Rebecca Caroe

Breakfast Bites – Craig Menzies, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research

Posted by June 19, 2008
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    Web design, Client / Agency Relationship Meltdown and the Big Bad Recession.

Finding an agency from the client perspective is really difficult – harder than ever. But making a long term productive working relationship is even harder.
The aim in web design to get a straight line from start to finish. Clients try to find the right agency to work with.
Research from Jan 08, Asking about web design budgets. 29 clients with euros 465m in budgets. Of which 13 had projects >1m euros. None reported declining or flat growth and 21/27 had >20% growth. More than half bid on less than half of the RFPs they receive.

From the client’s point of view, it costs more, agencies are more selective and it’s more difficult to find the right one. When choosing a web design partner clients need to know how to ‘narrow the field’.
Ask about:
– Agency size, capacity and growth. (a growing agency is not necessarily going to be able to support you if growing at 40%pa).
– Capability and primary services offered. (trend is towards full service but everyone has strengths. Face these and publicise this).
– Industry expertise
– Region, language and cultural understanding. (global brands are concerned about global strategies on a web platform e.g. will a CMS with one structure work in Israel?)
Make your project look good in the brief! Spend the time to understand what is innovative, creative and exciting about your project.

    The Foundations of a great client/agency relationship.

Ask where are we going together? Start the project with a clear outcome.
Top 3 client complaints about agencies:-
1 – the project results didn’t meet expectations (by the time you realise there’s a problem it’s far too late to do anything about it)
2 – The project experienced delays and went over budget. (ideas win business but operational problems lose it. Operational success keeps business).
3 – The agency was out of sync with the clients strategic requirements. (main causes client outgrowing the agency or client requirements change dramatically). No fault but the worst.

    Top 3 agency complaints about clients:-

1 – Clients lacked an understanding of Web basics. (half new clients have never worked on a web project before. Education isn’t a budget item)
2 – clients did not dedicate enough time to the project. (clients don’t understand how long it takes to write 3 paragraphs of text in an ‘about us’ page. Getting 3 bosses to sign off on creative.)
3 – Clients didn’t invite Web agencies to the big table. (allow us to have a bigger conversation. Use our expertise, talent and knowledge but brief us deeply.)

Top 3 services offered to clients – design and/or business strategy – web design is one of the most important channels in the modern world. This impacts the rest of the business. Clients are foolish not to take advantage of this.

    Get in synch – recommendations:-

– Communicate honestly and openly. Tell the whole story. (when a project goes wrong, tell the client early.
– Collaborate with your partner. Tell clients to think collaboration not delegation with the agency.
Codify your communications. The act of writing something down solidifies the relationship and cements it. Expectations come out into the open.
– Hire a dedicated, seasoned and senior project manager to facilitate your process. Junior project managers don’t know what can go wrong and have no experience of when things have gone wrong to bring to this project.
– Regularly align your strategy and your client or agency’s capabilities and vision. Make the effort to do this. Tell clients about other projects, new methods, staff, technologies you have in your team. Clients talk about new strategies.

    Optimise your web design spend.

Impact of economic uncertainly on European Web design and development. 16/21 reported a zero or positive impact. Compare with client spend surveys 21% increase spend on design agency services reported for 2008. This is because 56% increase on web analytics is also expected.

Web analytics is about accountability / measurability and lowering risk. And so although more money will be spent on web but clients expect more from their spend (particularly if they transfer it from other parts of the advertising budget).

Website owners should spend on planning and project management. Money skimped here is likely to create risk.

Write the brief with the agency not at them. (overcomes the education issue).

Give experience its due. (clients request agencies who have worked in a recession before!)

Do some of the work yourself. (BUT, know what you are doing, make the time commitment and the work needs to be done as if the agency is driving the guidance)

Take responsibility for your own part of the project.
In summary,

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