Daily Blog

Monday
Good start to the week; a productive meeting with a new client in Doncaster talking through a joint public sector tender response. Hope we will come out of it with a nice big contract.

But it does point to the lack of knowledge that many digital agencies that we have come across over the last few years actually have in the market, a lot of it comes down to knowledge of the industry and the approach to the actual projects.

Building any sort of website is in reality software development, of a fashion, and needs to be very carefully managed or the consequences can be long reaching. I have worked with a few agencies over the last couple of years where they have identified projects that have cost them money in the long run – without fail each of the these projects was ‘allowed’ to creep when the client started pushing.

Agencies should instill a management process for each project, no matter how small, to ensure that firstly the client understands the scope that is being delivered and secondly the agency knows what the client is expecting.  A good document to record this is in is a Project Initiation Document (PID) and only needs to be as long as is necessary, the important thing is that it outlines clearly the scope of the delivery, the budget, the time frames and any items that are classed as ‘out of scope’.

Get the client to sign this off and keep reviewing it as the project moves forward – it becomes your daily guide.

Tuesday
Working with a digital agency in Leeds today, have been helping them for about a year now to grow into a force to be reckoned with. It’s been an interesting few weeks talking new strategy and how the company can now expand its offering and what type of skills do we now need to employ.

Unanimous is to take on PR and merge that with our digital offering – allowing the production of content for our clients but also the technical know how to publish that content to maximize the ranking factors.

The big question is whether we go out and ‘employ’ these people or whether we look at acquisition of a small PR agency and if so which one and where? This lead me to many questions; how to merge companies, who runs the company, how do the 2 companies work together, what processes will be needed, how do we tell the existing staff?

If we go out and employ people is a much easier process but it might also be more costly as we will also need to get PR work to cover salaries, with an established company they already have work and clients that can be tapped into for more work and different service offerings.

So many questions and thoughts on top of already busy days!!

Spent the rest of the day reviewing online CRM and Project Management tools for the agency. the main ones spring to mind; Salesforce and Basecamp – i have used both and not a fan of either. Salesforce is too much for small organisations and too expensive and Basecamp can turn into email hell if not set up and managed correctly.

I have recently reviewed liquidPlanner for project scheduling and like the way it allows you to add a range of time for a task e.g. in-between 4 and 6 hours to compete – this is then factored in to the schedule showing a best and worse case scenario.

I am also liking the Zoho.com suite of CRM and Pm tools – and they’re free up to a certain limit, which for this agency is well within those limits. The Zoho CRM suite is really easy to use and can also import all your existing leads, you can assign tasks for follow and keep notes on all contacts. The reporting allows you to see potential leads and deals and tasks that need to be completed.

Wednesday
Spent all morning going through the next 12 months online strategy for an existing client. Looking at ways we can increase conversions from their website, also how we can market their new range of services. Next steps putting the plan together over the next couple of months to start the implementation.

I find it odd how ‘serendipity’ plays a part in a lot of business conversations. They have a new offering for golfers but are struggling to get contacts at golf clubs, it just happens that my son is now the Junior Golf Captain at his club and on the back of that i am doing an introduction between the 2 organisations -my client will offer a discount to all club members. And my son will be their first case study for the new service.

It also makes me pleased that the website we originally built in WordPress means that all these changes are nice and easy, and more to the point we can monitor the impact of each and every one through Google Analytics and WebMaster Tools which will highlight any problems that we can then react to quickly.

Thursday
Today has been reviewing a full public sector tender for a client that we are assisting and working with on the project. It’s very important with these tenders that all questions are filled in correctly – we take each of these tender responses as a project making sure that each area is completed, even down to the format of the response which must be in the form provided – no room for fancy design on this one!

It always amazes me how bad many people are at plain English and grammar when responding to tenders and email – i am sure much of this goes back to how English is taught in our schools these days and the lack of attention to detail that is taught. If you are sending out any communication from your company then it it needs to be written, checked, reworked, checked, reworked, checked by someone else, reworked and a final check, whilst a daunting list of reworks receiving a badly worded response with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors will only put your submission to the bottom of the pile – surely its better to be at the top of the pile with a little bit more effort and attention to detail!

Friday
Not a bad start to the day, a phone call from a client who we assisted in preparing a brief for their new website as well as interviewing the potential agencies. We had offered our services to project manage the work but they decided to handle it themselves.

Now the phone call centred around the new website, which is now live, but they are now questioning whether the agency actually delivered everything and can we help! We have asked if they ever received a Project Initiation Document (PID) from the agency – answer was no never got one.

We have had a quick look over the new site and have to say that for the price circa £18K it is appalling – no meta data, poor photography (part of the commission), poor content, and really bad usability to name a few glaring issues. What do we do?

Well we start with a full review and pull together an action list of items that can be cloned up quickly and ones that will take more time and have other knock ons with other parts of the site and build.

It does baffle me how client stink that they can project manage a technical build such as a website when they have no experience. I feel some agencies smell this and think they can therefore produce sub standard work as they will never be found out! – until its late for the client who has a website that does not perform, and they have the daunting task of living with what they have or starting again with the bitter taste in their mouths.

The question to ask client who think they can manage website builds is ‘do you install all your own IT equipment?’ – none of them will but the task they are taking on is in a very similar vein and has the added complication of ‘online marketing’ on top of the technical side. All this to save a few thousand pounds!!