We get it. You have fought hard and made the case with the boss for a new website. Finally the decision has been made to go ahead and now you need to find out how much it’s likely to cost. You head over to Google, type in a search for digital agencies, find the contact form and submit a message. Soon after responses start to drop into your Inbox requesting your brief, so where to start?
Why your website brief matters
Many of us have written a website brief. A lot of us have gotten it wrong.
At first glance writing a website brief may sound fairly straightforward – ask your internal team a few questions, explain the things that frustrate you about your current website and find a few examples of websites you like… job done?
A website brief forms the vital first point of contact between your business and a prospective agency. It’s the jumping off point that steers the conversation and informs the entire strategic, technical and creative process that is to follow. Therefore it’s worth understanding what makes a successful brief to set off on the right foot.
The agency perspective
It is worth bearing in mind that agencies really aren’t trying to be difficult or elusive in giving you a quote. It is quite possible that the agencies you are speaking with receive a large volume of quote requests and each and every proposal takes agency time and resources to scope. The RFP is just the start of a process which can take the agency anywhere from one to three months to complete; therefore each agency has a business need to qualify which are serious, well-matched enquiries to allocate their time to.
For this reason each agency will most likely want to delve into a plethora of information about your project including proposed timelines, competitors, operational processes and of course, budget!
The insights you are able to volunteer at this stage are extremely valuable and will be shared with internal agency teams across creative, development and marketing. Much like your business, there will be many strands to be considered each of which will help to quantify, understand and scope your project proposal.
8 steps for success
- Start a conversation
You no doubt hope to build a strong and lasting relationship with your selected agency so why not take a conversational and collaborative approach from the outset. Try to establish a relationship rather than taking a traditional Buyer v Seller stance. As an example, you could send your RFP as an ‘Invitation to talk’ rather than with a focus on pricing. Your agency will really appreciate it and you are more likely to get the considered response you are looking for whilst also setting the project up for success later on.
- Be open about business challenges
Every business has problems and challenges it has yet to solve. Don’t be shy in volunteering where your business needs help or any obstacles you are trying to overcome. The likelihood is that one of your chosen agencies will have encountered (and solved!) the very same problem before. So be open and remember that a problem shared is a problem halved.
- Approach with honesty
Leave your ego at the inbox and be completely frank with your agency – whether you find working with technology challenging, or have been unable to work out where to start with a content strategy. Your agency can only help if they know and your honesty will help them to deliver a solution that is bespoke to your needs.
- Explain KPIs and why these matter to you
Any good agency will understand that the budget for a new website can be hard won. After securing the budget there will no doubt be a measure of expectation to meet and success to achieve. Don’t carry this burden alone. For example, if you are a Marketing Director and your CEO has granted the budget on the basis of your arguments about winning more leads, then tell your agency. They can tailor their approach to what really matters as your performance benchmark, not what they think might matter.
- Budget vs. brief
It can be hard to know what to include in your brief. There is often anxiety around missing out that key feature and so it is tempting to include all of the latest buzz words within the list of requirements for your own brief. Try to take a focussed view and think about the complexity of what you are asking whilst being realistic about what you actually need.
Also try to appreciate that there is often more than one way to achieve a specific outcome. Your agency will use your cited budget to determine the best option to take within the full list of requirements and deliverables. It’s a broader consideration than the simple question of money alone.
- Know your priorities
Following on from the last point, it helps to make a list of priorities before starting your brief.
Perhaps draft a list of requirements internally and then put them into priority order. That way if your chosen agencies take a strategic approach to delivering your needs then you will be able to confidently respond with what matters most and collaborate together to develop a roadmap for the future. After all it’s better to do the things that do matter well rather than a number of things that don’t matter not so well.
- Visualise what success looks like
Try to visualise in your own mind what success would look like. What would make you feel like success had been delivered? Maybe you are able to sit down and use the content management system intuitively, or perhaps your brand has been overhauled and refreshed in a new design. More than likely success will include a number of factors so build this image in your mind and note down the key highlights to share in your brief. After all you want an agency that can share and deliver on your vision for the future, so this is a good time to start.
- Post launch goals
Imagine it’s launch day and your new website is about to go live. Now what?
Taking time to consider points 4, 5 and 6 will help you to understand the purpose of your new website and what you need and expect from it. Sharing the goals and objectives with agencies early on will avoid doubt and help them to build a picture of the intended use of your new website.
Unsurprisingly, the success of your website brief in finding your perfect agency depends on an often cited maxim of business: it’s all about relationships.
Strictly speaking there is no right or wrong way to write a brief or RFP document but we recommend being clear on what it is that you want and why you want it, staying honest and open throughout, and progressing all of your conversations from this transparent foundation.
Yes you want your website brief to be a formal document that is professional and presents your organisation in the best possible light, but you don’t have to sacrifice establishing a winning relationship in the process. In fact, nurturing the relationship from the get go is perhaps the very key to success!
We’re always very excited to hear about projects so if you are writing your first brief, or just don’t know where to start, you can use our online form to get going.