Here at Orpical Group, we believe that retainer is a dirty word.

That’s why we banned the word retainer from our company’s vocabulary.

This isn’t a direct shot at retainers as a whole. In fact, we are huge advocates of these types of relationships; they are critical to our overall business. Retainers provide great, predictable opportunities that allow us to sink our teeth into a brand so we can provide better value over an extended period of time.

Our retainer clients know what to expect in terms of billing, which allows for better budgeting and forecasting. It also enables our digital marketing agency to spend less resources on seeking new business, sharpening our client focus. Retainers also allow us to better plan and disperse our resources, creating a generally smoother, more efficient workflow.

With all that being said, we’ve surveyed a variety of people, both in and out of the industry, and there is an overwhelming consensus: retainer just isn’t a sexy word.

We asked a number of different people, “What do you think of when you hear the word retainer?”

Here are some replies:

  • “My orthodontist.”
  • “A lot of money.”
  • “Something big and bulky that goes in my mouth.”
  • “A hold.”
  • “Ew, gross.”
  • “What I give my lawyer every month.”

Here’s what we wished we heard:

  • “A smart investment that enables strategic marketing partner(s) to consistently deliver exceptional results.”

That just wasn’t the case.

As we identified, the concept of retainers aren’t the problem. It’s the general perception of the word, which is diluted by other unrelated experiences. Damn the English language and homophones for being so confusing!

Think about it this way: do you want to retain the same amount of business, or do you want to gain more exposure, more leads, and more business?

To demonstrate our commitment to regainer over retainer, we’ve implemented Swear Jar to our company Slack channel. Swear jar provides a Slack bot that converts colorful language and buzzword-speak (like retainer) to small charitable donations.

While we don’t want to slip up and condone a stagnant marketing environment, we figure that if/when we do, it might as well support a good cause. Use of the word retainer outside of this post and Slack, will be monitored under a company-wide honor-policy, where employees, clients and friends are encouraged to “bust chops” when they hear it.

Branding. For some odd reason, the word evokes the vision of Bam Margera for me. After years in marketing, it would make sense for my word association to be with one of the hundreds of successful branding projects I’ve completed.

But nope. Branding — still Bam for me.

Margera’s unorthodox teachings remain lodged in my psyche like a remote in between two couch cushions; his lifetime of stunts blending together into one unforgettable scene of cinema forever residing in my brain.

Branding Tips To Monetize Debauchery

For those of you who have no idea what I’m getting at, or who Bam is for that matter, let me give you some quick context.

In the early 2000s, Bam Margera was the Pope for almost every budding “Dude/Man” that was caught in the crossfire of pre-, mid- and post-early adolescence. If you wore tattered Adio soles, carried splintered wood with rusty trucks, and held a general FU attitude, Bam was a legend.

He skated and performed with a sloppy grace like a slapped, one-eyed gazelle. He messed with his friends and was endeared to drive his parents crazy. And he documented it all, giving newfound meaning to a generation of turnover.

Come on now; stuntman and filmmaker doesn’t do Bam Margera any real justice.

Bam didn’t lead the charge, but he was a big part of the new world of creative expression. He helped capture who he, his friends, and family were in an authentic medium to reveal an equally authentic character. He then chopped it up, added a little spice, and served it up for mass consumption. A hunter, butcher, chef, patron extraordinaire. Some might define that as a classic entrepreneur. Any modern marketer need look no further for high-brow branding tips.

In many ways, Bam was social media before social media even existed. His success with skateboarding and CKY (Camp Kill Yourself) videos ultimately paid off. Major cable and satellite television channel, MTV, grabbed wind of the radical hilarity and couldn’t turn a blind eye to the growing cult-like following. As such, a new brand, Jackass, was born. Enter the era of the mainstream. The rest is a wild, reckless history.

After a number of seasons on MTV, Bam and the likes of Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Ryan Dunn, Chris Pontius, Wee Man, and many other recurring, lovable mavericks took their acts to the big screen. They were raunchy. They were cerebral in a weird, non-scripted way. Most of all, they kept it real and stayed true to themselves.

Jackass: The Movie killed it in and out of theaters. With just a $5M production budget, (Yes, just. For comparative purposes, The Dark Knight ran up a tab of $185M before hitting theaters) Bam and the Jackass team reeled in $79.2M at the box office worldwide, thus showing that putting a live alligator in your mom’s kitchen has one hell of a return on investment. Marketers from every publisher and outlet were trying to glean branding tips from the guys who blew up doing dumb stunts with their friends.

Things continued to scale from there. Expectations were high for both Jackass 2 and Jackass 3D. As such, the outrageous bar was set a little higher.  From Running with the Bulls, to the Anaconda Ball Pit, to the Terror Taxi — the Jackass collection amassed to an impressive pool of piss your pants and squirm in your seat memories.

Today, Jackass is The Beatles of contemporary absurdity and harnessed debauchery, leaving Bam as the defacto Lennon, McCartney or Harrison (take your pick, but he sure as hell isn’t Ringo) of it all. Just like The Beatles, you probably love or hate Jackass. Sure, there’s probably a chunk of people that get down with Nitro Circus. But, let’s stop kidding around — it’s Nike versus Adidas.

Now, many domesticated desk monkeys function with a soggy nostalgia. Seemingly tame cortexes click and flash: angry bees in a limo, riot control tests, electrocution via stool. Jackass has its own Billboard 100 with countless hits.

Just like The Beatles, everyone has their favorite Jackass project. For me, I revert back to Bam, when he literally put his ass on the line for The Brand and a number one hit.

Branding. Do It For The Brand.

Simply put, The Brand is a scene in Jackass 2 where Johnny Knoxville and Ryan Dunn take a piping red hot cattle iron in the shape of a — well, there’s no beating around the bush here — penis, and literally brand Bam with it on his bare, pasty white butt cheeks. I’m not making this up.

If you’re wondering how it turned out, the answer is “mostly terrible.” You can probably find some clips floating around on the internet, but I’d recommend watching the movie in full via Netflix or ordering it On Demand. These guys freaking earned those royalties. Viewer discretion advised.

As I sit here and reflect on that particular intense scene, I think about how it might be the most perfect representation of what good branding is when looking for meaningful branding tips. Mainly because I’ve seen my fair share of bad branding over the years.

Many times, I’ve been faced with helping clients that get hung up on their brand. Logos, fonts, graphics, colors. I plead with people to not get too absorbed by those elements. They’re really only superficial, subjective, external liaisons of the true brand. They’re not the end-all-be-all. Sure, they’re necessary, and you need them to a certain degree, but ask yourself this: will they make you appealing and enduring? Appealing, yes. Enduring, no.

Persian Sunni Muslim poet, jurist, and Islamic scholar, Rumi, once wrote: “The only lasting beauty, is the beauty of the heart.” This concept is further approached in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, where the preservation of physical beauty and art battle head-to-head.

If you asked a business owner to describe their brand, too many of them would describe their logo. A logo, as with every other brand component, is an evocative tool; it acts as a stand-in for the emotions and feelings the business desires the audience to experience when they think of their business. In short, it’s the heart behind the brand that makes the brand worth anything at all.

The Brand by Bam Margera follows this rule too. By no means is it pretty on the surface, but it’s complex in nature and humbled by an objective. The Brand encompasses individual sacrifice for the brand (Jackass), and that’s why it’s so memorable.

I don’t remember Jackass because of their logo, or the soundtracks, or the font that they used during credits. I remember Jackass because it left an impression on me during my formative years. I remember Jackass because of Bam, and the whole crew, doing everything they could to build the brand, even if they died trying.

And that’s damn good branding.

Okay Google:

How many graphic designers are there?

According to The United States Department of Labor, there were 266,300 graphic designers in 2016.

Okay Google:

How many web developers are there?

According to The United States Department of Labor, there were 162,900 web developers in 2016.

Okay Google:

What should I look for when hiring a website design company?

(Longer than usual awkward silence)

Here are some results from the web…

Sigh.

More of the same old BS.

Seemingly endless boilerplate lists of varying sizes—essentially callous interview scripts for you to copy and paste. Flaming hot garbage for you to blast out in a blind-copied email to a compiled spreadsheet labeled “best web design firms near me”.

I get why people try to complicate and automate the process of screening and ultimately hiring a website design company. Trust me, I get it.

Designing a website can be a big deal. Not all the time, but sometimes.

Maybe you had a bad experience in the past with Freelancer Fran. Maybe there are impatient investors breathing down your neck that need a website up yesterday. Maybe you’re new to the world of entrepreneurship and you’re a little lost and hesitant to pull the trigger.

Whatever your reason may be, I want you to put that behind you. Because there’s only one thing that you should be looking for. And it isn’t in the design or development portfolio. It isn’t in the proposal or scope of work either.

It’s going to require you to pick up the phone and speak to someone.

But in 15-30 minutes, you’ll know if they’re good, or no good.

So, without further ado…

Look for a company that has good character.

Yes, it’s that easy.

The #1 thing to look for when hiring a website design company is good character.

Culture.

Personality.

Mental makeup.

Whatever you want to call it.

This may or may not come as a surprise, but there are a lot of people out there that frankly don’t give a crap about you or your business. What they do care about is making a sale. And they’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.

That includes showing you examples of beautiful web sites from your competitors, writing case studies that show meaningless results from past web designs, giving you all of the answers that you want to hear instead of what you need to hear.

Stop.

Let’s re-emphasize that last point.

Look for a website design company that won’t simply give you the answers that you WANT to hear. Find, hire and hold onto a website design company that will give you the answers that you NEED to hear. That’s a rare and valuable asset.

Before, during, and after the website design process you need a constant dose of reality. Yes, you need someone that will hold your hand, but you also need someone that isn’t going to just stroke your ego, bake you a tray of chocolate-chip cookies, and serve as your creative “Yes Man”.

How can you tell they’re genuinely good?

I have no doubt that you’ll see thousands of really awesome web designs. I have no doubt you’ll dive into countless different design processes, strategies, and pricing models. And many of those companies are 100% good at what they do: designing and developing websites.

But that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily good for you.

When you start looking for a website design company, everything outside of character is clutter. Services provided, corporate policies, and final delivered product are all important aspects that do deserve consideration down the line—but they are not the #1 thing to initially look for.

Here’s the problem: as you add more things to your “perfect agency ” requirement checklist, the less perfect any one website design company will be. This is a fact. We’re not all perfect. You’ll drive yourself nuts looking for someone that is (this goes for anyone in any industry).

One company might have a great published portfolio, while another might have content that resonates with your vision. A third company might have really simple pricing that seems like a steal. The options — and your stress — will keep compounding until you go crazy or broke trying to find your business’ silver bullet.

So don’t.

First focus on finding out if the people behind the scenes are genuinely good. Do they sincerely care? Do they provide a team of people you could see yourself actually working with to produce something great?

I’m not going to sit here and ramble off ways to be a better judge of character. But there are some things specific to this process that I will suggest you keep in the back of your mind. Ask yourself:

  1. Is this company willing to make calculated sacrifices for me?
  2. Will they put all opinions (except for my market) aside?
  3. Do they have the guts to tell me no?
  4. Can I relate to them on more than one level?

Is this company willing to make calculated sacrifices for me?

When it comes to sacrifices, we’re not talking about a ceremonial beheading of a cow to summon the Gods for a smooth build, successful launch, and sales out the wazoo. Sacrifices can be as small as meeting halfway for an introductory meeting, to as big as providing a reduced hourly rate built around equity options.

Your website design company is supposed to be a strategic partner that you can rely on. As with all partnerships, there will be times where faith and commitment will undergo trials and tribulations. So, prior to making a decision, you should know where your prospective vendor’s priorities truly lie.

If your ship starts sinking, are they going to be the first people grabbing for life-jackets and a seat on the inflatable raft? Or are they grabbing the rusty pail and bailing out the water?

While it should be implied, it’s still worth noting: sacrificial gestures go both ways and should be evenly displaced. Don’t mistake kindness for weakness. And don’t take advantage of someone else’s commitment. They have the right to cut you off with any scissors you hand them.

Will they put all opinions (except for my market) aside?

Here’s a shocker: your opinion doesn’t matter.

Not when it comes to your logo, or your web design, or your content, or your marketing strategy.

I repeat: your opinion doesn’t matter.

And neither does the opinion of your web designer or web developer. The only opinion that matters is the opinion of your target audience.

There are a lot of web design companies that market their services based on their own inflated estimation of themselves and under the assumption that they, and they alone, know what’s best for their clients.

Macho Man Randy Savage is not your web designer.

You can appreciate a company with confidence, but unless they prove themselves to be your central demographic and primary acquisition, make sure you take it with a grain of salt.

And don’t toot your own horn too much.

You may consider yourself an expert in your industry, and you very likely are, but are you selling to a mass of your own personal clones?

Doubt it.

The market will yield what the market should yield.

Everything else is irrelevant.

Do they have the guts to tell me no?

The customer is always right, except when they’re wrong.

Your search for a website design company began with an idea. It’s important to know that there are no bad ideas, but there are bad decisions.

Even the most well-established, successful businesses make mistakes. Competition is overlooked. Opportunity is mistaken for threat. Focus is fixated on waste. This happens every day to even the most brilliant of business minds.

A website is first and foremost an investment. Let’s not get it twisted people.

Is developing your website money well spent?

The answer could very well be yes. But it could also be no depending on a wide array of circumstances.

A good website design company will evaluate your business plan, your explanation for why you think you need a website, and poke holes in any questionable areas. “What makes you different than Company XYZ down the road? Have you given thought to your post-launch marketing strategy? How do you expect to scale your online footprint to generate leads and sales? Where will you do it? How?”

If you are not prepared, or well-equipped to succeed in your endeavors, it’s only ethical for a web design company to turn you down. Think of it this way: you want to buy a beautiful house on a cliff overlooking the sea. The realtor sends out an engineer to inspect the property. They find that the structure supporting the home is eroding. Would you expect them to still sell you the home?

As a client, understand that you can get shut down, and it’s definitely not taboo when it’s in both parties best interest.

Can I relate to them on more than one level?

Beyond a company having something that you want (web design services) is there any other reason why you’d choose them?

This is an important question to ponder prior to making a decision because there are going to be a lot of companies that can fulfill your work order request. Design styles today are rarely unique or unmistakable. It’s really all about trends. And trends can be easily mimicked.

In a Huffington Post article, Solomon Thimothy writes about the The Benefits of Connecting With Like-Minded Entrepreneurs. He writes that, “Surrounding yourself with other like-minded entrepreneurs can have a major impact on your own success and that of your business. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs often fail to seek out others for a variety of reasons, including fear, feeling inadequate or a lack of time.”

Thimothy goes on to discuss some of the benefits that result from connecting with like-minded entrepreneurs, which includes drawing inspiration from their passion. This is hugely important.

And connecting with like-minded individuals isn’t just for entrepreneurs. A study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior suggests that how people feel about their co-workers positively impacts their work and life.

While the website design company you contract isn’t technically your “co-worker”, it’s crucial that they feel like one, especially since you’ll be working so closely together. Finding common ground—even with small things like music taste and sports affiliations—are what separates a good working relationship from a great one.

You are awesome, so why would you settle for anything less than equal to you? Put the extra time into getting to know the guys and gals behind the code.

Start Your Search

My goal in writing this post was to hopefully simplify the initial process of searching for a website design company. After some research, I noticed that there are a ton of generic things other blogs and websites suggest. Unfortunately, generic questions provide generic responses.

At Orpical Group, we pride ourselves on being a little unorthodox. We like real conversations with real people. We don’t take on every web design or development project that comes our way, but we do take every first conversation. Whether it’s a phone call, an in-person meeting, or video conference call on Skype, we’re anxious to hear about you and your vision for your website.

To schedule a free 15-30 minute consultation, please complete the form below. Following our discussion, we’ll have a good idea if we are a good fit to work on your project. And if we believe that we are a good fit, we’ll provide a detailed proposal and scope of work.

Get a Free Web Design Quote

Contact us for a free consultation and a web design quote.

Companies no longer have the freedom to do business with a merely ‘functioning’ website.

As often the first or second impression that your company makes on a prospective customer, it’s critical to make a positive impression and express in an instant that you are legitimate, reliable, and modern.

If any of these telltale signs apply to your business’ website, it’s time to redesign your website.

Reasons to Redesign Your Website

It Looks Terrible On Mobile

According to an early 2017 study by the media analytics company ComScore, mobile browsing accounts for 71 percent of all time spent online in the United States. With this kind of market, your website should be designed with equal focus on desktop and mobile appearance, and ideally with mobile as the priority.

Far too many companies create websites that are focused on interactions through a computer, leaving the mobile experience to stay stuck at “good enough.” The worst thing that a website can be on a mobile browser is “adequate.”

It’s Not Secure

If you’re not well-versed in search engine skills, it’s easy to overlook the importance of your website’s URL. However the difference between an “http” and an “https” website could be damaging to your brand, your business, and even your customers.

HTTPS confirms that all activity done on and through the website is encrypted, securing vital data like login information and credit card numbers. This also means that the website and activity cannot be visible to someone who is trying to sniff through network traffic. Without a secure domain, your users’ information is at a greater risk of being accessed by outside parties.

More info: Why Secure Your Website With HTTPS

Lack of Aesthetic Unity

The most common issue that arises from having a lackluster website is a drop in trust and legitimacy in the eyes of the customer. The website is where the customer typically interacts with your business first, and if the website is riddled with typos, blurry .jpeg images, and faulty hyperlinks, the customer isn’t going to believe the rest of the business is run competently.

Are all your fonts consistent across pages? Is the color scheme, content layout, and imagery appropriate for the product you’re selling? If you aren’t sure, then neither is the customer, and that will certainly result in your website sending the wrong impression.

You Haven’t Updated It In The Past 6 Months

Not all businesses need to have state-of-the-art websites, but they do need to be responsive, easy to navigate, and pleasing to look at. Trends in the digital design industry are constantly evolving, and if you haven’t touched your website in nearly a year, chances are your layout, user interface or content could be updated to current standards.

You might not need a total re-do, but even seemingly minor improvements — a better functioning toolbar, or crisper tab navigation — can lead to a better customer experience. Plus, going over your finer points can lead to realizing anything from pricing errors to outdated discounts still up on the website.

Updating frequently allows for another opportunity to engage with your customer. They’re your best source for finding out what to fix, and how fast it needs fixing. And if the customer knows that news, deals and promotions are constantly being put up on the website, then they’re more likely to return.

Get a Free Website Revamp Proposal

Contact us for a free consultation and a website revamp proposal.

About Orpical Group

Orpical Group is a full-service online marketing agency and business consulting firm. With locations in New Jersey and Philadelphia, we specialize in logo design, branding, web design and development, search engine optimization (SEO), and pay per click management.

Since 2012, we have helped our clients realize and sustain high levels of individual and organizational performance. We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all marketing approach. We believe in our clients. And our clients believe in us because we are invested in success.