As I look back on my work experience thus far, my role has always centered on people and project management. I worked part time as a choreographer in college, as a producer/director of development in the film industry and most recently in account management and client service in the wonderful world of digital marketing. While there are universal truths that can be applied to developing a successful partnership in any industry, I’ve found a few to be particularly true for digital or web based projects.
It’s no longer up for debate that your online presence is a key component of your brand identity and can hugely impact the profitability of your business. That said, technology moves fast and many people find they are still playing catch up and trying to stay abreast of emerging platforms. Given the different levels of digital expertise that players of any digital project bring to the table, planning and personality fit are key elements to a successful partnership.
Here are a few recommendations to get the most out of your next digital project:
Respect The Expert
Most of our clients know their brand, business goals and customers inside and out. This information is the baseline of any website or app project and critical for the designers and developers of that project to understand. Our agency spends a lot of time at a project’s onset listening to the expert (our client) to make sure we are fully aligned on these key areas. That said, if you are hiring an agency to build a new website, it’s probably because you lack the expertise to do it yourself (which is ok!). Let your agency team share their years of strategy, design, technology and marketing experience with you and trust their recommendations. You know your brand, but your partner will know how to make it shine. Let them do what you hired them to do!
It’s always exciting to kickoff a new creative project that is going to impact your business in a big way. It’s also a significant time, money and energy commitment. Building a new digital tool, if done well, involves a number of phases where both the client and creative team need to weigh on the project’s direction. The timeframe can range from several weeks to over a year in some cases and will take a commitment from both sides for the project to reach its desired end. I’ve never seen a project get better when timelines are extended because clients get busy. Commit to making your project a priority and dedicate the time and resources needed to see it through from start to finish. You’ll thank yourself in the end, I promise.
Get Organized Early!
It is critical to solidify the project plan and set expectations at the start of a project. Spend time understanding the scope of work, timeline, deliverables and expectations on both sides. Come up with a solution for any early “red flags” that pop up on your radar. This is the time where everyone is excited and energized about the project – use it to your advantage to get as much of the grunt work accomplished as possible. Unforeseen challenges will arise through the course of the project and leaving loose ends until the end creates a bottleneck of work and plenty of frustrations. Set yourself up for a smooth and enjoyable ride by laying a solid foundation for your project and tackling complicated issues early on.
Choose a Project Manager (or Cat Herder)
Both the agency and client should designate one person that coordinates feedback from their respective team and communicates it to the other. This is not to say that there will not be time for group discussion and brainstorming, but if you are going to keep your project on schedule and on budget, feedback needs to be collected and presented in a cohesive manner. This is the only way to make critical decisions and move the project forward. With so many people weighing in on a project, all with various levels of expertise and, at times, different goals, clients and agencies need to hash out their opinions internally first, and then present unified feedback to the other side. This saves a lot of time and money by not having to double back or re-do work because “Sheila was out of town and hates the direction we choose last week”. Get buy in from all stakeholders, agree on a direction and move forward.
Data as a Driver
Digital projects are dynamic in that they need to service both creative and tangible goals. “I want my website to excite and inspire visitors but also need to increase my conversion rate by 25%”. You’ve established your project goals upfront and now it’s important to make sure you service them throughout the project. Too often we allow our personal creative taste to be the ultimate decision maker on a project. The problem with this approach is that your app or website is ultimately about what your customer wants, rather than you want. Opinion and emotion are subjective – data less so. Make sure you allow your sales and customer data to weigh just as heavily into your decisions as creative or personal preferences.
A digital project typically involves a lot of different people coming together with unique backgrounds and various levels of expertise. Good communication will be critical to aligning your team and producing a superior final product. Given that agencies and clients might be working together over the course of several months, I advise both to give potential partners the “beer test” before agreeing to work together. Ask yourselves – “Is this a person or team that I would enjoy grabbing a beer with”? If the answer is yes, you’re off to a good start! Digital projects should be collaborative, fun and will ultimately reflect the work of the people contributing to them. There will be challenges. Solutions to these challenges come a lot more easily when partnerships are rooted in mutual respect, solid communication and the ability to laugh at ourselves every once in awhile.
Cheers to your next successful digital project and partnership!