Five basic guidelines for working with digital professionals

Despite what some ads might tell you, putting together a professional website, or indeed any communications materials or media, is never easy.

Developing professional communications resources requires considerable planning, co-ordination, skill and plain hard work to pull together all of the creative, marketing and technical requirements into one enticing and effective result.

And often the degree of skill required can be underestimated by those embarking on the creative path for the first time.

Conversely, what many digital professionals fail to consider is that websites are the most complex communications resource small business operators have had to contend with.

A big jump in complexity

The reality is that prior to the advent of websites the most complex communication material most smaller business operators had to contend with were display ads or form letters.

The notion of co-ordinating a comprehensive, all-singing, all-dancing interactive multimedia showpiece is enough to send them scurrying back to their trusty display ads.

Websites and other digital projects are simply far more involved and complex than any marketing material they’ve ever had to put together. And the learning curve associated with it can be plain scary.

No wonder so many are slow to jump aboard the online bandwagon.

So, if this sounds like you, here’s a few pointers that will make your web professional seem more like a well-meaning advisor than devil with fork tongue.

1. Yes, you will have to pay more than you ever have before

One of the shocks small business operators experience when embarking on their first media project is just how long it takes to get a professional result and how much that costs them. And the proliferation of enthusiast-operated technology hasn’t helped this perception.

One of the best examples of this is with photography. Those new to it have real trouble reconciling the amount of equipment, labour and time required to create a result that you would think you could snap with your smartphone camera. But it’s not until you put that snapshot up against the professional work the public expects that you really see where all that time, effort and cost really goes.

The good news is that following such an investment, your business will take on a professional new image that will set you apart from the backyarders.

2. Detailed checking is critical

Whilst this requirement has become less critical with the advent of editable websites, most of which can be altered at any time, it’s still important to very carefully check the drafts you will be supplied.

The last thing you want is incorrect information being published to the public or wrong phone numbers or email addresses, losing you new business.

What’s more, because the amount of time your professional has allocated to your project is not unlimited, additional time is required to amend an error, and the professional will rightly need to be paid for that.

3. Most want you to achieve brilliant results

Whilst it may seem that your professional is more focused on achieving a certain look or feel than assisting your business, most professionals are motivated by your success following the release of the resource they are putting together.

After all, a great result for you means great word of mouth referrals to new customers for them, so it’s in their best interests to see a great result.

Of course there is always the exception, but those that don’t have your best interests at heart will eventually be found out and find it very difficult to stay in business.

4. Assume nothing

One of the real stumbling blocks for web and related projects is when business operators have pre-conceived notions of how the project will unfold – despite never having completed a project of that nature before.

The professional digital world is quite different to either the traditional media, or enthusiast projects you may have worked on. But if you have chosen your professional carefully and checked their track record, they will know what they are on about.

So be sure to tap into their expertise and give them the benefit of any doubt. They have done it all before so are best placed to advise you.

5. Throw as much budget at it as you can

Most communications resources, in particular online ones, provide outstanding return on investment if they have been conceived and executed carefully and professionally. The general rule (provided you are in the right hands) is the more you are prepared to invest, the better the results.

You really do tend to see a considerable lift in results with each dollar spent. So, without going into hock, try and throw as much as you can at your communications project to ensure it provides you with optimum results.

While this quick guide is by no means foolproof, applying its tenets to your communications project will go a long way to realising a professional and successful result.

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond. www.theeteam.com.au

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