Last week, news broke that Hertz is suing Accenture for failing to deliver a website that supposedly costed the car rental company $32 million. That is quite a number, isn't it?! Accenture's web development practice might face difficult times ahead, but I'm sure CEOs and Digital Executives can attest when I say I'm glad to not stand in Hertz's shoes right now. Reading the sequence of events, it's easy to blame Accenture. But my thesis is that both sides must have made significant errors for a stuff up of this size to happen.
Now, if you're a startup, your website project might not be this elaborate and won't cost nearly as much. But just because you're launching a simple website doesn't necessarily mean it's easier. From years of working with web agencies at startups, I follow a few key steps, questions, and considerations to effectively and efficiently establish a digital presence.
Start with Messaging
These days, independent consultants and CEOs of new startups are quick to claim "they need a website". Many times this is true, so I will give them that. But there's one component I would add to the claim. You need a website with a message.
As you put together your product or services offering (in your head or on paper), think about the overall messaging and language that you think will draw your audience in. Also determine who this audience is. While customers are always top-of-mind, some startup websites also need their website to serve as a business card to potential investors and talent.
A good web development agency will ask you questions to gather requirements for your website. But it is helpful to have an outline of what you need the website to do. Is it lead capture? Perhaps live chat? Do you have existing customers that need to have easy access to a customer portal through the website?
My #1 tip for gathering requirements is to get stakeholders in the room. For early-stage startups this may just be a CEO and Marketing Director. But for startups that have been around for a few years, you might need to pull in a few more people, like Client Success.
Once you have an idea of requirements, things can get tricky. Mistakes I've seen are marketing teams gathering internal requirements, but not confirming whether or not these were taken into the scope of work. The result? An internal stakeholder who was left surprised when she discovered her requirements were not even considered.
Setting expectations with your internal stakeholders is so important! My guess is that part of the Accenture / Hertz stuff up derived from a lack of this.
Choose Your Agency Wisely
A web development agency can act as a long-term partner for startups - they can almost be an extension of the team. So you want to choose your agency wisely and carefully.
Your budget will likely determine whether you can work with an offshore or onshore team. In either case, you want to ask the agency about their experience in your industry, portfolio, and reliable references. You also want them to tell you more about the process and number of possible revisions (also known as rounds of feedback). I always recommend engaging three agencies before making a decision. Failing to do so means not being able to compare skillsets and quotes.
A good example of this is when I walked into a Series A startup that had engaged a supposedly top-notch agency for their website. No other agencies were engaged in the RFP process, so a $60,000 quote for a simple website seemed standard. Unfortunately, the website turned out to be inflexible and design was lackluster too. Of course, this could all be fixed and maintained for a monthly retainer, but which startup has that kind of money? We ended up relaunching the website with another agency for a fraction of the original cost.
Want to learn more about building your marketing presence? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.