5 Ways to Grow Your Digital Agency by Killing The Relaunch

Grow your business and serve clients better

Pantheon has made digital agency partners a cornerstone of our strategy. As such, publishing an ebook entitled “How to Kill the Website Relaunch” could be considered controversial. After all, many of our partners are probably talking to clients this week about a potential relaunch in 2020. Are we trying to put their project pipeline at risk?

Absolutely not. We’re trying to grow it. Killing the relaunch should be something that every WebOps digital agency, large and small, can benefit from. Let me explain.

When we say we need to kill the relaunch, it doesn’t mean a new website will never be unveiled again. That’s obviously not the case. Big upgrades and splashy announcements can be exciting initiatives for brands, and will absolutely continue happening. What we’re talking about leaving behind is the “Pizza Hut & Taco Bell of bad ideas” that our CEO, Zack Rosen, detailed in a recent presentation, and embracing the potential that WebOps offers digital agencies.

Depending on your client base and what services you offer, that might look a little different. So I’ve got five ways your agency can grow in 2020 by joining us in (conceptually) killing the relaunch.

Small Clients Want Solutions, Not Websites

For agencies that serve customers with more modest budgets and quicker turnaround, there is less of a risk of dealth-march-to-relaunch style projects. However, you can easily still run into a ton of friction in the creative process, and constantly hunting new projects can be a real grind.

One key to success is to make the pivot from offering services to offering solutions. Not websites: results! Particularly for smaller customers, you know more than they do about how the web can help them. Offering help for their business, cause or campaign, instead of help with technology, is a phase-shift for any agency, but particularly at the smaller scale where you can provide an effective, turnkey solution.

Internally, this lets you streamline your operations, define your brand and generate pipeline through effective marketing. Crucially, you can develop more predictable (and profitable) pricing because you no longer just do whatever the client wants, but instead deliver what you know will work. This is also a path to recurring revenue via subscription or retainers, which is key to developing a sustainable and high-margin business.

Ambitious Projects Need to Go Agile

For agencies that work with larger customers or on more ambitious or bespoke projects, the key to transcending the relaunch anti-pattern is by taking an agile approach. This doesn’t refer to using scrum to manage your internal software development processes (though, that’s not a bad idea); it means aligning with your client on business value, and setting up the project so you’ll have the opportunity to work toward the results they want, not just a digital product output.

Brass tacks, you need a project plan to get the website live with something like half the budget remaining. Whether the goal is driving more traffic or conversions, or making the staff who operate the websites more effective, there’s a zero percent chance you’ll draw up a perfect solution in advance. Getting to real value will require real-world feedback and continual, iterative development.

This doesn’t mean you won’t have plans, specs and design documents, but it does mean defining Done in terms of your customer’s success. The great thing is, is that as soon as you’re able to deliver on this, you become an indispensable strategic partner as opposed to a highly skilled implementation vendor. It changes conversations from budget-capping to results-driving; instead of saying, "It's going to cost me $$$ to build a website?!," they'll say, "What would happen if we spent  $$ more?" This gets you on the path to higher hourly rates, longer-term engagements, and award-winning results.

Enterprise Customers Don’t Buy a “Relaunch”

Real enterprise customers don’t ever really relaunch. There’s too much surface area to pull it off, so the way to make progress is with a constant stream of improvement and reinvention. The smarter ones know this, and the rest are figuring it out through experience. If your agency has these kinds of customers, there’s a big opportunity to help them along that journey, to serve the needs of their team(s) with platform solutions.

This means thinking about tools and services that have broad applications across a broad portfolio of use-cases, those that support consistent investment and improvement. Real value for a large-scale customer comes from adopting a “new way” to get value from the web (e.g. WebOps), versus focusing on improving one particular property.

You may still start with a pilot project, which could be driven by a new design or a technology choice, but the real value for large scale customers is in making a platform play. For example: strategically adopting a new CMS (or CMSs), leveraging a common front-end framework or design system across multiple technologies, or implementing new processes for their internal workflow across teams. These are multi-year processes that can give rise to even more extensive fast-follow work, and some amazing case studies.

Campaigns Are Still Cool

Are there still going to be one-off, short-lived projects? Of course! Not every digital experience is meant to be infinitely optimized. Building microsites for campaigns or events can be great for business, and produce great results. And at the same time, there’s a ton of upside in helping clients understand they should be able to do the same sorts of things with their main website without having to do a complete overhaul (which they might not realize).

Whether it’s a homepage takeover or a clever-url microsite, every campaign has a job to do; that’s why they have budgets. There’s an enormous amount of upside for agencies that can help their clients measure and maximize the return on paid campaign investments. Again, centering the work on business value vs on product delivery unlocks a new level of the client relationship.

For agencies looking to build a line of business around campaign work, it is key to focus on a lightweight development process that allows them to quickly spin up new experiences, as is developing a solid analytics and measurement practice. This doesn't mean just installing Google Analytics. It means understanding your client's metrics of success and drawing data insights that inform what's next for their platforms. By providing relevant and insightful reports, you'll quickly become the go-to campaign partner because you're not only delivering results, you're helping clients prove their results to their colleagues. Again, if you can move upstream to focus on results, you become indispensable to your clients.

Avoid the Death-March Downside

Finally, the most universal reason to want to kill the relaunch is that if you don’t, it may kill you first. I know more than one agency that went under because of a relaunch gone bad.

Once you sign up for the death march, your client may not pay you if you’re late to deliver. But you still have to pay your team. Rushing to meet a deadline can also lead to cutting corners, and that can mean a failure to launch, or a stumble out the gate. Again, something that may result in withheld payment and a cash flow crunch.

And even if you never have problems getting invoices paid, the pace of work that accompanies relaunch projects can be brutal. They burn employees out, which is an existential threat to any company that runs on talent. Agencies have a hard enough time with turnover and productivity as it is; signing up for a relaunch could easily put the organization into a tailspin.

Kill the Relaunch. Grow your Business.

Ultimately, the relaunch isn’t in anyone’s interest. It’s something we’re stuck with as a legacy of history, and we’ll all be better leaving it behind. Clients will get better results. Agencies will run more stable, productive and, ultimately, profitable businesses, all of which will be 100% earned.

Pantheon grew out of Digital Agency DNA, and our partner program has been at the core of how we’ve developed our product and our business over the past decade. We have helped 100s of agencies embrace WebOps, move up the stack, streamline their workflows and serve their clients better. If you want to be a part of our movement, and help us kill the relaunch, join our partner program, or reach out to a representative to learn more today.

Interested in learning more about  how you can help orient client's work around results, build your own budgets and shift from one-off launches to  recurring revenue and ongoing relationships? Register for our Selling to the Marketing Buyer training at DrupalCon Minneapolis. 

Topics Agencies, Agency Partners, Digital Agencies, WebOps, Website Launch