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Digital agency

QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD BE ASKING WHEN CHOOSING AN AGENCY

One thing my clients always tell me is that they worried about choosing the “right agency” to partner with, before meeting The Playhouse Group. Selecting a vendor is an important decision, particularly if your project is likely to last a while, so you want someone who is not only knowledgeable but who you also get along with. The fact is that when you choose the right agency, everything will just seem to “click” and you’ll find your job a lot easier than it used to be.

Evaluating your project

Before even thinking about agencies, it’s crucial to look at the nuts and bolts of your project. Just a few things to consider are:

  1. Your project goals: What are you trying to achieve? What are your KPIs? Do the different stakeholders have varying expectations for the project? What will you use to measure the agency’s success? Will you require ongoing support? How will this scale?

  2. Scope and requirements: Your business should already have data on your customers like their personas, behaviours, likes and dislikes so take the time to map out your user journey. Using all the information you have available, consider what features are necessary and build your scope from there.

  3. Operation mode: Decide whether you’d prefer the 24-hour access of an international business, the benefit of a face-to-face local company, or something in between. Similarly, think about whether you would prefer the project to be delivered in short stages, run different tasks simultaneously, and how much input you wish to have.

  4. Your budget: As much as we’d all like the CFO to approve an unlimited budget, that’s not always possible. Use pricing as a guide for what agencies are including in their scope, but also be aware of the level of service your budget can realistically purchase and adjust your scope if necessary.

Evaluating the right partner

Once you’ve fully mapped out the requirements of your project (and trust me, the agency that you end up choosing will thank you for doing this), it’s time to pick a partner. You will have some questions which are specific to your project, but generally speaking, we recommend considering the following:

1. The Staff

Find out about the size of their team and the level of experience of the people who will be working on your project. Are the developers officially certified and authorised to work with the software? Are they partners with reputable providers such as Magento, Salesforce or Acquia? If they are partnered with external providers, do they receive regular training? Are they aware of all updates and improvements? In short – are they good at what they do?

For example, at The Playhouse Group, we make sure all members of our team are fully certified on a variety of platforms, and attend monthly training sessions to keep us on our toes.

2. The Quote

I mentioned earlier that it’s important to look at pricing and be realistic. If the proposal you receive seems financially unviable, it’s worth asking them if they have varying rates for projects vs ongoing support. Personally, if I like a client, I’ll work with them to come up with a solution (even if it means working on smaller portions over a longer period of time) because I want them to get great results.

Also, always check the statement of work. I can’t count the number of horror stories I’ve heard about where the quote seemed unrealistically low (it turns out a lot of things were not included in the scope) or astonishingly high (the scope contained all these extra features the client had never asked for).

3. The Experience

How big is the team and how long has the company been in business? If an agency has been around for a while, chances are they will have developed strong relationships with providers and developers, which means a much smoother project for you.

That said, don’t just take their word for it. Ask to see examples of case studies, testimonials and client lists. You wouldn’t give alcohol to a minor without checking their ID, so why would you hire a company without checking their experience? That’s why we publish all of our case studies on our website – so you can see that we know our stuff.

4. The Back-Up Plan

Despite all your planning and research, there’s always the chance that something can (and will) go wrong. How does your agency handle a crisis? Find out how they handle customer data (in terms of security and compliance), and the level of support and response time offered in your SLA. In the worst case scenario (someone hacks your website and takes it down), what is their plan in terms of rolling back the website and data recovery?

The Ultimate Test

When it comes down to it though (and if you’re really struggling to decide between two agencies), I like to conduct the beer test. Basically, you’re looking for a partner you’d be happy to sit down and grab a beer with. If you can’t do that, then how can you expect to work with them for the next year?

On that note, why not test us out? Just get in touch with our team today – the drinks are on us!

HOW TO WRITE A GOOD BRIEF WHEN ENGAGING AN ECOMMERCE AGENCY

You’ve finally received approval from your CEO to start building the new eCommerce website your company so desperately needs. After months of discussion and proposals, it’s time to start looking at vendors to build (or rebuild) the new site.

Here at The Playhouse Group, the most common complaint we hear from our clients is that their previous agency “didn’t meet the brief” or “didn’t deliver on expectations”. As a manager, it’s probably something you hear quite often as well. The fact is that the most common reason projects fail, don’t deliver as envisioned, or take longer than expected is because of poor briefs.

The entire purpose of a brief is to give your agency as much information as possible. However, it’s important to give the right information in the right way, so you get the results you want. After a decade in the industry we have honed in on the most important things to consider when writing a good brief.

1. Know your objective

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a supercomputer revealed that “the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42.” The problem is, nobody knew what the question was.

The same concept applies to your brief. If you want a meaningful solution, you need to be clear on the problem you’re trying to solve. Sit down and define your business objectives and what you want to achieve, taking the time to ensure they’re measurable (so you also have benchmarks to judge the success of your project). Some common objectives we see are:

  • Offer a better Customer Experience
  • To increase ecommerce sales from x to y
  • To increase ecommerce conversion rate % from x to y
  • To increase average order value from x to y
  • Increase Click and Collect orders from x to y
  • Grow email subscribers from x to y

2. Get granular

As the person driving this website project and the person with the most valuable insights about your business, it’s important that you outline your expectations. It can be tempting to make excuses like “they are the experts they should know what we want” or “I’m too busy” but doing so is just going to cause delays and frustration in the long run.

What’s more, the more detailed you can be in your brief, the easier it will be to compare proposals from different agencies, letting you make a more informed decision. So, what sort of details should you include in your brief? Ask yourself questions like:

  • What support model do I need from my digital agency?  E.g. Full service (I do nothing), partial service (I do the day to day and agency does the heavy lifting), self service (I do everything)
  • Who is my target audience and what are their personas?
  • How much website traffic do I expect?
  • How many categories and products will I have?
  • How many orders will I have?
  • How many breakpoints? e.g. Mobile, Tablet and Desktop
  • What features will it have?
  • What are the integrations?
    • ERP
    • Email Marketing
    • Search
    • Payment
    • Social
  • What data do I need to be migrated?
  • What are my Must-Have’s, Nice-To-Have’s and items that can be deferred to a later phase?
  • What is my timeline and budget?

3. Take it in stages

If you expect to have a large or complex website, it’s worth considering breaking your project up into different stages. This is especially the case if you have multiple goals or audiences for your website, and need it to serve a variety of purposes. Generally speaking, the website development process involves eight stages:

  1. Research and discovery
  2. User Interface Design
  3. Website development
  4. Website integration
  5. Testing and review
  6. Content migration
  7. Launch
  8. Maintenance

If you’re unsure about what your exact needs are, it’s best to consult with an agency and scope out the project before putting it to tender. This can save you time and money in the long run, and also give you a better understanding of what to expect from your chosen vendor.

4. Know your ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’

As touched on above, once you have established exactly what you want you need be clear on your ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’ for your project.

At The Playhouse Group we always walk our clients through a detailed process to ensure that we are clear and our client is clear on their ‘must haves’ and the ‘nice to haves’ and divide them in order of importance.

In our experience, it is rare that a client can achieve all their wants in one project with their allocated budget and timeframes. Which leads us into…

5. Budget and timeframes

If you have an unlimited bank balance and timeframe for completing your project then ignore this section. Otherwise, be 100% clear on your budget and timeline and communicate this. At the very least indicate a ballpark figure and timeframe to your agency.  If your agency knows your budget and timeline they are in a far better position to tailor a solution to meet your needs and budget or tell you if it is even possible.

If you think revealing your budget will cause someone to overcharge you then, you don’t trust them and, you shouldn’t be hiring them in the first place! Make sure you have an agency that isn’t afraid to tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear.

Here at The Playhouse Group, we know what goes into creating a website that works and we provide the best solutions for our clients. Have a look at our brief template and get in touch with our team today for advice on your next project.