ask during reference interviews:
- What were some of the positives during your engagement with XYZ agency?
- What could XYZ agency have done better?
- Do you have plans to continue working with the agency?
- Tell me about a challenge that happened during your project and how the agency handled it.
Tip 5: Be Patient in Selecting an Agency.
Yes, patience is a virtue. And, in this case, patience could be the difference between a stellar website or an unfortunate mistake. As I mentioned earlier, good websites are usually spendy. How else can an agency hire top talent if they’re not paying their teams well and charging a reasonable price? You don’t want to go about selecting an agency too quickly and regret it later; after all, you may not have budget for another project like this for a few years.
For most businesses, their website is really important. Better to adjust a previously held timeline to make sure that you’re working with the right company. In the end, your patience will pay dividends because you’ll end up with a better product… Get three estimates, engage with your candidates, do your homework, and yes, be patient.
Well, I sure hope this article has built your confidence. For many of our clients there can be a lot on the line with the agency that they choose. If they pick a bad agency that will reflect on them to their superiors. If they find a stellar shop then the agency’s performance will reflect on the Marketing Director’s prudent decision-making skills.
Use these principals when looking for a web design agency and you’ll have an edge in finding the perfect match.
P.S. Where to Find Good Agencies
Curious about where to find some good shops to chat with? Check out Clutch.co – it’s similar to Angie’s List, but only for creative firms and super helpful for selecting an agency. Additionally, if this article has been helpful, we’d love to put together a proposal for your project if we think it would be a good match. You can click here to contact us. If you’d like to see our profile on Clutch you can find that here.