Article originally posted on LinkedIn If you are one more missed deadline or unexpected invoice away from firing your web agency, take a deep breath and get ready for some structured and cathartic planning. I promise, reliable web agencies that are actually fun to work with do exist, and you can find one with the right kind of prep work, clarity, and interviewing process. As you are already aware, having to fire a vendor has a serious cost, including your precious time and energy as well as that of your other team members who will have to spend time offboarding and onboarding those vendors. I do not suggest firing your agency lightly, but there will be a time when you know they have to go. So, let’s focus on how to ensure the next agency hire is a success. We’ll approach finding the ‘right’ web agency in this article in two parts:
- Getting clear on your expectations and desired outcomes for a new agency
- Gathering technical information about your website and documenting the biggest pain-in-the-ass parts of managing it
Why The Prep Work Matters
Before you start looking for a new agency or asking peers for referrals, you need to do some homework. I wish it weren’t so, and understand that if you’re looking for a new agency you likely needed them yesterday, but it’s worth it. Shortcuts won’t serve you here. This prep work will set you up for finding a new web agency that understands your goals, solves your problems, has your back, and will become a long-term partner that you can depend on.
Permission To Whine
The first step is easy. It’s basically just bitching about your current agency onto paper.
Start with a brain dump of the things that absolutely drive you nuts about your current agency. Don’t worry about how rational your feelings are right now; just start writing. Review your list of complaints and see if you can identify the core value that is being violated by each one. If you can get clarity on the values you feel are being violated by your current agency relationship, this can help you identify bad fits very quickly, saving you precious time. Plus, it’s just helpful in general to know this stuff… like, as a person. As an example, your list could look like this:
Yes, I am inside your brain. At the end of this exercise, you will have a nice little list of values to look for in your new web agency. Based on our example list above, the values you would be screening for are:
- Reasonable Amount of Control
- Communication and Proactivity
- Flexibility of the Platform
- Reliability of the Website
- Longevity of the Product
- Accountability / Ownership
With your Deal Breaker Values identified for this new vendor relationship, you can listen for evidence of them in your discovery calls, and identify beacons of hope or hear mismatches early on.
Let’s Get Technical, Technical
Now that you’ve made your bitch-list, and have morphed it into a self-aware, mature list of values you can screen new agencies for, it’s time to get technical. For the success of your search, it is imperative that you have done an inventory of your website and understand exactly what you’ll be handing over. Gather as much information as possible about how your website is built.
This is the technical information an agency will need to decide if they are the right fit for you, as well as identify how much it will cost to do what you’re asking.
This is also the information that will give you a fighting chance of choosing an agency equipped to take on your challenges. It will help you answer important questions like what platform your website is built on, where it is hosted, what company you pay for that hosting, who owns your domain name and where is it registered, as well as some other technical info that will help an agency understand the size and functionality of your website. At first, I had a ginormous list of technical questions listed out in the body of this article, and then I realized that people’s faces would literally melt off if I made them read through it. So, I made a spreadsheet with the data I recommend you collect that you can copy and modify to fit your needs. Even if you don’t understand ANY of the information that you gather in this step, you’ll be glad you have all of these technical details hunted down when you get the right nerds in your corner.
Old A$$ Content Might Not Be Valuable
As you dive into the actual content on your website to fill in the spreadsheet linked above, you may discover pieces that are inaccurate or obsolete. Make note of this outdated content in the document or spreadsheet you’re preparing, as keeping it or letting it go will affect the cost of your project. The next article walks through which questions to ask during discovery agency interviews. You will use the information you gathered during the exercises in this article to create a literal scorecard to use during agency interviews. This scorecard will help you screen out bad matches and find the right fit before you engage.
Hiring the wrong agency will cost you precious time, stress, and money. With intentional prep-work, you can create a clear and objective way to identify the right match and find a new web agency that will make your job and your life easier. And when you find that dream agency, you are never gonna want to let them go 😉 Take a deeeeep breath. You are on your way to finding a web agency that will end your misery and become a trusted, long-term partner.