There he sits, tucked away in the back corner of the building. Wired in. Plugged in. He is often found with large colorful headphones on. He is the mayor of the local coffee shop on Foursquare. He is eclectic, conversational and intelligent. Intelligent to the point where he can always reference a thought or idea based on the topic of discussion. He is fond of skinny jeans and graphic tees that always display some sort of text or microbrewery from San Francisco. One you probably haven’t heard of.
His contributions go unnoticed to the general public, consumer, demographic and target audience. Their understanding of the guy in the “bat cave” back office, with the lights dimmed, are, “He’s the IT guy, right?” or “He’s our resident tech geek.” Without much knowledge or experience, he’s another good employee to them. He’s here early, and is usually the last one to leave.
The people that work aside these “techies” never really develop the relationship they need to. The old adage is, “In order to sell, you must be sold.” How do you sell a service as transparent as the digital space without knowing what goes into the production of these great social and digital technologies we can’t live without?
The answer is in front of you. We are constantly reminded every day how the world is changing and that the digital arena has become the new frontier for marketing and advertising. Companies, even major digital shops that have made the switch from traditional to digital, have poor relationship skills with their most important team members. They are still running an agency like they are selling 2D formats.
Account executives have always relied on the help of their creative counterparts to bail their “over-promising” mouths out of a jam. In the old days, it was a couple extra hours at night to wrap a campaign up or possibly a weekend. Times have changed; developers cannot turn around a “simple button” on a website like an art director can change the color of a logo. Understanding programming and development puts your account team on a whole new playing field. What seems easy on the large scale of a website is not that easy on the back-end. It takes new language, rewiring of pages and costly time — time they don’t have.
As a digital agency owner, these are my recommendations to get your newly appointed developers and account people acquainted. When selling the digital space, it is important to first recognize the products and services you want to offer at your company. Start by having a status meeting about growing trends, website reviews and the digital landscape as a whole. Make sure you involve your development team at every level of the process. Having a bunch of account execs in a meeting about new digital products and services without a developer is as arbitrary as trying to navigate without a compass. Developers will give you direction.
After the decision has been made about new products and services, the next step is education. Have a developer, one front-end and one back-end, put on a small seminar about what his or her role is in the development process. Have your account planners and execs ask many questions about the development process, especially time-related questions, functionality and usability. As time goes on, the seminars can grow into programming languages and what they do. Even after educating your staff about the critical role of a developer, you will have to make some adjustments on presentations, pitches and production.
All meetings with clients should have a developer and web designer. Having developers in the room is the first key to client success and a mutual respect for your development team. With the development team in the room, they can get a real feel for the project at hand. They can give you great insight into what components they will need and roughly how much time they will need to do it. Having a developer in those meetings is beneficial to the entire team. Once the client reveals what they want to do in the digital space, you will know right away if it can be done in that timeframe so you don’t over-promise and under-deliver.
Another valid idea candidate to have in those meetings is the web producer. Web producers can be very effective and can talk directly with the development team about projects. Good web producers have a long history and background in usability and programming languages.
Lastly, always have the site completely designed and signed off on before you begin programming the site. This will save many hours on the clock and give credibility to you as a digital agency. When it’s all said and done, you might want to have a San Francisco microbrew with your new teammate.