I was in a meeting with a prospect the other day, and he was telling me about his company’s website, newly launched in the fall of 2013. “Well, at least we aren’t dealing with something extremely old here,” I thought to myself. And between sips of coffee, he also mentioned the site wasn’t mobile responsive. After a polite pause, I asked, “Did you just say your site wasn’t mobile responsive?” He affirmed with a headshake and slight grimace, almost as if he were ready for my incredulity.
Digital Marketing Agency 101
What followed was one of those “unfiltered” moments, as I blurted out: “Sorry, but I don’t understand how that happened! You said your agency spent 18 months designing a new site that launched a little over 6 months ago, and it’s not mobile responsive. How did this happen?”
He went on to add that they had no working content management system by which to update the site and had to rely on a vendor to update so much as a comma. Well, my mind was officially blown. I mean, how could an agency worth its salt take 18 months to work on a website and deliver it without mobile responsive capabilities? Who does this to a customer that’s paying them and for whom they are supposed to be an advocate?
Back to our prospect—I have to hand it to him. The guy was sharp and maintained his cool, although I could tell that it really chapped him that he now found himself in this situation. Wisely, he refused to throw anyone under the bus or dish on how this happened, but I was getting a vibe that this was not the original plan and it was a “make due and deal later” sort of situation. I did, however, find out the name of the agency, and my jaw dropped even further. I know this agency, and they should know better.
Digital Malpractice Defined
Now, I get the fact that things happen during a project (both client and agency side)—objectives shift, perspectives alter and budgets change. Website redesigns are a moving target, but delivering a site that isn’t mobile responsive in 2013 with no viable way to make on-the-fly updates? Well, that quickly descends into “digital malpractice” territory.
Riffing off Wikipedia’s definition for medical malpractice, digital malpractice is “professional negligence, by act or omission, by a digital media provider in which the delivered product provided falls below the accepted standard of practice in the content marketing community, resulting in loss of engagement, market share, efficiency and revenue for the client.”
I’m really not sure why I was surprised, though. This was the second prospect (one has already turned into a satisfied EnVeritas Group customer) I’ve talked to in the span of about four months to have experienced something very similar—a well known agency providing a below quality digital experience.
You can’t blame clients by saying, “Well, they should have been on the ball or made better business decisions.” They are printers, staffing agents, bankers, educators and hoteliers—excellent at their line of work and expecting their content marketing agencies to be excellent at theirs.
When content marketers aren’t providing the best services they can even when projects morph and budgets shrink, their clients suffer. And when clients suffer, so too will the agency providing the sub par product or services. When websites, blogs, social media, etc. don’t perform as advertised, clients have to pick up the pieces with what’s left of their budget and with even less patience.
Here are 10 ways you make sure that “digital malpractice” isn’t in your future:
- Choose a firm that focuses on strategic objectives for digital content first, the actual content second and design third. Many malpractitioners reverse that order, truncating strategy entirely.
- Check references for similar projects. This may sound ultra basic, but sometimes in our rush to get work done we overlook this step. While checking references, ask about bumps in the road and how the agency handled those.
- Select an agency who puts customer service first and sees themselves as a true partner: an arm of the client organization. Though every agency offers lip service in this area, organizations who put feet to their words:
- participate in industry forums, social sharing and conferences,
- and share their knowledge freely and answer detailed questions about your particular situation long before an account is signed.
- Ask about their focus on internal training and industry conference attendance to gauge their focus on staying current in industry knowledge and best practices.
- Check out their blog—does it consistently feature well-written articles that address both customer service and best practices from employees across the organization?
- Pay attention to the salesperson. Does he/she ask questions and seek to truly understand your objectives and answer your questions? Does the salesperson stay engaged over extended periods of time?
- Look closely at proposals. Are they (and contracts) written transparently, detailing deliverables, method of delivery (i.e. CMS, Dropbox, XML feed, etc.), deadlines and individual pricing elements?
- Find out if they offer some sort of satisfaction guarantee or recourse if you are unhappy.
- Ask about their client/agency collaboration process.
- Lastly, spend a few hours doing research on whatever it is you are looking to the agency to be an expert in—be it a website, your Instagram account, Google analytics, etc. Although you are busy taking care of your line of expertise, it’s important to familiarize yourself at the high level with current best practices and industry terms. Become savvy enough to ask questions and get a feel for if the person you are talking to really knows his/her stuff.
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Aubrae Wagner – Chief Operations Officer