The first place most prospects look is your website.

ad agency websites

Make it as difficult as possible.

So where is the basic information? Where is the client list? Where is the staff? Who is the CEO? It’s almost impossible to find the simplest of agency “selection criteria” information. No updated blog. Twitter feed is months out of date. Facebook page is missing (not that prospect care about your Facebook page, they just want to know you’re up to speed on the latest social marketing stuff). The whole website’s written in marketing speak or “highly-creative” gobbledygook. And most importantly, it’s not focused on any prospect’s critical business issues.

If you accept that the client-agency world is a relationships business, then the importance of your agency’s website cannot be stressed enough. What’s the first thing prospects do? As soon as someone refers your agency, or they read something about your brand, or they see you on LinkedIn, they do a quick search and land on your website. What happens next?

The first big issue is a lack of specific information. The website is the first stop in any agency-evaluation process. But so many agencies make it impossible to find any evaluation criteria: size, office locations, expertise, billings, services, etc. It’s almost like agencies are trying to remain hidden.

The second big issue is the lack of clarity. In our ever-complex marketing environment, clients are demanding specific, recent, relevant experience. As we point out time and time again, sadly, most agencies say pretty much the same thing. But there are ways an agency can clearly define a unique positioning – clearly demonstrate how the agency can solve a specific problem facing clients. If you can do that, positioning is easy.

Take a look at your website from a prospective client’s viewpoint and ask yourself, what message are we sending? In addition to covering the basics, make sure the website provides a clear benefit to prospects.

10 Simple Rules for Ad Agency Websites

  1. Stay focused on the objective of the website. It’s not to win the account. The website’s job is to position the agency in the mind of a prospect, lower new business hurdles and get your firm into the first consideration set.
  2. The act of agency selection is not taken lightly by clients. Clients treat the process very seriously. The website should reflect that seriousness. This means the website needs to look corporate, aimed at client-side prospects who are not agency types. Shock-oriented photos and crazy technology that scream “local designer” or “creative boutique” are to be avoided.
  3. The firm’s creativity will show through the creative samples, not in how showy the website is. Avoid the overly slick, cool, hip, scrolling pages, hard to find anything builds.
  4. A good agency website is all about positioning. The key question that needs to be answered in every prospect’s mind is simple: “Are these guys players or not? Can they handle my work? Can I build a working relationship with them?” Does your website enhance trust?
  5. Good agency websites are set up for easy navigation. Few clients will spend more than a minute or two reviewing any agency website. Make sure the basics are easy to find, easy to download into a search consultant’s or executive assistant’s selection set spreadsheet – somewhere someone is building a spreadsheet with good agencies to consider. Make it easy for them.
  6. The sentence structure should be simple. Long sentences should be dropped. Complex agency-type terms should be avoided. The writing should be casual and conversational.
  7. The website should make everyone at the firm proud to be part of the family. It should be something they’re happy to send to friends and family.
  8. The website should show those things that set you apart: positioning, specialties, brands, structure, process and offices are thus most important.
  9. The website needs to showcase your people. Few agency websites do. Highlight a number of key middle manager types. They speak for the agency and say “call me” if you want to talk more. Showcase them on the blog. Perhaps even highlight and rotate different staff members throughout the year. This shows the trust you have in your people, not in a new business department.
  10. Lastly the website is not designed to showcase the firm’s creativity. Or some digital department’s skill set. Or designed to attract creative superstars to the agency. It’s a new business site first. This doesn’t mean it must be boring. It should just do the new business part well.

After reviewing your website from a prospective client’s view, does your website help or hurt new business? Or do you now think it just sucks?

Thank you to Paul Gumbinner at the great View From Madison Avenue for inspiring this post. I encourage you to head over and read his thoughts, and pay attention to the comments!

And a hat tip to Chuck Meyst at AgencyFinder for his thoughts. He also brings up some great points. Check them out.



The Seeker photo by Shadowelve