Ever seen the old show Mad Men? I know it’s based on the so-called “Golden Age” of advertising but the surprising thing is… the environment in a marketing agency or web design firm is still very similar.
It’s fast-paced… occasionally mean… very high energy and high stakes… and not very useful for service-based businesses lacking large monthly advertising budgets.
It’s no longer about market share in a magazine or print ads.
If you want your business to get in front of clients, you need to be visible and online. I think for the most part we can all agree on that.
It’s the how, where, and why that is a bit fuzzy and that was one of many issues I had working in agencies over the years.
Often, businesses would need a big overhaul on their site and brand that leveraged a deep dive into their internal systems and messaging to achieve long-term goals.
BUT… the agency didn’t offer those services… so the agency would focus instead on a series of other small problems that could be solved by their specific menu of off-the-shelf services.
I started my career in the actual printing room… where we developed negatives, burned plates, and manually set up physical layouts for print materials (I’ve been doing this for a few years).
The press room floor is the last stop. Nothing in a job can really be changed what it hits the pressroom floor because it must go through so many other steps first. And we saw problems. Soooo many problems from other departments that we couldn’t fix.
So I decided to make things better and easier for my team by moving up to the pre-press room, thinking I could fix the problems my team saw on press there.
I was wrong.
Every step closer I got to the creative process and working with actual clients, all the way up to becoming Creative Director of a marketing agency that was working with Fortune 500 companies, there were still problems.
I felt stuck… “I try… and I try… and I try…”
No matter how close I got to the top of the decision ladder, I couldn’t make things better.
The business was consistently doing what was best for the business (ie: closing a deal, any deal)… not their clients.
Now, not all agencies are alike.
For the most part, though, I found it uncomfortable that our clients were being delivered services that wouldn’t serve them in the long run.
The “band-aid” approach when you need something more nuanced and comprehensive. Too much tech is being doled out in some instances or not enough in others.
Occasionally what I call “loss of ownership” would be a major sticking point as well. Companies still “own” their website and branding… but they can’t access it.
They don’t have the login, or aren’t an admin on any of the important accounts. Or they don’t know where to go to update something online… or simply don’t have access to the graphic files because they’re in an online storage space owned by the agency.
It’s not always nefarious of course.
Many clients come to me and explain “the secretary took the site with them.” Someone who worked for them oversaw updating the website, they left to pursue other career opportunities, and now no one knows where or how to log into the website.
And it’s only one of many ways in which small businesses are being held back from competing online with poor websites.
So, I made a decision. Instead of contributing to this environment, I’d set up my own CT based website design agency that focused on helping clients in a collaborative environment.
I love being creative… AND I love problem-solving.
I come from a family of carpenters and everything you do takes the “measure twice, cut once” approach and finding the right tool for the right job.
So, when I work with clients now I ask myself:
• How can I make this better for the company?
• What’s going on in their industry?
• What are the unique challenges we have to think ahead on?
• What is the right tool for making a website that supports them?
In the next installment of “The North Star Journey”, I’ll dive into the top reasons why your website isn’t serving you as best as it could.
Tara D. Meeker
Owner, North Star Design Studio
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