What determines value when selecting a digital partner?
Just cost or is there more?
How often do you measure the value of something when making a business decision? Daily, I’m sure, especially if it’s a big-ticket item. I’m going to assume you gather a few competing cost estimates, check the company website, talk to references, and maybe check LinkedIn. If it’s a large enough expense, you look beyond its cost, and (hopefully) consider the value it will bring in other areas of your business and the expected long-term relationship you will have with the company offering that product.
A new website is one of those big decisions. Unfortunately, my experience shows that more often than not this decision gets made purely on cost. Yet, we encourage you to look deeper into the value that the right digital partner will bring.
Value = Experience
There’s a saying I remember from my early years in PR about beware of the professional who claims to have 20 years experience when in fact they have one year of experience 20 times. The digital space is a constant evolution driven by customer’s needs, business needs and Google’s algorithms, so yes, experience matters. We know a new website is a big decision, so ask questions on what the respondent’s experience encompasses. Get similar examples and references. And if you’re looking for a content management system (CMS) that is easy to manage going forward, make sure that the respondent also has knowledge in how to keep it secure.
Other considerations under the experience conversation include:
• Digital strategy – is it a buzzword or is it actually incorporated in their development process? I love that at Insite, we don’t ignore this step and instead make it a valuable part of the overall digital solution. This may not be as critical for a marketing website (typically 8-15 pages), yet we still take time to understand your business and your desired objectives.
• Content strategy – whether your website is small or large, this is a very important aspect of your website. When I started in this business in 1996, “content is king” was touted time and again. It still is today but now we call it “content marketing.” A good content strategy ties in with your business objectives as well as your SEO strategy. Good copy, targeted messages and clear CTAs will also increase conversions.
• SEO – it’s my hope that most digital agencies know what it takes to provide the basics of good SEO. Make sure from the beginning you are clear on what will be provided and have it in writing. If you’re using a contractor, same thing. SEO is thrown around as an expertise so make sure they don’t just say the words, but perform the work. If your SEO needs are great, then make the investment in a qualified SEO firm.
Value = Technical Expertise
Of all the sad stories I’ve heard from prospects, it is most often based around poor programming (which could also tie-in with poor planning at the onset of the project). I’ve been on both sides of this conversation and the wrong choices can be painful and expensive. The value of hiring an experienced agency with skilled programming is worth it even if the cost is more. It pays to do it right the first time. Don’t be shy about references. Do your homework and call those references and ask the tough questions on deadlines, quality of work, and costs.
Value = Business Knowledge
Knowing your industry can be an important value in selecting your digital partner. It’s also a knowledge that can be learned. If the chemistry feels right, take a chance on what could be a great partnership.
Value = Client Longevity
I’m going to guess and say that when choosing a digital partner, you’re seeking a long-term relationship. When a firm has numerous long-term client relationships that longevity clearly speaks to trust and respect between that client and agency. Consider adding a question along that vein in your RFP or follow-up discussion.
Value = Honesty
Honesty’s a tricky thing. It can get you fired. Yet, you know you’re talking to the right agency if you’ve asked for this special something and they take the time to explain why it’s not the best solution. Maybe it doesn’t fit your business strategy. Maybe they’re offering instead a solution that’s more aligned with your objectives. The point? They’re willing to be honest in their dealings with you. Sounds like a win/win.
To wrap this up, before you make a decision based on the cost estimate, high or low, that’s been presented, check to see if any of the above values are apparent and see how they align. Then make your decision.