Many times, when we are beginning to discuss potentially working together (the early, early stages), potential clients have no idea what to expect from the process, both with us and in general. Given that it’s a very reasonable question to ask, and it is asked so frequently, we figured we’d put it into blog form so that anyone could have insight into what it’s like to work with Verbal+Visual. Here’s an inside look!
The first thing you need to know about Verbal+Visual is that we are highly selective about everything – what companies and organizations we work with, who we partner with as complimentary service providers, and who our team members are.
Our focus is on creating beautiful and efficient eCommerce experiences for innovative retailers. We focus on our jointly determined Key Performance Indicators, typically honing in on sales goals, and working backwards to determine traffic and conversion rates that are needed. We’re looking to partner with retailers and people that want to be the best in their industry, and this is key, are open to change and opportunity. Everything we do aligns with this focus, from how we select our clients to who works on our team, and even to who we partner with for complimentary services.
We Are Extremely Selective About Our Clients and Our Team
Sure, most agencies claim to be super selective, but when push comes to shove, most truly aren’t. The economics of the traditional agency setup prohibit selectivity – when times get even slightly tough, most agencies have to take whatever they can get to pay salaries and bills. We have built our studio the opposite way – by selecting clients to work with first, and then building our team around those clients needs. This allows us to have a small and powerful core team on board full time, and trusted, local designers and developers on an as needed basis to fill in the gaps on a per project basis.
We treat contractors in the same way we treat full time employees. We interview them extensively, they work out of our office, and they earn our trust by working on smaller projects to start and bigger ones as they move up the ranks. This allows us to seamlessly grow and shrink our team as our workload calls for. This flexibility allows us to pick the clients and relationships that we feel most strongly about, without making any unnecessary compromises.
We Don’t See Growth As a Linear Path To “Bigger and Better”
We don’t need to have hundreds of clients. Or even 20 or 30. Instead we aim for as few as possible, typically around 12 per year, allowing us the ability to truly devote ourselves to those clients fully. Rather than “pumping out work”, we aim to achieve and surpass the KPI’s we set with our partners. This is how we define success for our clients.
How we define success for ourselves is only partially defined by team size and revenue. We also define it in reaching our clients goals, having strong relationships internally and externally, and making a positive difference by taking on as many non profit projects as we can. Last but not least, we want to have fun and enjoy the process together.
The Courtship Process
You’ve gotten in touch with us, or us with you, and it’s time to start discussing next steps. The courtship process allows us both to determine if we might potentially be a great fit together.
First we start with an introductory phone call. We’re looking to hear about your product, make sure we have a good fit culturally, and then make sure we are both able to work together around core budget and timeline restraints. Typical engagements last at least 3 months and start in the mid-five figures.
Once we know that there’s potential to work together and both of us are interested, we set up a meeting or video conference so that we can talk face to face. We organize a list of questions, as well a list of potential features for the platform. This helps us shape expectations and start to formulate what we would be working on. The outcomes of this meeting determine the basis of the proposal. During the meeting we discuss primary goals, and then secondarily we chat about the features and questions both sides have. We then showcase relevant case studies, discuss our process, and talk about our team members and how we work. Lastly, we discuss any final questions either side has.
Following that initial meeting, either a presentation or a proposal is requested if both parties are still interested. At that point, we always request a second meeting where we can present our thoughts formally and with all key decision makers in the room. We put together a proposal as a takeaway as well for the second meeting.
Let’s Say We Start Working Together – What Comes Next?
At this point, we’ve both made the decision to work together and we’re ready to go. You’ll be excited to know that the fun is just beginning – we are going to work our tails off for you, and we know you’re doing the same for your business so that we can reach and surpass all of our goals together.
Our philosophy in working together is multi-faceted. First off, we want to have an environment of trust and openness on both sides. You can always feel comfortable to tell us what’s on your mind, and we should feel the same. From an operations perspective, we keep you posted with weekly status calls, let you know your deadlines for items we need up front, and keep you as in the decision making process as you’d like. Lastly, we work in a format called “Agile”, which allows the entire team working on the project to work together to Design, Develop, and Iterate, featured by feature, until the entire platform is done. This format is meant for efficiency and collaboration, allowing us to produce the highest caliber of results within tight time frames.
To get things going, we start with Phase I: Strategy. In our kickoff meeting we align all goals and expectations on both sides, and we define the goal(s) that we will all be held accountable towards reaching. These goals are the driving force behind what we work on every step of the way, and everything we do is centered around “Is this achieving our goals?”. We’ll take a deeper look at your existing organization and digital setup. We’ll work with you to determine a platform plan that makes sense for both the present and future, delivering our work in wireframes or other architectural documents that show the hierarchy and content. This serves as the underlying structure for our design phase. This phase also prepares for the involvement of the creative and technology teams, which will help them determine the scope of the project.
The Create Phase comes next. Our designers and developers work hand in hand throughout the Create phase, so that everyone on the team is involved and understands what the platform goals are. The team works in focused 2 week sprints, honing in on one aspect of the platform at a time in a concentrated effort. Designers begin by identifying the brand and the user experience in a broad fashion, creating moodboards and initial wireframes, and iterating from there into a brand identity and an interactive prototype. As we progress, user experience design, visual design, and front end development merge. On the development side, back end setup is completed initially, with all heavy duty lifting being done right off the bat: custom integrations and components, server setup, etc. As designs are completed, development then moves into the front end, and the platform begins to take shape.
Once all of the features in the Create Phase have been completed, Phase 3: QA & Launch comes next. When developing responsively, quality assurance (QA) across devices and browsers is paramount. We ensure that we have all the latest devices around, allowing us to cover every base. Clients participate in the QA process, too, so they feel 110% comfortable with the product and managing it in the future, if desired. Once we have sign off, we’ll go through the launch process, after which we will perform additional testing and QA for a period of one month. We’ll also hand off code, perform staff training, and make sure the platform will grow with your team at the helm.
Phase IV, Optimization and Maintenance, keeps the site optimization and moving past the initial company goals. Launch day is just the start! Running a world-class website means releasing new features regularly, improving existing features, and providing consistent content updates for your audience. We work with our partners on a recurring basis to gather data from the platform, make improvements, and ensure a smooth growth curve with the platform.
Helping Each Other Out
Once we sign off on a Scope of Work and shake hands, we are bonded and are in it together as a team. We are always here to help in every way possible, and consider our clients to be partners and friends well beyond the scope of the project. Many of our clients become friends, and we have a shared interest in helping each other out however we can. While the process isn’t always rosy, through hard work and caring on both sides, the process and the end result always accomplishes the goals of the organization and puts a smile on both of our faces. In the end, that’s what matters most, because we define success as helping people reach their goals and helping to make their dreams come true.