by Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

➤Ruiz-McPherson is a virtual marketing consultant and publicity assistant providing marketing and publicity consulting services to death care establishments as the Death Care Publicist. ➤She writes the Marketing Misfit Blog and produces a bi-weekly e-newsletter about marketing.

You know how to evaluate a company selling caskets, retorts or lawn mowers. You’re up to speed on how to choose which computers and software to buy. But how do you decide whether that firm offering to create —or redo—your Web site is the right one for you?

10 questions to ask about Web service suppliers before hiring them
here are many Web service suppliers, including Web design firms, agencies and freelancers, all vying for your funeral home, crematory or cemetery’s e-business. How do you sift through all the potential suppliers to find the most appropriate one for your organization, the one that will best meet your Web needs? In searching for a qualified Web services supplier, you need to consider many issues before making a final decision, including budgetary factors and questions about what you want your Web site, or a particular Web project, to do for your organization. Whatever your decision-making process, you should definitely consider—at minimum—the following as you decide what you want to do and who you’re going to hire to do it for you. This listing is not all-inclusive, but should get you started on developing the list of questions you should ask when you talk to potential Web services suppliers. 1. What type of supplier is it? Is it marketing itself as a full-service, one-stop shop? Is it a freelance consultant subcontracting most of the actual work? Would you be working with an agency that has a specific specialty and partners with other firms to perform or to complete other aspects of the project? Is the company’s service geared more toward online marketing than actual Web site design? Ask each vendor to specify its business model and capabilities, as well as what work, if any, would be done by subcontractors. 2. Is the supplier “left-brained” or “rightbrained”? Often a Web services supplier cannot be all things to all clients. A supplier can be, for example, more creatively capable (right-brained) than technically adept (left-brained). A successful Web site needs a balance of creativity with technical functionality. Is a supplier better versed with the development of online databases and e-commerce Web sites or

T deathcare
MORE ON THIS TOPIC ➤David Johnson of and Michael Turkiewicz of FuneralNet will discuss “Using Your Web Wite to Generate Leads and Sales” at the 2009 ICCFA Convention & Exposition, April 20-23, at the Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas 1.800.645.7700

good at interactive, animated design but weaker with programming skills? Depending on the nature of your Web project, you may need a bit of both solid creative input and technical expertise. Good suppliers will help you identify your project requirements and openly share with you, up front, their Web design and development strengths and weaknesses. 3. If a supplier partners with others on a project, how does that work? In light of #2, many Web/Internet projects may require suppliers to partner with other firms and contractors to handle all aspects of the project well. If a supplier is going to need to partner with other firms or individuals to complete your project, ask if the supplier has a proven history of success in working with those third parties. Ask for details on how the proposed collaboration will be handled. Who will be the project manager? How will the teams communicate and how often? Who will be responsible for which project milestones? Get the complete scoop on how partnering firms collaborate. Ask for examples of previous projects in which the teams had to work closely together and references you can check to verify what you’re told. 4. Does your supplier understand that the Web site is not the only component of your overall marketing strategy? A Web site is not a stand-alone marketing tool; it is another point of contact through which you can reach families and your community. Does your supplier understand that your Web site and online marketing campaigns are usually part of marketing activities you are already engaged in offline? If you will be relying on a supplier to make sure your online marketing efforts parallel your offline efforts, ask the supplier how it has coordinated and timed integrated campaigns in the past. Make sure your vendor has the experience and partnerships in


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T E C H N O L O G Y place to make your integrated campaign a reality. 5. Does the Web services supplier know your market and target end-users? For your marketing efforts to be very effective, your supplier must understand your business and targeted end-users, what motivates them and what they want and need from your Web site. For this reason, market and industry research are an integral part of any Web project. If your supplier has no previous experience in the cemetery, funeral home and crematory business, he or she must be willing and able to actively participate in the research process. A good Web services supplier will not simply provide you with developers and designers but also will guide you with a solid online marketing plan in which the Web site being constructed or redesigned will serve as a tool. 6. Does the supplier offer creative sizzle but very little steak? Don’t be seduced by a great looking portfolio. Often a Web service provider has had to outsource specific technical or creative work, so some of that impressive work may have been done by a partner or subcontractor. When reviewing a portfolio, be sure to get clarification on what the supplier actually did on a specific project and how things actually work. Did the supplier do the creative work and the technical work? Or did the supplier design the usability diagrams and subcontract the build-out of each screen? Does the information collected from the preneed forms online get sent to an e-mail inbox someone at your organization will then have to process, or is the data automatically placed into a searchable database to which your sales counselors will have access? Always ask questions and obtain detailed information about projects a supplier cites. 7. Will the supplier provide references you can talk to? A vendor’s portfolio or partial client list is a definite starting point in the qualification process, but don’t stop there. Ask for at least two or three client references. A qualified supplier will happily provide you with client contact information as needed. When you have the information, make it a point to speak to those clients. Ask about the supplier’s capabilities, customer service and project management practices. Good quality Web projects are not cheap, and the last thing you want to do is to spend money on a supplier who is otherwise gifted but has limited professional and project management experience and cannot bring your project together properly. 8. Who would be assigned to your account? Who would be your day-to-day contact? Generally, your supplier’s sales or business development person won’t be managing the delivery of your Web project. So before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you have talked to some of the people who will actually be assigned to your account, especially your day-to-day contact. Make sure you have an understanding of how much time will be devoted to your account. 9. How would the supplier deliver your Web project? Make sure the supplier you select has the ability to compose a plan and a process for developing and implementing your Web project. You don’t want your project to be executed in a “let ’er rip” kind of fashion. You want to know that your supplier can clearly identify and explain the project approach, timelines and milestones. A solid plan in place will guide you through this challenging journey. 10. How would post-launch maintenance be handled? What happens post-launch, in other words, after your new or revamped Web site goes live? Does your supplier have “after care” services to assist you in the maintenance and upkeep of your Web site, or is the umbilical cord cut, leaving you without direction or guidance? Some suppliers don’t like to maintain a Web site after it has gone live. Others absolutely offer post-launch maintenance services—for additional fees. If a supplier does not offer Web site maintenance services, be sure to establish this early in the qualification process. If a supplier does not maintain Web sites, you will want to be sure it can furnish you with documentation on how the site was built and other relevant project information that could be shared with a new supplier. In any case, a supplier should also be available for a 30-day post-launch period to deal with any problems, and to help mitigate any problems resulting from the ❑ transition to maintenance mode.

Fo r t h e i n f o r m a t i o n a b o u t I C C FA p r o g r a m s a n d i n d u s t r y n e w s f r o m a r o u n d t h e w o r l d , g o t o w w w . i c c f a . c o m

March-April 2009


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