Leveraging Your Website
Every businesses and organization should have a website—even health non-profits! It's a wonderful tool to provide information, exposure, and clients! However, there's a significant difference between a great website, and a mediocre one—it's in your best interest to not settle for the latter.
To help our fellow marketers out, we brought in an expert—Spencer Brooks. He is extremely educated in all things digital marketing and web-design, but his industry of expertise is health non-profits. However, his tips, tricks, and insights can be applied to numerous businesses and professions. In this blog, Hollywood Branded learns about the power of digital metrics and web design from marketing professional Spencer Brooks, who is the Founder and Principal of Brooks Digital.
A Little More About Spencer
Spencer Brooks is the Founder and Principal of Brooks Digital, a web design and development agency that improves the online presence of health non-profits to help them better assist patients. His agency has helped dozens of organizations simplify their websites, so they can provide the right information, at the right time, to the right person. Aside from being an entrepreneur, Spencer is also both a speaker and a writer. His pieces have been featured in a number of publications, such as the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Tech Soup, and Nonprofit Marketing Guide.
Interview Transcript Highlights
Question: What I'd love to do is start off by letting our listeners learn a little bit more about how you got here today, because you've spent over 10 years in this industry. You're certainly an expert on digital and website design, and you have so much experience to share that I'm excited to start learning from you.
Answer: Sure. It started when I was in a band. That's always the start of a good story. Isn't it? Gosh, I was about 21, I think...I was in a band on tour. That was it. But I just remember sitting in a 15 passenger van. And so, I was like, "I would love to have a hundred bucks to buy food. If I had that, that would be amazing." And so, growing up in high school and college, I had studied web design and development a bit. And so, I went, "You know what? I could just post an ad on Craigslist. I could Tether via my phone, on my laptop. And I could earn a little bit of money while I'm in this band, so that I could eat and do things like that. Pay my bills." Spoiler alert, being in a band, the music industry ... It's pretty hard to make money. At least as a drummer.
Anyway, so I started doing that. And I remember ... I think the first client I got, I was designing these banner ads for a bad breath product. I was just finding all the stock images of people smelling other people's breath and things like that. Just doing whatever it took. But over time, as a couple of years went by, I got married. Settled down a little bit. And I discovered that, you know what? I really enjoy this work.
I freelanced for a number of years, and that grew into a stable client base that was more work than I could handle. So I started bringing on more team members. And so, that's how Brooks Digital was born. That was about six years ago, I think, is when I made that transition from just being a freelancer to actually running an agency.
And then, I got into nonprofit work just by examining what kind of clients were coming to me and my agency most often. I found that we had specialized in a particular website platform Drupal at the time. Drupal and WordPress, which tended to be pretty popular with nonprofits. And so, I went, "These are my people. They're really finding a lot of value from the services."
My brother also has a chronic health condition that's actually left him disabled. So I really have this personal connection with health nonprofits specifically, who are specializing in these different diseases and cancers and things like that. So I made the decision, "Hey, I'm going to go pursue these people."
I know what it's like to be a family member of someone who's literally ... He's disabled and that's affected his entire life. We've done good work for these clients. And so, I've made the decision to push my firm into that direction and deepen my expertise in that particular area.
Question: At our agency, we have gotten very involved in our clients' website design. Whether it's a nonprofit healthcare, or as you referenced, pretty much anything under the sun—especially, with all those stakeholders, there's always more ideas coming at you as a designer...How do you work with your clients to help them best prioritize all these little fires, so that you can stay on top of that when developing?
Answer: Yeah, I like to think of it as fixed cost, but variable scope. What that means is, we need to decide on a budget for this beforehand. Obviously, we can't just spend ... No one has an unlimited amount of money, so we need to understand what the budget is for any particular client.
But within that, there's the ability to change the details of the work or swap things out or reprioritize it, which is opposed to this idea of, "You have to write the detailed scope of work upfront." This is exactly what we're going to do, and the client has to sign off on that. If we change it one little bit, then it's a lot of negotiations [and paperwork].... There's the ability to respond to change. We collect a lot of ideas. The ideas come up throughout the course of the project. We say, "This idea is a great idea. Now, we just have to make a decision. Would you rather do this? Or maybe we could take this other thing out or delay it past the launch into another phase?"
It's sort of the, "Yes, and ..." response. "Yeah, we can do that," and, "What's more important to do?" Because, obviously, every project has a limited budget. Everyone gets it. And so, I think the ability to respond to change by actually being able to make the scope flexible during the project is very valuable.
Question: How do you best work with the client to get them to put the major ingredients of that recipe in before you're adding in all the extra little seasonings along the way? What's your approach to starting out and putting together a strategy for success?
Answer: Well, of course, how in-depth you do it depends on the client's budget. I don't want to give a mealy mouth dancer to that, but obviously there's a range. Strategically, I always like to think about starting with the stakeholders in mind, the audience in mind. I think the default view for most nonprofits I would venture. I'm not an expert in other niches or other industries, but I would imagine it's the same with many others—you go into it thinking about what your needs are as an organization or business. What the needs of your staff are and what you want to get out of that. And if you're thinking of it like that, that's not bad. But you're probably missing the perspective of your customer, your stakeholders, and your users...If you're sitting at a whiteboard brainstorming about, "Okay. What can the site do? What can the site do?" You're probably missing an entire segment of potential features or things, that you would have never been able to dream up in your wildest dreams, but your customers and the actual users are going to be able to tell you, if you take the time to go talk to them.
And so, I like to think about getting to this place of launching the first version of a website by taking it to the beginning, and actually having a client sit down and talk with the people who use their website...Usually, you start to find out a couple of things really fast about what that particular user group needs.
You want to be able to have a framework in which to prioritize those things —beyond just opinions or the highest paid person in the room making the call. Sometimes that's necessary, but it is helpful to actually have the perspective of the people who are using the site and what their core needs are.
Question: What's another mistake that you typically see?
Answer: I'll pick a couple...I'd say this is one I've been thinking about recently is the idea of copying other people. I don't think it's bad. What I see a lot of is that...when you're going through the process of redesigning the website, or doing really anything, you're going to look at all your competitors and you're going to say, "What are they doing?"... That usually becomes either a template for what you're going to try to do, or it just becomes some validation or proof to someone in a senior leadership position that this idea that they're going to go ahead with has already been validated by someone else...And so, I think sometimes copying or looking too much to your competitors for a template is not bad, but I think it can actually prevent you from doing anything that's really innovative or unique. I think that's a mistake.
Question: I know our time starting to wrap up, but is there anything we didn't touch on today that you would like to reinforce, share, guide, or teach our listeners?
Answer: I'd just use the opportunity to reiterate the core point that [you need to listen] to your users and your stakeholders. We already touched on that, but I think that is something that can be the difference between an average website redesign [and a really great one]. It's like, "Okay, that went well. This looks better and the technology is good. Okay, we'll do this again in another couple of years," to, "Man, this is actually pushing our entire business, our entire organization forward. This launched us to a new stage." The difference of that is listening to your users...You'll start to get some really, really juicy nuggets of information that will help you move forward and actually progress. Instead of just getting it a shiny new website and doing the same old, same old.
Check Out The Podcast!
Spencer has so much great information from his experience working in digital marketing and helping health non-profits. Check out the podcast below to learn more!
Every week we have a marketing professional on our show to share their tips, tricks and lessons learned from their professional experience. Check out some of our other podcast blogs from earlier this year:
- Creating An Engaging Video Campaign
- Turning Your Website And Socials Into Effective Tools
- Better Your Brand By Building Your Visuals: The Importance of Great Graphics
- Finding Your Brand Archetype: Tips To Becoming A Better Entrepreneur
- Making The Most Of Marketing Automation: How To Leverage Salesforce and HubSpot
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