I feel a twinge of empathy for people hoping to build a new website or embark on a digital marketing campaign. Even in our small city of Barrie Ontario, there are dozens of website companies to choose from. What’s more surprising is the variety of digital agencies. They are not all created equally. It’s got to be frustrating comparing apples with apples.
Why are web companies so diverse? That’s the question we’ll explore in this article. If you’ve already started hunting for a digital marketing company, then you’ve probably discovered how rare it is to find an agency that is competent across a range of skills. You are more likely to find specialists. For example, a company can be great at mobile app development but doesn’t know a thing about Google Ads. This can present a problem when searching for a partner to help with your overall digital marketing strategy. Let’s look at the choices.
Graphic Design Firms
Graphic designers seem to be the most common type. Why? Well, for starters there is a low barrier of entry. All you need is an eye for design, a computer, and maybe a design diploma from a local college. Then bang, you’re in business as a web design company.
In fairness, most graphic artists do eye-catching, work. Some specialize in traditional design (brochures, pamphlets, packaging design, etc.). While others specialize in digital design (websites, landing pages).
But the catch is whether they can translate their work to a functional website. Often, designers must partner with third-party developers for programming assistance. Also, graphic artists aren’t always up-to-date on current online trends, which could impact user experience. For example, the internet is littered with sleek-looking websites that are frustrating to navigate!
Discount Website Builders
Gosh, there are a lot of companies out there willing to build a discount website for $1000. (I guess rent is cheap when you are designing websites out of your parent’s basement?) But for a professional business, cheap is not necessarily a bargain. Expect to get what you pay for: clunky navigation, broken links, and slow loading times. We often get desperate calls from businesses with a non-functioning site. Or worse yet, a site that has been de-listed by Google. Buyer beware.
Another thought: cheap web companies rarely consider conversion philosophy. That’s the science of persuading visitors to do that thing you want them to do on your site. I’ve seen many visually impressive sites that are missing persuasive copywriting or prominent calls to action.
If you are just starting up a company, then you are going to need a logo before you build a website. A branding agency is a good place to start. You can expect to receive a branding guideline document, color palette, font list, and a catchy tagline. Some branding agencies even do a decent job of creating a starter business website. But if you need eCommerce or other interactive web elements, then a branding company might not be up to the challenge.
Many Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies expect that your website is already built. They make improvements to technical aspects of the site, improving your overall online visibility. While technically proficient, they often lack the eye for design and actionable marketing advice. It seems most people I chat with have been disappointed by a previous SEO company. It usually boils down to lackluster performance and poor communication skills. If you’re considering hiring an SEO company to build your new website, make sure they have dedicated graphic designers and developers on staff. Check out their online reviews and recent launches.
There are a lot of web companies that cater to very specific niches. For example, if you run a car dealership, real estate brokerage, or veterinarian, then there are web companies catering exclusively to you. Did you know there are even agencies specializing in websites for funeral homes? Yep. There are pros and cons to industry specialists, but at least they ought to have a decent grasp on your industry trends.
Major city centers tend to feature “web factories”. Think of a web company with a couple of hundred employees. These firms tend to cater to larger-sized clients with deeper pockets. So, unless you are planning a national campaign with a substantial marketing budget, then you are probably not worth their time. (No hard feelings, that’s just how it is.)
Web App Developers
Did you know there is a difference between a web app and a website? Yep. Most businesses just need a marketing website or eCommerce store to showcase their product and services. But if a site has further interactivity built in, then it would be considered a web application. A good example would be product configurators or online tools. So, you may stumble across an agency specializing in mobile apps or complex web apps. Usually, they are not particularly interested in building a standard website for clients.
Why do you need an agency at all when you can just do it yourself? This can be an attractive option for solopreneurs or hobby websites. Popular build-it-yourself options include Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace. But be warned, you are on your own. If all you need is a 1-page website, then this could be a good bet. However, if your site is larger, more complex, or just too important to leave to chance, then finding an experienced marketer is a safer bet.
How is NetGain Different?
NetGain bills itself as a full-service, boutique agency. “Full-service” in the sense that we offer everything you might need to execute a complete digital marketing strategy. And “Boutique” meaning our solutions are custom-tailored to our clients’ specific needs. We never use a cookie-cutter approach. With a staff over a dozen specialists, we are big enough to tackle complex jobs, yet small enough to care about each client.
When hunting for a digital marketing agency, clearly define your goals and establish a budget. A good rule of thumb when shopping for a vendor is to get three quotes. Be sure to check online reviews through Google and Facebook. Look at portfolio samples, including most recent launches and any similar projects from your industry. If you would like to get in touch with an expert from NetGain, just send a quick note to [email protected]. We’ll be delighted to learn more about your project!