5 Tips to Help You Prepare for a Digital Vendor Partnership

Hands on a log

Finally. You got approval for a website redesign that your organization desperately needs. As someone who works closely with it, you know all the things that are wrong with it, at least aesthetically. 

Before you start searching for a digital partner, you’ll want to make sure you’re fully prepared. It’s important to build a partnership that doesn’t just get you to your launch date but ensures your audience and consumers get the best possible experience on the other side of the screen.

#1 Define Your Goals & Budget

When you start the hunt for a new digital partner, the early discussions will likely focus on what you hope to accomplish and how much money you want to spend. 

You’ll have better luck getting through a request for proposal (RFP) and vendor selection process if you have this information spelled out and agreed upon before you start. Part of the discovery process to outline your goals should include:

  • Uncovering website strengths and weaknesses. What’s causing the most heartburn on your site?
  • Seeking stakeholder input. Who approves these projects, and what needs do they have in a redesign?
  • Assessing your competitors. How are your competitors talking about themselves and their product on their websites?
  • Identifying your launch date. How quickly (or slowly) do you need your new website to launch? 

From there, you may reveal several opportunities you want to tackle in the redesign project. If you’re not the person who has the power to make financial decisions, talk to someone who does and get a small range of numbers you can work with as you start talking with vendors.

#2 Identify the Audience You’re Targeting

It’s easy to go into a website project with a whole list of specific audiences you want to target. But too many audiences also means competing priorities, making a mess of your site organization, content models, and design goals. 

Take a look at your website's strengths and weaknesses from the first step. Who are you currently targeting, and who are you missing today? From there, think about:

  • Your product and service benefits, not just features. What is your organization offering people as a solution? Why are you the best solution?
  • Current audience demographics. Who is visiting your site most today? Where are they coming from, and how are they finding you? What devices are they using? Read more on how Google Analytics can help you find this information.
  • Your sales and marketing efforts. Is your marketing targeting specific groups of people? Who does your sales team (if available) reach out to?

Your audience may break down into specific personas and buyers, but it doesn’t have to. Even at a high level, knowing where your audience comes from, what devices they use, and how your product or service answers their problem will help you and your digital partner outline a solid foundation for the redesign.

Then, as you assess the vendors available, see how they position answering the needs of your identified audiences with their skills and work.

#3 Audit Your Content

This is likely the biggest task of all. While your partner may be capable of inventorying and auditing your website in the discovery process, it will help if you know what’s in your digital ecosystem today. 

Go through your site like a site visitor would: Navigate to different pages, use the site search, see what type of information is available (and what’s missing). You’ll want to ask yourself with each piece you review:

  • Is it current? 
  • Is it useful or helpful for our audience? For our goals?
  • Does it have a future in our new website?

One sure-fire way to audit content is with the ROT method, which stands for Redundant, Outdated, and Trivial. ROT content can happen as a site ages, stakeholders come and go, or services and products change. Content governance can prevent this, so think about how you’ll manage content after the new launch, too. 

#4 Gather Your Internal Team

A website redesign is a huge undertaking. While some organizations task such a project with one person, in reality, it takes a team to help ensure it’s implemented well. 

Your stakeholders are a good place to start. As you’re talking to them about goals and objectives for a website redesign, request their participation as part of a steering committee, which can help solidify approvals and direction once the project is rolling.

Trust us when we say it’s easier to spend time up-front getting the right people on board than scurrying around before launch to get approvals and make your case for the website’s direction. 

That said, stakeholders aren’t meant to be captains. After all, too many cooks in the kitchen can make a mess. As you gather a steering committee or team, outline:

  • Individual roles. Who do you need, and why?
  • Strengths of team members. Who’s a solid writer or editor? Who knows code, like CSS or HTML? 
  • Voice of your customer. Who has the closest contact with your target audience? Who can comment on their needs throughout the project?
  • The messenger. Who’ll be the person tasked with presenting the strategy and direction to outside members who need to be informed?

You may have one person fill multiple roles, but it’s important to have these folks involved at the onset. In fact, having a team behind you helps uncover opportunities and ideas that you may not have considered. 

#5 Nail Down Your Must-Haves and Nice-to-Haves

Now that you’ve gathered your goals, audiences, and teams,  you probably feel relieved and a bit anxious about the task ahead. Take a breath.

Before you put all 99 requests in your RFP, start thinking about the must-haves and nice-to-haves. If your website hasn’t been updated since the early 2000s, a fresh design is probably a must-have, as is a responsive design that will adapt to the various screens used these days.

If your competitor uses a chatbot and you feel behind, that feature might also be a good must-have to keep people engaged and connected.

But the lone stakeholder who wants a leadership page with professional headshots might need reconsideration. So, like your website content, evaluate all the goals and requests you received in your discovery and start grading them on:

  • Usefulness and value. Is that request helping our audience and primary website goals?
  • Validity. Is this request born from a real problem in the organization? Or just something someone “wants”?
  • Popularity. Is this request coming from multiple people in the organization, and if so, why? 
  • Operation. Is this request a must-have to make the website complete? Or is it something that can be done in a post-launch phase two, three, or beyond?

Of course, as you evaluate your must-haves and nice-to-haves, communicate your final list to the stakeholders and your team. This ensures no one is left in the cold when their request isn’t met on the day of launch. It also establishes a governance structure for decision-making and a list of ways you can keep the website thriving once it's live.

Ready, Set, Go!

Congratulations! You’ve checked all the boxes, and it’s time to draft your RFP. While no website project is without a few bumps or obstacles — even with the most thorough discovery and preparing done upfront — you’ll have a much smoother experience with your digital partner by having all this robust knowledge to lay a foundation.

If you choose to work with Lullabot (and you should), you’ll get to experience how all of your homework is put to work through the strategy and design to get you (and your audiences!) the best redesign possible to keep you competitive and successful. Reach out to our team if you’re ready to get started.

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