Working with a design agency is one of best ways to leverage expertise outside your team and accomplish unusual projects.
But how do you know if an agency is the right fit for you?
We think every working relationship should be positive, productive, and relatively effortless. So this post describes why people often pass on Launch Brigade at first, or end up at Launch Brigade second. And in the process, you may learn something about engaging the services of an agency in general.
People often try to judge the value of a project based on the agency’s hourly rate. In their mind, less cost is always better.
In reality, the agency’s rate doesn’t really tell you what the value of a project is going to be for you. (Besides the fact that the better and more experienced an agency is, probably the more they charge for their services.)
Certain freelancers and off-shore agencies charge a shockingly low rate, usually because they’re either inexperienced or their labor cost is a fraction of what it is in the US.
You get what you pay for, though.
We’ve had many, many customers come to us after they’ve spent $5,000-20,000 with someone else, but had to pull the plug and start over due to delays, discovering incompetence, or bad communication.
Instead of getting caught up on an hourly rate, focus on the value of the completed work to your business. Overall, the work is either worth it, or it’s not.
Interestingly, for website development projects, we often give potential customers an estimate based on the overall project cost. People seem to balk less often at these larger project total numbers, even though these total estimates are calculated based on our hourly rate — and we’re very open open that.
The mind games we play on ourselves can be pretty astounding.
We’re cleaning up a mess
Launch Brigade was founded in part because people kept coming to us with broken websites. Often they’ve dealt with someone who was doing their web development, but then that person disappeared or the project was falling apart and they just didn’t know who to turn to.
We had one gentleman who approached us about some changes to his website. It had Yelp-like functionality, his clients were going to be government agencies, and he was facing a strict deadline.
He’d already spent about a year and $20,000. But he had very little to show for it and his developer was slowly “ghosting” him.
If he’d come to us in the first place, we might’ve been able to build it right from the start. It might’ve been an MVP with future overall features, but the foundations would’ve been good for him to get started and grow later.
A challenge in any creative or technical field is that people don’t really understand what they’re paying for. It isn’t obvious what goes into producing such detail-oriented work.
But the higher the quality of the work, the more effective your website or web application will be at producing successful interactions — whether that means user interactions, driving leads, or converting sales.
Launch Brigade isn’t a perfect fit for everyone. We’re quirky, artistic, and techie.
We’re also very open, collaborating closely with subcontractor specialists as the need arises.
Some clients aren’t comfortable with this at first. Shouldn’t all of our team be employees? But the world has changed, and agencies always used a lot of specialist talent to begin with.
We vet our contractors closely and build long term relationships with them. That way they can jump into projects and work closely with us whenever the need arises.
We try to apply this inclusive outlook to the world in general. Whether it’s our clients, or members of our team, or family members of our misfit team, we always try our best to be available to help with anything.
We know that many agencies like to get in, get out, and move on to the next project. I think this is a problematic feature of fixed bid work.
We work hourly because we don’t want business realities to create tension when it comes to developing and growing long-term relationship.
We live and breath web technologies and applications
I was taught by my father that anything worth doing is worth doing right. There’s a huge value to taking the time to build something right.
From a technical perspective, that means building things in a way that they are not likely to break in the future. After years of experience seeing how things break over time, we’re pretty obsessive about taking the engineering steps necessary to avoid future pitfalls.
It’s something that customers don’t always know to look for and they only find out later when something breaks.
You could make an analogy with building a house. If a house doesn’t have a solid foundation, if it’s built straight in the dirt, eventually, you’re going to get termites. The same thing applies with cars. If you buy a cheap budget car, it’s not going to last as long, or be as solid as a more expensive car.
That doesn’t mean go out and buy the most expensive car no matter what. But it means be educated about what it is that you’re buying and the pros, cons, and tradeoffs you’re making.
Good developers know the best practices in the industry and the platforms that they’re working within.
We do a lot of work in WordPress and there’s a WordPress way of doing things. Because WordPress is a very commonly used and open technology, anybody can use it without much training or knowledge. But just because you write a piece of code that works doesn’t mean that it’s written well or that it’s not going to have a problem down the road. They tend to build things in hacky ways that are likely to break in the future.
Sometimes it’s the little things, like making sure that your website isn’t throwing errors into the server log. This might be an indication that you have a looming problem, not to mention, filling up the log file on the server full of a bunch of garbage and potentially slowing your site down.
There are a lot of great agencies out there that really get the design right. But web design and development have grown so intertwined, you really need a strong technical team on your side to make sure that the technical underpinnings are sound.
Automation, web apps, and advanced marketing
In a world of increasing automation, and with websites playing a more critical role in marketing and lead generation, being able to integrate your website with multiple technologies can make a huge difference to your business.
That might mean integrating with a CRM like SalesForce, or connecting to a calendar scheduling system. Or being able to charge for services through your website.
Maybe marketing, analytics, and operations software allows you to understand what your customers are actually doing on the website.
Most companies just throw up a website and look at some cursory analytics that show what people are doing on the site. But the standard analytics packages don’t really give you an insight to what’s happening.
There are custom integrations and marketing tools for better tracking, that really show you how people are arriving at and using your site. They take a little extra work, but understanding your success and failures is a key part of your investment and overall marketing efforts.
What’s right for you?
These are just some of the aspects that might or might not make Launch Brigade a good fit for a client. Of course, you also have to do a little reflecting on what makes an agency a good fit for you.