(Originally published September 1, 2015 - Updated March 23, 2018)
You’ve held off redesigning your website, but now you have no choice: Your top competitor is collecting so many leads from her new site that she’s had to add staff.
Time to catch up, but where to begin? How do you choose a vendor to build your next B2B website? You’ll probably search “Best B2B Website Design,” find the top-3 rated local vendors, and set up meetings. Fine, but what do you say to and ask of these vendors? They’re savvy. You’re not. You’re concerned about looking naïve, not to mention being taken to the cleaners.
This scenario happens all the time. As vendors, we meet with lots of uncertain potential buyers who ask the wrong questions, set the wrong priorities and, without proper guidance, would set themselves up for failure.
Want to look smart at those vendor meetings? Compare these 12 common, naive questions with the smarter ones clients ought to ask.
1. What does it cost to build a website?
Smarter: How will you help us determine requirements and website project scope so we can create realistic budgets and timelines?
2. Who will lead your development team? Tell us about their qualifications and experience.
Smarter: How will you assess our needs and match your team members to meet those needs over the long term?
3. Which parts of the job will you handle in-house and which will you farm out?
Smarter: We don’t want to be orphaned. Do you retain and nurture staff over the long term, so your team remains intimate with our installation and needs?
4. We want to integrate our website with other tools. Can you do it?
Smarter: What is your strategic approach to building a website and digital strategy that will scale as my business grows? How does your strategic approach determine the best possible integration of available tools that are within my budget?
5. Should we use an open source content management platform?
Smarter: How does your B2B website development process determine the best content management system for my needs? How many times have you launched a website using your proposed Content Management System for businesses similar to mine? Tell me how that CMS solved three problems for those businesses.
6. What do you think of our current website?
Smarter: Please review our website and propose three ways your CMS and/or design and other services could improve it. Show us examples of these types of improvements in place on websites of other clients.
7. How do you handle SEO?
Smarter: How do you determine the roles of Search Engine Optimization, social media and marketing automation in attracting customers to a client’s website and keeping those customers engaged?
8. Should we be on Facebook and Twitter? How about LinkedIn?
Smarter: Can you help us devise a content marketing strategy and show us how to distribute that content via the most appropriate and effective social media?
9. Will our non-technical staff be able to manage content on the new site?
Smarter: Show us examples of successful distributed content management that you have implemented with the proposed CMS. We define “distributed” as multiple non-technical content editors maintaining information assigned to them in an organized process.
10. Five years from now, will we have to build from scratch or will we be able to update and upgrade the site you build for us now?
Smarter: Explain your process of updating our content management system without forcing clients to implement painful and expensive migrations of CMS platforms. Show us three case studies of clients who have successfully updated your recommended CMS platform multiple times.
11. What will you do for us after launch of the site?
Smarter: What is your approach to client education, training, emerging trends and generally keeping us up to date?
12. What happens if something goes wrong?
Smarter: Tell us about the last time a project faltered. Explain the intervention and remedies you employed to right the ship.
Parting Note: Why would we at Northwoods reveal these insider questions to potential clients? First, there’s the goodness of our hearts; we spread sunshine wherever we go. Second, we like to win contracts, and we believe that a more sophisticated client pool means more business for us.