Finding the right web partner is about more than ticking boxes - it's about finding an organisation that not only understands your goals but has the capability to help you meet them from end to end. Every business has unique challenges, infrastructure and culture that need to be taken into account when looking for 'the one' - the partner who'll stay with you for better or for worse.
Check out our handy hints on how to find 'the one' for you:
1. Know what you're looking for.
Are you an enterprise organisation that's looking for a partner that will help simplify and integrate your complex internal systems? Are you an SMB that needs complete control over publishing and editing your content? How important are services such as UX, strategy and design? Do you need training, hosting and premium support? These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself before you get started on your search for the perfect partner.
Alternatively, you can download our Build Your Web Technology Checklist and use it to develop a blueprint for exactly what you need from your technology.
2. Do your homework.
With a plethora of agencies and technologies to choose from, it can be hard to narrow it down to a shortlist. Start by reading objective analyst reports, such as Ovum's 2012-2013 Web Content Management Decision Matrix, which paint a complete picture of the CMS landscape.
Next up, it's time to take a closer look at each of the potential partners. Using your checklist from Point 1, assess whether each organisation can deliver the services and technology you need. Key capabilities to look out for: UX, strategy, design, training, support and third-party integration.
When you've got yourself a shortlist, it's time to dig a little deeper and go on some dates.
3. The (not-so-blind) date.
You've done your research on the agency's website, made contact and set up a meeting. Now what?
This is the perfect time to gauge whether this prospective partner is the right fit for your organisation. Ask about similar projects they've worked on, inquire after case studies from your industry and assess their passion for understanding your business challenges and goals.
If they can't tick off these three things, it might be time to give them the hint that it's not going to work out. If they pass with flying colours, it's time to take them home to meet the family.
4. Meet the family.
No marketing manager is an island - there are plenty of stakeholders to keep happy when it comes to choosing a web partner. So before you settle on 'the one', bring them home to meet the key people who are going to have to give the nod of approval before you settle down.
There's your IT team (who want to know everything about the CMS and support) the development team (who'll want a good look at the back-end) and the content team (who want more control and flexibility than ever).
5. Pop the question.
When the boxes are ticked and you've settled on 'the one,' it's time to get engaged. No, we don't recommend getting down on one knee and pulling out a rock; we mean working with your web partner to develop a plan for how you'll engage as a team throughout your project.
This is where SLAs and MSAs come into the picture - do you want cloud hosting with your CMS? Would you like guaranteed support response times? How about a smattering of UX and training services? Now's the time to work out a solution that supports your goals and your budget.
Followed all the steps? It's time to pop the bubbly and toast to the start of a beautiful relationship.