The Cost of Using the Wrong Agency

July 12, 2017

Tony Zipparro

The Situation

A potential client reached out to us in hopes of building a fairly complex social-business networking site. We identified the key features, functionality, programming, strategy, and design necessary and scope the project. It comes in way above price expectations, but helped to provide a working range for that complex of a build-out.

The client not interested in that full scope of work at the time, looks to us to strip out a lot of the more complex programming elements and boil it down to a straightforward custom web design with a CMS (Content Management System). This new simplified scope brings in other companies that we are bidding against.

The client has a high exposure to upscale, luxury or elegant tendencies in order to attract their end customers. Knowing this was a large part of the reason they found our creative so attractive, because they felt it matched their audience. We loved the idea, the concept, and the potential we could bring in design and UX (User Experience). Photography, placements, page loading, transitions, etc. all would look to play a role in getting the site to where it could easily be positioned as a market leader.

After setting the stage (1-on-1) in terms of what the scope entails, the client creates an RFP (Request for Proposal) and sends it to a bunch of other firms. We soon re-enter the RFP’ing phase in which the client has selected two other firms (besides us) that they are working with to make a final selection. After another week of decision making, just us and another firm are left.

At the surface we are a full service agency, providing more expansive digital capabilities and post-launch marketing campaigns. The other is a more web design based company specializing in websites and CMS builds based on quicker turnarounds. Both of us provide unique value propositions from an either timing, budgetary or creative standpoint.

The client makes it clear that we are a favorite because of their personal preference to our designs and other projects we have completed. The issue rests in the fact that the proposal we have out is more than the other company. How much? Our proposal is in the low 30s (yes, 30k) and their proposal is in the mid 20s (yes, 20k). For all intensive purposes our proposal is about 30-40% more.

Fast forward four months. The client has chosen to go with the other web design company solely because of price, even though wanting to choose us. The website launches and shortly after we are contacted by the client looking to re-scope and redesign the website that was just launched. As soon as we receive the call our heart sinks. We understand the brevity of the situation in which the client basically just threw away $25,000 and on top of it wasted four months plus the upcoming three to design and develop the new site.

The Takeaway

It is no easy decision to make when embarking on the journey after identifying that your company needs a digital or web agency and starting to sift through the selection process. There are tons of options available and clients often having little experience in choosing the right partner or vendor. They most of the time rely on a couple basic assumptions:

  1. We want a quality site with new features and functionalities
  2. We want the site as affordable (read ‘cheap’) as possible
  3. We want it done as quickly as possible

If you can succeed in achieving the three factors above you win right?

Well it is a bit more complicated than that. Throughout the years we have seen many clients solely base their decisions above on the time and price equation. What we have found it leads to is a failure to assess long-term viability or a partner. Choosing by just the best time and price equation often leads to an agency that has only scoped the project as it has been provided to them, which we know time and again is not really what a client wants or needs.

This results in a project that once completed almost always leads to shortfalls in design, functionality and overall expectations. And on top of it all, the client going to an agency on the original list of potential partners that was too high in price, looking to re-do what they have just done.

The real truth is you have to factor in price and time, but really understand the experience, education and people of the agency you should go with. It’s as much a feeling of liking and trusting the agency you meet based on their people and work as it is price and timeline.

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