I may not always choose the right partner in my personal life, but I have come to understand some basic principles to help others choose the right digital partner. What makes this decision tricky is that it is a new, complex field, ever-changing, and to top it off, a crowded marketplace with an unlimited number of options. Despite the barriers, being in the digital space is now a must for any company, across sector and industry. The digital world is no doubt daunting to most, but leveraging, understanding, and benefiting from it, does not have to bare on your shoulders alone. For that which you do not know, delegate. The most successful companies have to rely on trusted partners to keep them focused on what they do best. So when it comes to choosing a digital partner, navigating a crowded marketplace, how do you choose the right partner for your organization’s digital needs? Here are some important variables that I believe you should consider:
1. Do they understand the business you are in? SEO (Search engine optimization) is a trendy acronym these days, and as I joke, everyone and their uncle are now selling services surrounding it. But what does it really mean? There is on-site and off-site SEO. To a lot of people, on-site SEO means putting keywords in your website's content to ensure you come up in searches when those keywords on put into a search query - BUT how do people know what key terms, phrases and searches are being done by your ideal client? Without understanding your clients, your business, and the jargon associated with it, it is like shooting in the dark. Big data, or what we like to say "smart data" can help ensure the traffic you want is qualified and you are not like all your competitors going after the same keywords.
2. Longevity - Choosing a partner for digital needs is hard enough to not have to change providers annually. Unfortunately, I frequently hear "we’ve gone through so many providers, what makes you different?” So understanding what can make a partner a long-term relationship is key. Firstly, how big is the company? Yes, size matters but here’s why. Google changed their algorithms over 500 times last year, and though not all of them were impactful, many were. Thus, if you work with a small two-man firm, it’s almost impossible to ensure they can keep up with changes and if they did, could they execute on them fast enough? On the other side of the coin, if you choose a large company they may have the man power to spot trends and keep up with SEO trends theoretically, but the process to role this out from a training and implementation perspective, is not something they can do overnight, thus, providing risk to those who want to remain above the curve. Thus, having a partner that has enough people to support changes and act fast for their clients is CRUCIAL. You need a partner that is agile and on the pulse.
3. Knowing the “What Ifs” – Choosing a partner in business is similar to choosing a life partner…you just never know. Thus, before committing you should know how easily it is to leave them. Many providers will make it hard to walk away, keeping the design elements, stripping SEO, charging a fee, and or, take back the URL that you’ve built all your authority on. Thus, you want to ensure the partner you choose uses open technology, and has the ability to easily transfer the work that has been done to ensure there are no interruptions or no unnecessary costs at the end of the partnership.