Don’t call us and we won’t call you. Deal?

If you missed my last post, I am going to be blogging about my experiences overseeing a major website redevelopment and logo redesign for my new employer.

We are at the stage now of trying to find the best partners to bring in. We are looking for someone to develop a new logo and visual identity and someone to do the actual web redevelopment work. This is really my first time on this side of the fence; I’ve worked for consultancies before and have prepared proposals but this is my first time soliciting them.

And wow, is there a range of quality just in terms of that first interaction.

To the credit of the industries in question, I’ve largely been impressed. People get back to me quickly and they genuinely seem interested in learning about our association so they can do the best possible job for us. This is, of course, in their best interest too. Which is why I am also surprised by two firms I’ve approached.

Firm the First (Logo Redesign)

In the case of firm one, I am wary of saying we’ve approached them at all, actually. For the most part I’ve approached companies I’ve either worked with before or heard about from people I trust. We are doing our due diligence in terms of soliciting proposals and evaluating their past work but there’s something to be said for working with partners you know and trust. One firm, however, I found by searching randomly. They had a slick website, real-sounding testimonials and a comprehensive online portfolio that demonstrated good work.

I fired off an email explaining a bit about the association, our project and how I found their site. Within five minutes I received an auto-reply thanking me for my interest and promising to reply in 24 hours with a quote.


Except that 24 hours later, I had nothing. Ditto for 48 hours later. And 72 hours later. Then I found out that we’d been having some email issues at work thanks to an overzealous spam filter. I know for sure I didn’t get a few messages that were sent to me.

Being the gracious fellow that I am, I gave them another shot, though common sense would indicate that if their auto-reply made it through, any response should have. And common sense seems to be correct. I got another auto-reply promising a quote within 24 hours and that’s the last I heard from them.

Now, they made it easy to write them off because even now, several weeks later, no word from them. But I have to think that even if a reply had come after the 24 hour window had closed I would have been inclined to ignore it. When your first client interaction is a broken promise, it doesn’t inspire much in the way of confidence.

Firm the Second (Web Development)

Firm the Second lacks the blatant disregard of the client that is in evidence with Firm the First but I was still somewhat taken aback by its approach. This one was recommended by someone in the field I trust but, in that person’s defence, this person had never worked with Firm the Second on a project quite like this.

What Firm the Second seemed unable to grasp is that we are not a for-profit company. Search Engine Optimization is important, of course, but their expertise in the field isn’t the most important thing for us. Don’t try to sell me by telling me how you’ve helped companies improve their market penetration.

It smacked of a company so proud of its sales pitch that it no longer bothers customizing it. Unfortunately, even if strike one hadn’t counted against them, this approach extended to their approach to web design too. The company has what is, admittedly, a very sophisticated and user-friendly CMS that they have developed in house. Nothing too surprising there. But their unwillingness to talk about integrating other tools with their CMS is troubling. When I asked about integrating certain open source tools (WordPress, etc.) I was told either a) their proprietary CMS module can do just the same thing or b) they could develop a module for the CMS to do the trick.

On my dime, of course.

Their approach isn’t bad or wrong, necessarily, it just seemed to me that they were more interested in telling me what they can do rather than listening to what I need. The client looks to the supplier for a certain amount of expertise, of course, but ignoring other applications in favour of your own proprietary tools doesn’t say expertise to me, it says arrogance.

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