How high-value technology projects can increase lifetime account value

When a design agency's client requires a complex, bespoke tech build, it’s a perfect opportunity to increase the account’s lifetime value.

Jeremy Jackson, Founder & CEO

Jeremy Jackson, Founder & CEO

How high-value technology projects can increase lifetime account value

So, you may be wondering, if you’re sending the highly technical work to a specialized firm, how does that increase the lifetime value for the design agency? Wouldn’t that part of the relationship simply transfer to the third-party?

Not if you create a long-term partnership with a strong application development firm, particularly one with a narrow and focused service offering. Because, if you develop a good relationship, it’s in both of your interests to continue working together. 

The key, however, is finding a strong technical agency that knows how to communicate with clients and, further, a partner who truly understands how to manage an account through the various seasons of the product’s lifecycle. A strong firm works to clearly understand clients’ business problems, properly frames and delivers a technology solution, and has a point of view on a three-to-five year plan for maintenance, support and ongoing feature development.

Building long-term technology relationships

It’s that long-term relationship that’s the linchpin of long-term account value. Typically, when a standard, non-technical design project is finished, there’s not a ton of work and maintenance required for the next few years. When it comes time for a redesign  three to five years down the road, many of the key people who held the relationship with the design agency may have left or moved on to other roles. Without constant touchpoints, that redesign project could easily go to a competing agency.

Complex technology projects are different. The application and underlying infrastructure will definitely require ongoing maintenance and support, and it’s very rare for a client to get all the features they want in the initial launch. There’s always additional desired functionality, and there are things you learn along the way. What this means is that the technology development firm maintains a relationship with the client, and when it comes time for a redesign, they can act as a bridge back to its creative partner. 

Let’s break all this down:

Communicating with clients

Let’s face it, there are plenty of developers out there who are much better with code than they are with clients. So make sure that your development partner is an effective communicator and collaborator. Especially with modern development methodologies  such as Agile, the development firm will deliver working functionality at regular and predictable intervals, and they’ll need to work with the client to get feedback so they can adapt to meet expectations. If the development firm lacks those critical communications skills, it doesn’t matter how incredible their code is — the product won’t make the client happy.

Account management discipline

Almost every tech shop uses Agile, but an account management discipline is much less common. Building an app is a huge part of managing a client account, but it’s certainly not the whole story. The team needs to manage expectations, communicate progress effectively, develop a long-term schedule and know how to roll with the punches as things change. Agile, alone, won’t handle all of that. 

Understanding their business problems

There’s more to understanding a client’s challenges than asking for a set of requirements. Often, the client doesn’t truly understand the full scope of the problem they need to solve. Your development partner needs to have the experience and savvy to know what questions to ask to gain a full understanding of the client’s needs. 

Framing a technology solution

By definition, you’re developing a bespoke technology solution, so understanding the right scope is tricky. Get it wrong, and you deliver a solution that isn’t robust enough to fully address the problem it’s supposed to solve, and if you overshoot, you can lose a significant amount of money on the project or end up eroding the relationship with costs that go way beyond the original expectations. The developer has to compare what’s expected from this project to other projects in the same ballpark, so, ultimately, this is a “Goldilocks” problem that only experience can resolve. It’s also important to understand when to walk away. If a potential client whittles down the scope to a solution that you know won’t solve the problem, it’s often not worth it to continue. The client won’t be happy, the relationship won’t last and the wear and tear on your people simply isn’t worth the short-term money.

A three-to-five year plan

In addition to scoping out the product that the firm will deliver, there should also be a plan that spells out the scope and cost of maintenance and support, along with proposals for additional developing functionality over time. There should be very few, if any surprises, about post-launch work or costs.

At Shift Lab, working alongside design agency partners is our bread-and-butter, delivering large, complex technology projects that delight the client and create long-term relationships that bring in repeat design business. In fact, our business strategy can be summed up in less than 10 words: “Never lose a client we don't want to lose.” If your organization is facing projects that need bespoke applications to solve thorny business problems, get in touch. We know how to collaborate, both with you and your clients.

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