Post-Launch Services as a Deliverable: The Win-Win Approach

Post-Launch Services as a Deliverable: The Win-Win Approach
Post-launch services

The unfortunate truth about many freelancers and agencies within the web design industry is that their services ultimately cease as soon as the bill has been paid.

The unfortunate truth about many freelancers and agencies within the web design industry is that their services ultimately cease as soon as the bill has been paid.

This can be a real monkey wrench in a client’s post launch plans, as they’re often left to navigate a new and unfamiliar CMS platform, without any guidance from the team who implemented it. This isn’t always a matter of competence. It can also be a misplaced focus or an inattention to detail that derails the design.

That’s why many design firms prefer to maintain a support and management relationship with their web development clients. This way, they can be sure of client satisfaction while maintaining the integrity of their overall product. Moreover, they can educate clients and ensure their business moves towards prosperity and prominence.

In the hopes of spreading this attitude of support and customer care, we’ve mapped out the best methods to ensure your clients have all the support they need post-launch, as well as some the problematic processes we see others continually committing.

Why post-launch services?

Post-launch services: Why do it

In our business, we advocate a more honest and comprehensive line of communication between client and designer. We push this hard because the alternative to post-launch services as a deliverable, is an ad hoc approach at best, where the client doesn’t know what they’re getting and you don’t know what they’re expecting.

If you don’t educate your client — allowing them to test drive the content management system (CMS) before launch, or providing them with the documentation and guidance needed to complete updates themselves — then they’re very likely to face some major challenges as soon as you hand over the keys. This will cause a strain on your budding relationship, and it will reflect badly on the quality of your services.

Dropping the ball on post-launch services also means denying yourself the chance to expand your business, as you’re neglecting to manage SEO and marketing efforts on your client’s behalf. Obviously, these can be very lucrative and ongoing contracts that you’ll simply miss out on.

You might also like: Working On-Retainer: Why the Survival of Your Development Business Rests on Long-Term Clients.

A winning philosophy

In addition to the duty to your client and your business, post-launch support on any project is about a winning mentality. To clarify, this is a “win-win” attitude, meaning if we are around to help the client successfully navigate, maintain, and fully utilize their new design, they’ll be more successful. That success reflects well on the quality of our services. The client looks good, so you look good because you’ve made the client look good. It’s mutually beneficial and hopefully helps maintain a healthy relationship into the future. That’s the essential truth of why you should push your post-launch services.

If we are around to help the client successfully navigate, maintain, and fully utilize their new design, they’ll be more successful.

Beyond motivation, is the more pressing matter of method. This begins with individual and specialized attention to the client. Doing this serves a dual purpose:

  1. You make the client feel valued and comfortable with the burgeoning arrangement.
  2. You can begin the process of educating your client about their new CMS. They can start interacting with the interface from the very beginning, allowing them to better understand their finished product when it comes time for launch.

Ideally, you would match the client with a team of agile designers and developers who actually design and build the product. The product should then be rapidly prototyped and iterated to nigh perfection under the client’s direction. Then comes the launch.

Let’s take a look at what it takes to deliver a positive post-launch experience.

Collaborative support and growth

The launch period is an exciting yet sensitive time for your client. You have to fine tune your approach in order to show them just how valuable your ongoing support can be. In light of this, there are a few guidelines you need to follow. Because the product is built, and you’ve been closely collaborating throughout the iteration process, the customer already has passing familiarity with their new CMS.

During this phase, the rubber meets the road, and you’ll see how your product performs under pressure. This is where you can begin to troubleshoot with your client and find out exactly where they have difficulty or confusion in running the CMS.

This is where you can begin to troubleshoot with your client and find out exactly where they have difficulty or confusion in running the CMS.

The key to the client’s continuing education is, again, collaboration. During the initial planning stages, it’s necessary to share business initiatives, goals, and ideas. You need to make a list of actionable insights, their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and come up with a strategy to measure each one. Much of what can be accomplished with ongoing support starts to be accomplished here.

Developing actionable insights

The first thing you need to do is agree on which metrics to measure. After all, if you’re not measuring your business’ KPIs, then you’re just guessing about the relative success of any effort — design, marketing, sales, or otherwise.

Determine what an accurate measure of your client’s success might be. These can be things like:

  • Overall traffic
  • Conversion rates
  • Cost per click (CPC)
  • Bounce rates 

Once the launch occurs, you can revisit the predetermined KPIs in order to analyze the results of the launch. Do this in intervals so you can separate long-term trends from short term aberrations in the data. A good place to start is weekly reports. From there you can plan marketing campaigns, further integrate other, more specified user engagement statistics, and most importantly, tutor the client on any technical specifics of interacting with the backend of their new CMS.

You might also like: How to Use Google Analytics to Improve Your Web Design Projects.

Continuing education

Often client education can take the form of referencing prewritten (or prerecorded, in the case of video) tutorials, or actively supporting the client as they navigate. Moreover, you can provide not only general documentation of the code used for the project, but also specific screenshots and video guides. These extra resources help our clients feel more confident in updating their websites themselves.

Post-launch services: Live tutorial screen share
Screen sharing with clients via Google Hangouts for a live tutorial.

Let’s examine the usefulness of each.

  • Screenshots — Usually used in conjunction with a written tutorial, the client can take a step-by-step systematic approach to fixing bugs, updating the CMS, or performing simple tasks, such as posting content. Giving clients access to screenshot-enhanced tutorials allows them to further their understanding of your product, and can save you the time of performing the fix yourself. 
  • Video tutorials — Consider this a step up from the written tutorial. It’s a visual guide that your client can follow along with on whatever task they’re looking to accomplish. It’s just one more layer of support that will save you time and money on labor, while also helping the client feel a greater sense of ownership over their CMS.
  • Live support — When all else fails, a chat, phone call, or live conference between a client and one of the original members of their development team can fix almost any issue that the client is unable to fix themselves. Not only that, but your development team should be able to quickly identify and address any bug within the source code because of the…
  • Properly documented code — As you develop the product, it’s absolutely vital that you document the code. Otherwise, anyone coming into the product and trying to adjust things later will be flying blind. Assuming you’re keeping your development teams busy with multiple clients, it’s unlikely they’re going to remember the exact workings of each individual snippet the code. Proper documentation cuts down on labor costs and overall stress, for both you and the client. Make sure it gets done!

For a great example of how these support efforts are accomplished, look no farther than Shopify. The ecommerce solution has a comprehensive list of resources on their website, which offers any number of video tutorials, specified guides, or forum posts to help their users out with virtually any problem imaginable. There’s even a help center in which a user can search through Shopify documentation.

Beyond providing your clients with project-specific documentation, we also suggest providing post-launch questionnaires, to gather feedback from clients. These questionnaires are also a good opportunity to ask happy clients to provide reviews for Google and/or our Shopify Expert profile.

Beyond providing your clients with project-specific documentation, we also suggest providing post-launch questionnaires, to gather feedback from clients.

Getting this feedback is an essential. You learn what your strengths and weaknesses are, procure client testimonials, and how to better your support efforts moving forward. This keeps you informed and accountable to your client base, and allows you to improve your support services on an ongoing basis.

Here are a few sample questions for your post-launch questionnaire:

  1. Were you satisfied with the final product?
  2. How open and effective was the communication between team members, managers, and you?
  3. Would you recommend our services to other colleagues?
  4. Would you like to leave a testimonial on our website?
  5. In what ways could the service you received be improved?

You might also like: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Powerful Client Testimonials (With 6 Simple Questions).

Post-launch checklist

Post-launch services: Checklist

We won’t be naming any names, but there are certainly enough bad reviews for digital agencies all over the net. And a lot of these bad reviews stem from a lack of follow through. The post-launch is where your company actually makes its best impression. People will remember how they interacted with you during the build, but they will remember whether or not their business goals are met a lot more clearly.

To be honest, it’s quite likely these unnamed companies aren’t intentionally denying their clients proper service. Post-launch is a hard phase to get right, and even if you do everything perfectly, it’s no guarantee that the business will grow. There are, however, a few items that should always be checked off, that might prevent a lot of the bad feedback out there.

Here are three items that should be on your schedule for every project, to help ensure a successful launch and ongoing success thereafter.

1. Educate clients up front

Most clients, when purchasing any sort of digital product, are very focused on that specific goal, not so much on the big picture. Make it a point to mention your ongoing support services up front. Present it as part of a service package. You could even make it a deliverable, charging for it separately. Furthermore, give them the opportunity to try out the CMS before it’s implemented. Show them examples and see how they interact with it to see the level of support they will require. This is also a great opportunity to find out what CMS best fits their business model. Find out what technologies they’re already familiar with to ensure a smooth transition when it’s time to hand over the keys.

2. Offer training as well as service

There are two kinds of clients, the set it and forget it types, and the “do it yourself” folks. You need to cater to both. Within your initial presentation, you can offer post-launch services as a deliverable in two ways: either handle the content updates, code updates, marketing, and SEO campaigns as a turnkey service, or offer to teach your clients to do everything you’re offering.

There are two kinds of clients, the set it and forget it types, and the “do it yourself” folks. You need to cater to both.

This is where you present all the support options we went over in the “Continuing education” section above. With two support options available, you give clients an additional layer of choice, which they’ll appreciate. And you’re likely to get plenty of takers for both types of service packages.

3. Transparent Pricing

It’s very important that you state the pricing for your post-launch service fees as clearly as possible. These can be structured like ongoing retainer fees that the client has a chance to periodically renew or let expire. This way there are no false expectations. But be sure to differentiate between different prices for different services, and you can always offer your clients the opportunity to upgrade services should the need arise. This can be a very effective way to keep an ongoing stream of income flowing into your business.

Be sure to differentiate between different prices for different services, and you can always offer your clients the opportunity to upgrade services should the need arise.

Basically, it all comes down to transparency and clarity. If you explain your offerings clearly to your clients, answer any questions they have, and continuously check in with your clients on their comfort level and competence with their new CMS, then you should have no problems whatsoever. Well, apart from all the normal problems that you’ll have working with clients on a product launch, that is.

You might also like: A Guide to Growing Your Agency by Upselling Clients.

So, to recap

The importance of a post-launch deliverable service is in its multiple benefits. By educating your clients on how to use your CMS, and by giving them clear expectations about the sort of services you’ll provide, you:

  • Create a stronger collaborative partnership.
  • Build more consistent and impressive products.
  • Increase your bottom line.
  • Save your clients money.

If the last point isn’t clear, consider the fact that retaining maintenance services is much faster, easier, and cost effective than having to redesign a site again with a different firm. It’s also much cheaper than having a programmer who’s unacquainted with the system go in and make patch work fixes out of unfamiliar code. And again, you’re providing a turnkey service, a one-stop-shop for all their digital maintenance, marketing, and SEO needs. This is a lot more efficient in comparison to finding specialized firms or freelancers for each necessity.

Offering post-launch services as a deliverable means you must:

  • Explain your post-launch maintenance services at the initial meeting.
  • Provide the opportunity to the client to interact with the CMS at the beginning of and throughout the build.
  • Clearly document the code you use.
  • Deliver personalized and how-to style instruction, video tutorials, and other visual aids to teach your clients how to use your product.
  • Determine past performance and select KPI metrics to track post-launch.
  • Collect feedback from clients in the form of questionnaires and review requests.
  • Track performance trends on a periodic basis after the launch.

If you follow these steps, you’ll always be ready for client challenges and able to respond to their needs as they arise.

How do you maintain client relationships post-launch? Tell us in the comments section below. 

About the Author

John Surdakowski is the founder and creative director at Avex Designs, a digital agency in New York City. John has been working in the digital space for 15 years and loves sharing his thoughts and experiences about web design, development, and marketing. When he's not collaborating with global brands and agencies, he's writing music, spending time with his family, or in the mountains snowboarding.

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