“We need to appoint an agency to sort out our website” the boss says looking directly at you. Clearly this task is being placed firmly in your hands to resolve and you will be judged on its outcome. No pressure then since the website is most likely the company’s most important marketing asset. So, what next?
Know your needs
Resist the temptation to rush into talking to various agencies, right now the priority should be on understanding what you perceive to be your actual needs before you ask others to implement them!
First of all, let’s be clear on what ‘sorting the website’ really means. Are we talking a total relaunch of the current site? Possibly a totally new design concept, revised design theme and graphics, new content, in other words, starting from scratch on a whole new online presence for the business? Or do you simply need to refresh the existing platform and improve on its design / SEO capabilities / copy / navigation etc. while staying true to the original concept?
How do you even know what you want or need?
An independent audit of the current website can be completed to determine its ‘performance’ and rankings. You also need to review your own data to see how the site has been performing year on year. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to do a little bit of research to see what your competition is up to, this will also help you to gain a better steer on what you like / don’t like in terms of design aesthetics. Don’t just restrict your review to your competitors either, you might not be a multiple supermarket but that doesn’t mean that you can’t aspire to emulate some of the clean design principles of Waitrose’s web site to your business. Gather opinion from within the organisation and its stake-holders so that you can establish a clear picture of the wants and desires in relation to the company’s online presence.
What is the end goal?
Some websites serve as a commercial trading tool, generating direct sales. Others are designed to assist in building a strong brand, communicating a specific brand persona, communicating the brand’s values, encouraging engagement and ultimately building loyalty for the brand proposition. Or perhaps the website is required to simply act as an information hub, providing an interactive marketing tool that is easily accessible and (hopefully) always up to date. Of course, it may be that the website needs to deliver a combination of these objectives but you need to be aware of what your expectations are if you want the new website to be a success. Identify what the key performance indicators will be, for example it could be driving sales enquiries or pushing traffic to a particular landing page or a call to action.
Write a wish list
Commonly known as a brief! Committing your needs, aspirations and expectations to paper (or email!) is fundamental to a positive outcome. Not only does it require you to focus your thinking rather than muttering vague requests, it also provides a benchmark against which to evaluate agency performance and avoids any doubt as to the task in hand.
Unless you have a blue skies budget, is it only fair to advise any agencies that you are talking with what kind of budget you have allocated so that they can make best use of these funds. You should also be open to discussions which may convince you of the benefits of extending the budget based on proven results secured for other clients.
When looking at opening up discussions with an agency choose wisely. Ask to see evidence of past work which is in keeping with the brief that you are setting. Follow up on word-of-mouth recommendations. Find out who would be accountable for your business and don’t fall for the ‘beauty parade’ of staff who may be wheeled out for a credentials meeting when in reality you may just be allocated with a much smaller team, with considerably less experience / gravitas. Perhaps most important of all, talk and meet with the agency before you commit to any further pitch activity. Chemistry between you and the potential team that you expect to interpret and deliver your dreams is vital. Creative flair and strategic insight are of course a must have – but if you can’t establish a strong rapport and feel a genuine connection with the people that you will be working with, it is unlikely that you will achieve the optimum results.