How to find that special someone: Steps to discovering the web development company that is right for your business.

Finding a website designer or a digital marketing agency that will handle a spectrum of IT services for your business is a lot like speed dating. The first part of your search is to find those that you want to consider further and those who just aren’t a good fit for your business.

Getting to that knowledge of who should be kept in the running and who should not require a lot of homework and a bit of soul searching on your part. Not to mention you have to be a bit of a psychic as well.

We will talk about the crystal ball later but for now we need to focus on the first steps related to your business.

1. Determine what you want out of your digital marketing services and which platforms you need to get started.

Do you need a website? A Facebook page? A twitter account? The operative word here is NEED. You must take a look at what you want to share with customers and how you want to reach out to them. Twitter may not be necessary because your customers aren’t tweeters. Or you may just need a website for now with the idea of expanding to Facebook.

2. What will you likely need in the future? This is an important planning process so that you can pick the right digital marketing company. This is where you need that ability to see into the future. It is not well known but your website design must be structured initially to allow for further expansion and capabilities. If you plan to expand your efforts into search engine optimization (SEO) in 6 months, your website has to be built with that in mind. Otherwise, you may have to start over with your website design. That costs money and time. Another reason for thinking ahead is that while you are vetting web development companies, you need to see what services they offer. Digital marketing agencies all have their own techniques and design processes and they rarely like to use someone else’s work to build future services on. Starting over with a new digital agency to get additional services will likely cost you a lot of money and some do-overs.

3. What is your budget for the services you need now and approximately what do you want to spend for additional services that you have identified as needs in the future? Let’s face it, the greatest digital marketing agency in the world will do nothing for your business if you can’t afford their services. The good news is that there are great web development companies and digital agencies in all price ranges. Custom web development doesn’t have to cost you more than your business earns. It is also important to look at their pricing structure for other services. Some digital marketing companies and web development professionals will have lower fees for the initial services such as a website design but will charge much more for additional services such as search engine optimization (SMM) and social media management (SMM). These services are more labor intensive and digital agency knows that you will pay more to start over with another digital marketing company. So pay attention to now and an eye on the future.

4. Start searching for digital agencies and web developers using the search engines and some key words. See who floats up. Not only will this lead you to agencies to review but it will tell you how well they do SEO services for themselves. Gather all the links in your area that appear on the first two pages of your key searches and some that may be offshore but serving your geographical area. Remember, you will know if an offshore company is focusing on your area if they come up in your local searches. Don’t immediately eliminate them for two reasons. First, they are likely doing the same work for digital agencies that have local brick and mortar offices in your area. Secondly, by going direct with an offshore digital agency, you will get a lot more for your money.

5. Once you have listed a number of prospects to vet, start looking at their custom website design. After all I am a firm believer that a web developer’s own site should be his advertising billboard for what he can do for his clients. If the digital marketing company can’t take the time or lacks the talent to create a professional website for his own business, what chance do you have for getting a custom website that will wow your customers? Would you hire a painter whose own home had a lousy paint job? Would you hire a personal trainer who was flabby and out of shape? So why would you want a web developer whose own site left you yawning.

In addition to the overall look of the website design, look for the speed with which the pages load, look at the quality of the graphic design and the crispness of the images. Check the maneuverability for ease and logic. Read the text to see if it is good grammatically and has no misspelled words. Check the links to see if any are broken or if there are key tabs that have not been completed. Look for poor font and background choices that make the text hard to read. If a digital marketing agency can’t find these design flaws on their website, they won’t find them on yours. Believe it or not, you will remove a lot of web development companies from your list of prospects just by looking at their website design.

While reviewing the site, if the digital marketing agency or the web developer passes your “website audit” test, look at the list of services that they offer. Do they have everything you will need for now and in the future? Don’t even inquire about services not listed. Remember if the website developer doesn’t mention a service then he is not likely to do much of it and that means you are getting an amateur. If the web developer actually has a section devoted to a service, that is an excellent indicator that the digital agency has good experience delivering that component of digital marketing.

6. At this point, you will have culled your list of prospective digital agencies down to a handful. Now is the time to start contacting them to inquire about price when you give them a list of services that you will need now and in the future. Ask what is included and what must be purchased by you in addition to the price they are charging. Remember that content and images are usually purchased outside the cost of the web development price. You will likely have to be forceful with web developers about getting an estimate. They should ask you some questions and based on your answers, they should give you a ballpark price. Get it in writing. Some of your large upscale digital agencies will be eliminated quickly and you may be able to remove other web developers from your list based on their attitudes or responsiveness. If you have any digital marketing companies still on your list, start checking reviews on several review sites. Contact clients they list and get references. Ask questions about how well they responded and if they stuck to the budget. At this point you will be left with about 3 digital agencies and you can begin to engage them on a more serious level.

So from many. you are now down to a few but those digital marketing agencies will likely be a good fit for your company and will provide you with winning results. Let’s get started finding that one and only for your digital marketing needs.

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