Engaging a web partner: before the "I dos"
The advances in website technology and content management systems have empowered organisations to take control of their websites, and the argument is certainly there for organisations to maintain control of their brands online – specifically, the marketing department. But digital marketing differs from traditional marketing, and success online is largely dependent on a strategic approach to this unique media. This requires a) in-house expertise or b) a web specialist.
It’s hard to excel at everything and still operate as efficiently as possible (as much as we’d like to!). And this realisation is what leads many organisations into the market for a relationship with a web partner.
If you’re in the market for the first time – or the first time in a while – then it’s important to make yourself aware of the rules of the game (they’re constantly changing). Key considerations right now include social media, SEO, SEM, analytics and mobile commerce, to name a few.
A successful relationship will be founded on a good personality fit and a long term perspective. In some ways, engaging a web partner is like getting hitched. If you want the partnership to last longer than a Hollywood marriage, consider the following before the “I do’s”.
More than just a pretty face
Your website is the face of your organisation, so (let’s admit it) yes, looks are important – and it’s easy to get star struck by a flashy portfolio and the latest, greatest functionality. You need a sleek design that shows off your best assets, but you need brains behind that brawn! Look for someone who’s seen more than their own backyard and can offer you all the bells and whistles, but most importantly, can deliver customers and prospects a positive user experience. A positive user experience equals a positive brand experience – and I don’t need to tell you how valuable that is. An engaging, interactive, intuitive user interface that helps your visitors achieve their end goal (information/purchase) will hit the sweet spot.
Look beyond the immediate future
When surveying your options, the obvious choice will jump out as someone who’s in it for the long haul. Someone seeking a long term relationship with you who can offer you a strategic approach and can guide you along the way, helping you achieve higher level business goals and objectives throughout the lifetime of your website (rather than loving and leaving you post-launch). Someone with a plan who thinks ahead and knows how to get there.
Sharing is caring
Be wary of those who guard their expertise. A web partner who cares enough about the success of your website will share their knowledge of the online arena with you, enabling and empowering you to compete competitively from day dot.
Easy is boring
Your web partner should be willing to challenge you. Rather than simply executing the ideas you bring to the table (hey, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?), your web partner should go above and beyond to add value by suggesting improvements and by offering new ideas you may not have previously considered.
Communication is key
Every good marriage is built on great communication. Before launch, clear communication and agreement on the goals and objectives the website should achieve is critical. Ideally, your web partner should work collaboratively with you to understand your business needs and industry requirements and the rest should follow, but it’s best not to make any assumptions. All too often websites reach the 80% mark only to have to go back to basics because something was not clearly communicated from the get-go.
You have to want the same things
For your partnership to be successful you have to both want the same things. Essentially both parties need to be passionate about the success of your website and your business in the long term. Too often, agencies take big risks just to get noticed, without considering the consequences for your brand. Be sure you’re on the same page before signing the dotted line. A company with integrity and values that fit with your own will usually make good headway. Remember, a website is not a one off project. A successful partnership requires hard work and commitment to continuous improvement, and you need to share the same vision for the future if it’s ever going to last.
If your potential partner ticks all the boxes, you should live happily ever after. The end.