With your 2014 goals in front of you, you'll want to get off to a productive start, especially if you are looking for a new partnership that will move your website to the next level. We’ve been talking about the qualities to look for in a new vendor.
So far, we’ve discussed finding:
- The right people;
- A proven platform and infrastructure;
- The balance between tech and business; and
- Disciplined processes, including established timelines.
5) Diverse capabilities: As the lines separating BtoB and BtoC websites blur, or disappear, your new vendor should be able to accommodate a wide range of features and functionality. They should provide capabilities that remove tech obstacles to growth and present opportunities you may not have even considered:
- Responsive Design: it's the "new normal" to accommodate the mobile and tablet experience, whether or not your provider can support evolving standards and audience preferences should be your litmus test.
- Branding: Does your design team reinforce your brand across all platforms and applications?
- Resources and Tools: is your site an engaging, useful resource, presenting relevant and timely blogs, articles, white papers, events, webinars and podcasts to help your customer work effectively?
- Audience Data: can you capture individual user data, sort it and use it for editorial strategy and create new revenue opportunities, including Lead Generation to monetize your data through directories, buyer’s guides, native ads and content marketing?
- Editorial Efficiencies: change can be good, if it facilitates collaboration with a unified dashboard that supports your editorial workflow to create content once and deliver through multiple channels.
- eCommerce that keeps customers on your site, enables safe and secure purchases, makes purchasing easier AND presents related products in context, when it is needed most by your readers is critical.
- Social Sharing: not just trendy, it's essential to increasing traffic and creating engaging, successful online communities and another useful baseline for selecting a provider who stays current.
6) The Best Customer Support: A shiny, new website is a wonderful thing—until you want to add a new feature, make a change or bring in new staff. You've probably experienced "customer support" from some tech companies: reading through pages of FAQs, scanning user forums, waiting for hours for a real person. For those times when you need technical support, or just training for new employees, it’s important to have someone there who knows your software and your website. It’s also important because your potential customers aren’t going to wait for you to meet their expectations. Your support team should handle crisis management, of course, but value-added support should include maintenance, updates and future-proofing your investment. A strong customer support package will provide:
- Clear communication throughout design and deployment
- Consistent updates and maintenance
- Best practices consulting
- A single point of contact for support and service
- 24 x 7 service desk staffed by the team that deployed your site; tracking incidents so they don't happen again
7) Clear Pricing Strategies. It’s simple: a good provider will present a variety of service and product options, but they will also make it easy for you to know what you are paying for including custom work, upgrades, training, support, etc.
8) Industry Expertise: When you look at your potential providers, you want to know if they provide a generic service or if they understand your business and your industry. You want a vendor who provides products and services tailored to meet your specific needs:
- They speak your language, and effectively articulate your needs as a publisher
- They understand the nuances of content-focused business including:
o Delivering content via multiple channels
o Social sharing
o Revenue generation
To recap: As you are looking at potential software platforms and service providers, be sure to find a good fit for your business strategy and expectations. As important as the system itself is, you'll want to work with a company that takes the time to understand your business and is willing to invest in your success with ongoing service and support.