For most consumers a brand’s website is inseparable from the brand itself. Although lots of companies say their website is important, the UX for many makes the digital brand identity come across almost as an afterthought. In the $20 billion market for agencies looking to grow their web development and web operations services, there are plenty of misconceptions about what and what not do. In its new report, “The Myth-Busting Guide to Agency Growth and Scale: How to Succeed in Web Design and Development,” Pantheon shares lessons from its partner network of over 2,500 agencies and other industry experts to dispel the seven most common myths:
1. The client is always right. You should never be dismissive, obviously, but you shouldn’t be yes-men either. It’s important to listen well, and then offer viable solutions: ideas that your client might need support in developing, or may not have had at all. They might not need that app with which they’ve been obsessed. It’s your job to tell them that, constructively. Your top priority is making your client successful online.
2. You need to find the perfect niche before you can grow. While you certainly don’t want to hydroplane all over the place with myriad ideas, it’s important to start somewhere, while remaining open to inevitable change and growth. If you can answer the question, “What are we best at?” without skipping a beat, then by all means go for it. If you can’t, start with your strengths but don’t add too many constraints. As you find your place in the market, be flexible enough to shift your focus to the work that allows your firm to prosper.
3. You need to be big to attract big clients. Visions of big-name logos dance in your head, but Rome—or Google, for that matter—wasn’t built in a day. There is plenty you can do to close those dream deals, including filling your portfolio with solutions to pitch to prospective clients, building the street cred of individual team members as industry experts and teaming up with other creatives for out-of-scope work. Most important, turn a perceived liability into an advantage. New tools allow small web teams to deliver just as high quality work within the same timeline and under budget as big teams. Companies will choose a smaller firm if they feel confident they can go to market faster due to your close-knit team, lack of bureaucracy and agile workflow.
4. Support work is boring, distracting and unprofitable. Maintenance might sound like one of the least-sexy words in existence, but it’s actually your secret weapon. For DevOps, nothing survives and succeeds without due diligence. Small improvements and new features might not seem like much, but they are intrinsic to growth. Security updates and rapid response to breaches, add-on features that nurture a continued client relationship, user testing and regular performance tuning lead to happier, more successful, clients.
5. Only big agencies benefit from streamlined processes. Have your process in place before you’re slammed with work. Keep your website operations to a manageable scale. Create custom installs for repurposing whenever possible. There’s no need to build from the ground up for each client, and providing a site with the basics provided is a huge plus. Version control and consistent dev, test and live environments will keep things running smoothly. Use project management tools to keep deadlines and other important dates in clear sight. Manage all your sites in one place. Using a platform such as Pantheon that offers hosting, DevOps, and WebOps in one place will save you time, money and stress.
6. You can’t grow unless your team gets bigger. Each new hire requires an investment of time and money. Before you start that search, think creatively about how much you can do with what—and who—you have. Reframe growth in other ways. Consider raising prices for clients who have yet to bring you a profit. You might also consider a different pricing structure. Take the aerial perspective regarding design and development/workflow. Is each team member working to the best of her or his ability? Do you need to hire a consultant for a particular task? Have you automated what you can? With the right WebOps tools, you can do a lot with the team you already have.
7. Great teams require extravagant benefits. Nurturing your team starts with values, not air-hockey tables and hip decorative flourishes. Clarify and develop your mission statement and base the company culture on that. Everyone should know and understand your mission statement, vision statement and value statement. Why does your company do what it does? What does your company aspire to do? What do you and your employees believe? Having these in place will attract top-notch people who will feel like stakeholders inspired to give. They’ll be more likely to collaborate with one another and proactively problem-solve. Start with the foundation, and you’ll be able to build confidently at the appropriate times.
For the complete report, “The Myth-Busting Guide to Agency Growth and Scale: How to Succeed in Web Design and Development,” click here.