As one gets older, one becomes increasingly aggravated by the smallest of things. Maybe it’s the queue in the supermarket, the inevitable delays to the trains in the winter or those people who, having spent hours waiting in line at airport security, only realise when they arrive at the X-ray machine that they’re required to decant their 100 ml toiletry bottles and electric equipment into the plastic trays to be scanned… and then they have a lengthy conversation about it with airport security… Excuse me – I have a plane to catch… TODAY.
You see, there I go again!
But my aggravations are not just limited to the real world, oh no, that would be far to dull and really rather 1990’s.
Indeed one area of particular annoyance for me is that of the online creative agency showcase otherwise know as, the agency website.
Now, I am not a web designer, so before you shoot me down in a blaze of tweets and angry emails about the following paragraphs, lets add a little context to the following rant.
Agencies work in the communications industry. The clue is in the name. So, why do some agencies forget this when they create their own websites?
Whilst I fully appreciate, and indeed whole heartedly agree, that a website is a showcase for an agency’s creative talents, it should also be useful and contain important information that visitors need.
Common sense you might think.
Images, graphics and animations are great but surely a prospective client (or nosy consultant like me) should be able to find the details of who to talk to in a few seconds (and I don’t mean an ‘info@’ email address). Generally speaking, I don’t have all day to navigate around a bizarre virtual world inhabited by pop-ups, flash animations and ridiculous ‘elevator music’ blasting out of my laptop making my colleagues think that I’m listening to Last.FM again.
Incredible as it may seem, I have come across numerous agencies that believe visitors to their sites are gifted with advanced telepathy and as such don’t feature a phone number or personal to contact on their websites.
Of course it doesn’t stop there…
As an industry we do enjoy inventing new phrases and ways of describing what we do.
Come on, be honest, you know this is true.
For many, (especially in the independent sector) this is how they create a point of differentiation.
Being different is good. Different should be encouraged and celebrated, but equally a visitor to an agency website requires recognisable point of reference so they can understand the service that’s on offer.
If I can’t work out what you do quickly, I am not going to hire you… Simple?
So, lets loose some of the jargon, cut the crap and say goodbye to the ‘creative foundries’, ‘ideation hubs’ and ‘inspiration gurus’… at least until the second paragraph of the homepage!
And then we come to the ‘specialist’ issue.
How many times have you read something along the lines of, “we are specialists in…” followed by a catalogue industry sectors or disciplines that’s longer than an EU finance ministers ‘to do’ list.
I am sorry, a specialism requires that you know one, two or even three sectors really well other wise you’re a generalist working across multiple sectors or disciplines.
This is not me being overly pedantic it’s actually an important point because it not only describes an agency’s depth of knowledge in an area but, also the agency’s ability to define itself concisely to the market. Ask yourself, would you hire an agency that is not able to define its own market position to its potential customers?
So what have we learnt from this little rant? Probably not than much for most of you, but in summary for those of you still with me:
- Make sure your website has clear contact details that can be easily found. It is a little thing but, believe me it makes a huge difference.
- For those of us not living in your world, help us understand what you do in a relatively common language… at least to start with. Once we get that, bring on the jargon!
- If you’re going to claim a specialism on your website, don’t hide it in a great long list of other things in an attempt to be a ‘catch-all’. Ultimately this just dilutes the credibility of being a specialist in a given area.
- Always get your toiletries out of your bag well before reaching the X-ray machine at airport security… especially if I am in the queue behind you.
Finally, and in all seriousness, these are small but important points that whilst by themselves might not prevent an agency ultimately winning new business, they certainly don’t help it either.
Paul Squirrell is really not that old or grumpy, but he is probably one of the best connected and most insightful people around, when it comes to independent advertising and communication agencies. As Network Director of thenetworkone, the leading global network of independent agencies, he is one of the few people who have an answer ready, should you need to know who to get involved with anywhere. Even in, say, Uganda … (true story, for another time).
He can be reached at:
+44 207 240 7117