Impressions

by Cochran

What To Look For In Hiring A Web Design Firm

This is a condensed version of a recent talk I gave to a group of sales professionals within a large website design firm. They wanted an agency perspective, so I didn’t mince words.

Here are Cochran Creative Group’s top ten prerequisites in choosing a web design partner.

1. Easy to work with. We look for a firm that’s well organized. Namely, we need to know from the ‘get-go’ who our lead contact person is. We don’t want to talk with a different customer service person each time we call.

2. Speaks in a language we (and our customers) can understand. This harks back to Sales 101: Learn to talk the customer’s language.

3. Is customer-focused. Not only are they interested in our business; they’re also interested in our customers’ business. They’re here to help solve our problems and make our lives easier.

4. Wants to form a real partnership with us. For instance, we’d like help preparing proposals and pitching clients. We’d like to include our web partner on conference calls with customers. We’d like our web partner to take as much ownership over the project as we do. We don’t need you to be anonymous.

5. Takes part in the website planning process. Offers up ideas. Discourages us from going in a wrong direction. Basically, we need your help. We’re not web designers. Please guide us.

6. Offers us content management sites that are design-independent. We spend our days creating custom logos, custom marketing plans and custom advertising campaigns. We want to create unique sites. We don’t want to be boxed in by column widths or drop down styles. We hate the “T” word, i.e., templates.

7. Cares about site aesthetics. We and our customers care about things like centering, consistent use of font styles, font sizes and colors. Aesthetics help maintain a consistent brand message. They may do little for SEO, but they do subliminally attract and keep customers.

8. Is attentive to detail. Looks into even small errors. When we see “done with errors” on the bottom of a page, it doesn’t inspire confidence. If we notice errors, there’s certainly a chance that other visitors to the site will notice them too.

9. Adheres to web standards and provides a high level of quality assurance. Tests each site on multiple browsers for consistency in rendering. We don’t want to hear that a site “might not look right in Safari or IE6.” Unfortunately, our customers could be using less-popular or older browser versions.

10. Delivers on time and is readily available for troubleshooting. We prefer to work with a website firm that provides ongoing support in a proactive way – a group that checks in on a regular basis, just to “see how things are going.”

All in all, we’re looking for a long-term relationship – the launch of a new website is only the beginning.

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May 16, 2010 Posted by | website design | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2009: Journey Into the Marketing Unknown

A close friend recently sized me up this way: “You’re most comfortable residing in the ‘unknown’ because that’s where the most learning takes place.”

If that was an accurate assessment, then 2009 was definitely my best year ever. It was chock full of unknowns.

After 10 years as the owner of a marketing and creative design group, all of a sudden, new customers were not beating a path to my door as readily as before. Even long-time customers were scaling back on their marketing initiatives. I took a deep breath and began brushing up on my sales skills, reacquainting myself with some tried and true methods and attending a seminar or two to learn some specific tactics for selling in a down economy.

The marketing and advertising industry was in serious change mode well before the economy took its nosedive. The Internet had already changed everything. No longer were companies relying solely on traditional print and broadcast media to market their products and services. There was and continues to be a whole new set of skills necessary to compete as a marketing professional.

Several years ago, the unknowns of the online world began presenting themselves to me. Website design and email marketing were quickly becoming prerequisites for maintaining a viable business model. In true form, I jumped into those unknowns with both feet, learning as I went and happy to be doing so.

Much to my delight, even more unknowns showed up in 2009. The year has found me gaining fluency in search engine optimization, blogging and social media, especially Twitter. And, I’m reading everything I can get my hands on about design thinking to learn how better to help my business and my customers’ businesses grow in more innovative and human-centered ways. Books of particular note include Ideo’s Tim Brown’s “Change By Design” and “The Design of Business” by Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management.

Despite the unruly and disruptive nature of 2009, I was a bit sorry to see the year come to a close. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that 2010 will present even more unknowns to us all. The pace will quicken too.

Let the learning never end.

January 2, 2010 Posted by | creativity, design thinking, Marketing, Online Marketing, social media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Keeping Your Page Content Updated and Fresh

Keeping your web page content updated and fresh is critical to attracting new customers. Doing so will also give former customers and formerly tentative shoppers a reason to return to your site and buy from you. New content entices the search engine spiders to scan your site and increases the odds that your site will appear in the rankings.

Depending on your on-line goals, investing in a content management system can be an effective use of marketing dollars. A content management system gives you the power to easily update all copy, graphics and other content within your site without any programming knowledge whatsoever.

A content management system, coupled with a strong SEO (Search Engine Optimization) plan, will allow you take an active role in driving more would-be customers to your website and choosing you over the competition.

May 11, 2009 Posted by | Online Marketing | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments