When talking to prospective customers we come across the same story again and again. An organisation engages with an agency to build a new website or create a digital product. They work well together and the project is delivered within budget and on time.
Unfortunately, the problems start after release. The agency considers the job done and moves on to something else. Later, the company wants to make changes and they go back to the agency. A new quote is sent, it's expensive and has a long lead time. The company feels deceived, unsupported or even abandoned and are left with limited options
- They can accept being at the mercy of the agency’s high prices and long leadtimes.
- They can take the work elsewhere, find someone cheaper to make the changes (hire a freelancer)
- They can build again with another agency
- They can take the project in house
- They can struggle on without anything changing
We’ve named agencies that work this way - Panda Agencies. Pandas are attractive, large and cuddly but slow moving and expensive, initially they do a good job but at the end of the day, they do what all pandas do.
It’s just not in their interest to stick around after project completion, they would rather be working on projects that are new and big enough for their whole team to be working together, at once.
Why does this keep happening?
The web solutions that agencies sell are based upon on a lie; they don’t reflect the real cost of production. Building websites is expensive, to achieve high-quality output an extensive team of specialist experts is required, all working together to create something that delivers your message, looks great, works well on different devices and is quick, updateable and maintainable. Add to that that processes, ideas, software, technologies change all the time. Even using off the shelf software it’s an expensive process.
To be competitive and profitable, agencies build base solutions that they re-package to quick start projects and sell to many customers. This makes them appear competitive at first, but unfortunately when stepping off the beaten path the real cost of development starts to show.
With these base solutions in place, the agency can spend the budget applying the brand, defining the content architecture and designing pages. But whichever way it’s dressed up, this is project work. A lift and shift, get it out of the door as quickly as possible and onto the next. From their perspective it’s the only way to make a profit and it’s the only way a panda agency can survive.
After the deed
After the initial project is completed, the agency has you trapped, you're a captive audience. It’s become harder for you to leave them than for them to lose you as they’ve already made their profit on the initial project. But you have to live with their work for years, you’ve already put in all the effort and money. Carrying on is better than wasting your initial investment.
Panda agencies are set up to expect that there will be a certain level of churn. It’s a kind of test to see if you can become a long-term profitable customer. But it’s all based on deceit, lure you in with the shiny, pretty, reasonably priced product and then hit you with the real cost of production later on.
After all, it’s a large market with plenty of customers, they have an attractive product and case studies from large and impressive customers which they can always use to attract new customers.
But this doesn’t really help you, does it?
Larger vs smaller companies and agencies
The truth is that panda agencies are only really interested in larger companies, with larger budgets and retainers or smaller budget campaigns with a limited lifetime. Unfortunately, there are only so many larger companies and competition is fierce, so they infill with work from smaller companies.
The large company projects give the panda agency the prestige to attract smaller companies that want and expect the same result but don’t realise the true cost or the ongoing investment. This leads panda agencies to create base solutions that look like they can provide the same output with lower costs. But as we’ve seen, that doesn’t work in the long run.
It’s a repeating cycle.
What's needed is a more open and honest relationship. There should be an understanding by customers, that websites are complex and expensive to create and maintain. Up front, there should be an acceptance that a short-term project is never going to solve digital for you or work, without change, for the next 5 years. That an online presence needs to constantly change and grow as your company grows and evolves. Only then will you get the long-term value from your investment.
I don’t think you can really blame the Panda agencies for being the way they are, they are just responding to the demands of the customers and the market.
However, it is the role of the agency to explain to the customer that getting the best results won’t come overnight and what you create now may not work in a year. Value comes from constantly working together, understanding customers and the market together and building and improving digital products and services that answer these needs.
We’re not saying that everything needs to be built from scratch. Base solutions should be the start and should adapt and evolve over time becoming more bespoke to your company and brand as it evolves. Base solutions should be built to reflect these needs from the start. Everything just can’t stand still after the initial release.
You don’t need a short-term panda agency that will just get the job done in 3 months. You need a digital partner who will take the time to understand your company as it is now and as it grows, being part of the development into a larger company over the next couple of years.
Will this cost more in the long run, yes, but will it have more value in the long run, yes.
Honestly, that is what it will take to be successful.
How we can help : Let’s work together
We form long term partnerships with companies that understand that importance of working digitally but don’t have the knowledge or resources internally to make it work.