Part 2 - Aligning Your Content and Your Team
At Cantilever we love working with non-profits, because it is energizing to be a part of making the world a better place through our work.
We sometimes get approached by non-profit clients who are not getting good results from an outdated old website, and are ready to start over, but don’t know how to approach the process.
This is part 2 of a 3 part blog for how you can navigate towards a successful outcome.
(if you missed Part 1, you can find it HERE)
Assembling your content
The process will go smoother if you can identify all the existing resources and content you already have.
You can categorize these resources into what is acceptable as-is, what needs some work, and what you need to throw out.
Much of this will be on the current site but there is often a lot of content that has never made it to the site – such as material from annual reports, grassroots partners, social media, YouTube, etc.
Put together a document that lists out everything you have, and you can share this with your eventual vendor.
Finding an Agency
A good agency should be both a strategic and tactical partner.
You should not hire a firm that is waiting to take orders from you, because you are not web experts. You want people who have been through it all and can take that experience into your project so you avoid common mistakes.
The traditional RFP process involves you writing up your requirements and then receiving full “bids” and “pitches” from agencies that want the work. The pitch will include some kind of vision for what the firm would do on the site, information about them, pricing, timeline, etc.
This process can work but it is risky.
The problem is that it incentivizes the agency to promise the most results for the least money, in order to win your business. That sounds good, but most agencies can’t deliver on the big promises they would make.
Agency representatives making the proposal will often be sales executives who are incentivized by you signing the contract rather than the ultimate success of the project.
Those folks may know the technology somewhat well but never as well as the actual people doing the work. This means they will naturally push things in an optimistic direction to make the project sound better and cheaper than it actually will be.
Agencies doing RFPs can only invest limited time in each proposal so the plan that they propose will not be specific or bespoke to you and your needs. They will have to default to an approach that they can predict, rather than the exact approach that may be right for you.
The traditional RFP process puts the burden on the client to say what they want on their site, when they don’t actually have the experience to say what that is.
A common example is that many RFPs include a choice of content management system (CMS). Clients feel that this is one clear request they can put in the RFP because they know a specific CMS and feel OK with it, and it’s one less variable that gets in the way of people delivering quotes.
But clients may only have tried 2-3 CMS systems, while agencies have tried 10+ such systems and know the different nuances of why one would be better for certain situations.
So by narrowing the RFP the client accidentally shuts themselves out from a superior solution.
Cantilever does recommend using an RFP, but in a non-traditional way:
- Think of it as you looking for a partner, not a project. You should be evaluating the firms, rather than their visions for your project. The right firm can come up with the right vision but that can be done once you are working together much easier than in advance.
- Focus on the outcomes you want, not the tactics you are considering. Consider that the website could look vastly different than what you have in mind, and still deliver the outcomes you want, or even better. You will want a firm you can trust to guide you to that place.
- Try to talk to the people you would be working with on a daily basis rather than the leader/account manager.
- Be very wary of firms without an in-house coding team. There are a lot of firms which will take website business but they outsource the dev work. If this is the case, you should know exactly who the work is going to, and should assess them as well.
- Try to assess how much the firm will ask of you. It’s very easy to focus on their cost, but one of the major costs of less-experienced firms is that they take a lot more internal time and energy to manage.
Try to get a sense of whether the potential firms will be able to execute the vision without constant hand-holding or feedback. Prior customer interviews are a great way to assess this. You can simply ask how many meetings per week were required to deliver their site. If it’s more than 2-3, then the firm was not very efficient with the client’s time.
Ready for more? Click here to read or Bookmark Part 3 “Beginning the Project.”And of course, if you’d like our help, you can always Get Started on a Free Consultation from Cantilever.