Keeping Your Web Agency Competitive Online
Web agencies become so absorbed by doing a great job for their clients, they often forget to show themselves the same level of care. Websites aren’t being properly updated, communication channels aren’t being used effectively, not to mention that some are even trying to cut corners and costs by advertising outdated technologies in their list of services.
A simple Google search for the term web agency will return around 676,000,000, while the US Bureau of Labour Statistics estimates a number of approximately 260,000 graphic designers in the Unites States alone, and that’s not accounting for the programmers, marketers and other flavours of designers and specialists that make the web industry tick. Worldwide, there are hundreds of thousands of web agencies, offering very similar services at varying rates and performance standards. Today, we’re going to look at some of the things you can do to help your agency stand out from the crowd of young, innovative and experienced professionals out there.
Become Your Own Client
The first stage in the development of any digital product is understanding it and most agencies work off of a questionnaire they either ask their clients to complete or work with the client to outline their goals, brand identity, capabilities and what differentiates them from the competition. Often, however, the same diligence that should go into analysing a new product and/ or brand is not applied for the agency itself.
Digital products have a much shorter life cycle than traditional ones, meaning they either evolve with the market they were created for or become irrelevant relatively quickly. A web agency is a digital product that, by virtue of its own perceived value is selected to create a new set of digital products. Therefore, in order to remain relevant, an agency doesn’t just have to deliver competitive products, it has to be a competitive product that people want.
The only way to do this is by undergoing a recurring process of analysis and adaptation driven by the changes in technology, market trends and industry demands. This isn’t a process that lives in a binder one dusts off on the eve of a new product launch, re-branding or the implementation of a new marketing strategy. It’s an essential part of any sound business strategy and should be a core part of every quarterly review.
Define Your Agency as a Product
When you understand what the market has and what your clients need, you can define a product that is high demand and low supply. You might think that a product like web design is both in high demand and in high supply and you’d be spot on. However, eCommerce web design, Magento eCommerce web design and/ or retail eCommerce web design are also in high-demand but, as you throw your capabilities into the mix, the supply for the same product is likely to get lower and lower.
Don’t be a Jack-Of-All-Trades, just be the master of one.
That’s not to say that you ought to redefine your core business every month or so. You should, however, look to correlate it with the specifics of market demands within the next interval, developing a product that you can consistently deliver, adds to your competencies and improves on your overall brand image; allowing you to both consolidate your position within your market segment and dip your toes into working with new technologies and products.
Build Something Sustainable
A one-off type product is great if you’re talking about this season’s wildest ice cream flavours, it’s less so if you’re building a business around bacon-flavoured gelato in the middle of Alaska. First and foremost, the product you come up with has to be real, meaning it has to be deliverable at the time you advertise it, not eventually. Yes, that means things you intend to do, regardless of how convinced you are that you’re going to achieve them, do not qualify.
Another essential attribute your product has to have is sustainability, meaning you’ll have to think about a fundamental set of things you do and a way of doing them which is as close to future-proof as can be. This doesn’t mean that what you do is set in stone but you have to develop a core business model that doesn’t become obsolete the second a platforms upgrades to a newer version or a technology gets dropped by the company that developed it.
Your business model should be focused enough that you’re not pretending to deliver outstanding results with more technologies than you can count but only employ 3 people. So you’re product doesn’t just have to be real, it has to be believable on the long run.
If you want to achieve something through online marketing, you’d best start a few months ago. A web agency lives and breathes online and if you’re postponing your own marketing until some arbitrary milestone, you’ll soon find that the Internet is rather indifferent to your sense of urgency and that, regardless of how much money you’re willing to shove down its gullet, there’s still a time component here that simply won’t budge.
It takes time and sustained effort to build awareness and credibility online so if you want your brand to have the smallest chance of being known in six months, starting building awareness today. The common misconception here is that because we’re talking about promoting a digital product within the dynamic economy of the digital environment, one can simply pop into the market in a relatively advantageous position. However, it’s precisely because of the fast-paced nature of the digital medium that you’ll have a very hard time even keeping up with those who’ve been spending months building a relationship with your audience, not to mention your own competitors.
Within any agency, clients and client work takes precedence over every other requirement and, unless the coffee’s gone or the servers are on fire, everything else gets pushed back. Web agencies cannot be separated from the online environment. Their very existence becomes known through their own website and online communication channels. Any agency that’s marginally successful will have ongoing client work and, thanks to this clients come first policy, it becomes very easy to delay updating, communicating and promoting the agency’s own brand.
Regardless of how much client work you’ve got or how large the projects currently in the pipeline are, neglecting your own brand will cost you dearly. For one, you’re likely to postpone doing anything about it until you need to either get more leads or hire new people. Whichever the case, there’s a sense of urgency attached to these needs and, as we’ve seen, you can’t just snap your fingers and become an instant online success. Communication strategies have an inherent testing component, which means your marketing department, will need to spend time testing and adapting their content before launching a campaign.
It’s very important that you learn to put your brand’s image in the spotlight, by showcasing your work, capabilities, your people and their accomplishments through regular, if not constant, communication. The most viable solution is to create and implement a strategy that doesn’t spread your people too thin but allows you to maintain an effective online presence; or at the very least, communicate at regular intervals that correspond to different shifts in the market or events. Are you going to a huge conference where you’re likely to meet new people you might hire? Start talking about it a few weeks before, making sure you effectively communicate that you’re interested in meeting potential hires.
The Bottom Line
As a web agency, the one thing you can’t postpone is managing your own brand. As your most reliable, effective and sought-out calling card, your website and degree of online awareness will either work for you, emphasizing the value of partnering up with you, or they’ll work against you through badly-designed websites and poor online communication. You might ignore these today but, sooner or later, you’ll have to either generate new leads or hire new people and the outcome is entirely up to how well you brand yourself today.