Being seated next to new people at weddings, birthdays etc. the go-to conversation starters pop up early on: “So, how do you know x?”, “What do you do for a living?”.

10 years ago when I answered the latter, people would say things like “Cool”, sit forward in their seat and ask me how it all works. On Saturday I was asked this:

I recently had a quote for a website with a contact form and it came back at over £3k. Why is it so expensive?

Similar questions are asked of my colleagues and me all the time and, to be honest, it used to annoy me. Why couldn’t people see the value of the service we provide? A service I’ve spent a very long time learning and constantly improving.

Thanks in part to services like 1and1 website builder and WIX, everybody thinks they can build a website, and to some extent they can. But it’s a question of quality. A room at a budget hotel chain provides the same key service as the Royal Suite at the Dorchester: somewhere to sleep. The added extras, the attention to detail, the quality, that costs extra.

The same can be said for the digital industry. If you expect the ‘added value’ which comes as standard at Erskine you should expect to pay the premium. Amazing performance, an increased period between rebuilds, conformance to accessibility best practices, an intuitive user experience, ease of maintenance and true responsive design take time to perfect, and time is expensive.

Expense is relative

What a lot of businesses fail to realise is that their website is possibly the most important marketing collateral they will produce. It’s often the first point of call for potential customers, and first impressions are important. A lack of investment in this can make a business look unprofessional, sloppy, prone to errors or cheap.

A return on investment is obviously what every business owner really cares about, and this can present itself in different ways. In our ongoing work overhauling Endsleigh’s primary website, they’ve already seen an increase in conversions of up to 40% which is an obvious indicator of success. Great!

However, our favourite statistic is that due to the vastly improved user-experience and content strategy, the volume of calls to their customer service centre has dropped by 15%. Not only have we earned their business more revenue, we’ve helped reduce their costs at the same time.

Trust the experts

Many customers think they know exactly what they want, and as such give a highly detailed brief, but this isn’t the best way to work with an agency.

Understandably, they’re scared. Perhaps it’s the first digital project they’ve run, dumped on them by their superiors and expected to be fitted in with their other responsibilities. Or perhaps they have had a bad experience in the past, where communication with their chosen agency was minimal resulting in a below par product. Either way, they’re spending a lot of money in relative terms and they want something for that. But deciding on exactly what that is before appointing an agency will prevent them from getting the one thing they need: Creativity.

Creativity isn’t about making things look good, that’s a by-product. It’s about recognising a problem and coming up with an intelligent solution. Instead of the client deciding on everything up-front and handing things off to the agency to implement, much more value can be created when a client and an agency work together to examine the challenges the client’s business is facing and devise a tailored approach together.

Sometimes the problem we solve, wasn’t even considered to be one originally, so it’s not always appropriate to start here. Thinking about the desired end result can help realise problems. ’Increased online sales’ is a goal, the problem could be that the current ecommerce platform is taking forever to load, or it doesn’t work well on a small device, or even something as simple as the delivery costs are hidden until the last minute causing basket dropouts.

We’ve been doing this a long time, so we’ve seen the lion’s share of problems and solved them with some great results. We know that project owners who place their trust in people like us achieve the best results. After all if you simply have someone build exactly what you want, you’ll get only what you want.

Courtesy costs nothing

While it is important to question a potential client’s budget and brief, we have no right to ignore them, or make them feel insignificant if it’s below our minimum project budget. Instead we should help them to understand the added value we offer. But whatever they can or cannot afford, we can still be as accommodating as possible. Maybe suggesting they reduce their scope, or use a freelancer, where the level of service or quality may be lower, but so will the price.

Arrogance and annoyance favours no one. Understand where every prospect is coming from and attempt to educate them. If they can’t afford to work with us this time, we should leave them wishing that they could.

Back to the wedding conversation; The champagne had been quite free flowing, so the answer I gave probably wasn’t as coherent as I’d have wished, but I hope I said enough to help someone realise the value of what we do.