The joys of onboarding a white label development agency partner
We have all heard the horror stories of companies who have delegated a web design agency to a white label web agency, so we have created this onboarding process to ensure you don’t become another statistic.
Our experience has been working in the industry for many years, so we have seen the good, the bad and the quite frankly borderline illegal!
This process will help you choose the right agency partner when you need a white label web development partner.
We take any client or agency through these steps when working on a white label web development project.
The process has allowed us to successfully onboard and deliver above and beyond expectations every time.
STEP 1: Setting Expectations
The first and most crucial step is to discuss your agency’s expectations of your white label web development company. In our experience, each digital agency has its take on what makes a great website and the responsibilities of each team member.
The following list covers the most common technical expectations that need to be discussed:
- Quality: What’s an acceptable quality level? Use examples to show what you care about and what you don’t care about as much. Quality costs money, so it’s essential to agree on the suitable trade-off for your agency/project expressly.
- Compatibility: Which browsers, devices, and screen sizes do you want your websites to be compatible with? Do you have a preference for how the sites should work on responsive (breakpoints / proportional scaling)?
- Backend setup: How do you prefer to have sites built? As a WordPress development company, we discuss our clients if they want a page builder like Eliminator or use our default with Advanced Custom Fields and Flexible Content. Some agencies also have clear preferences for organising the fields in the admin panel and what field types to use for elements such as sliders, excerpts, and post lists.
Expectations go beyond just the technical aspects and requirements of a website project. Therefore, it would be best to discuss your expectations of the collaboration with your white label partner.
- Speed: How fast do you expect your web developer to complete a project? Please provide examples of previous tasks and websites you’ve done and how long they took to complete.
- Capacity: How many projects do you have in parallel that you need to complete? What level of development experience is required to achieve them?
- Availability: Do you need to have access to a developer on short notice, or are projects always planned? Do you need immediate assistance, or do you handle urgent requests internally?
- Communication: Do you like to chat with your developers often or schedule meetings? Should they reach out as soon as they have a question or collect them in batches to avoid interrupting your team?
These items can become issues if you don’t make sure that you’re on the same page as your development team.
They may, for good reasons, have different assumptions on how you’d like things to be done. What’s evident for you could be a rare practice among their other clients.
STEP 2: Getting to know the white label team
A white label partnership is, in essence, a rich form of vendor-buyer relationship. It thus requires establishing just that: a relationship.
Starting a relationship purely over email is not a good idea.
There’s so much communication that happens in verbal and even body language. So make sure to get on calls, especially video calls, with your white label development partner to get to know them. And to let them get to know you.
Misunderstandings are bound to happen, and when it does, you’ll be a lot more tempted to get on a call to resolve them if you know the person on the other side of the call.
Emails tend to worsen any hiccup in the relationship and certainly don’t help build mutual understanding and respect in how video calls and physical meetings do.
You don’t need to become great friends with your partner, but we encourage you to go a little deeper than just discussing work.
In many of our long-term relationships with digital agencies, it feels like we work for the same company.
STEP 3: Agreeing on a first assignment
The first assignment should be chosen carefully. A common mistake is to put your partner to the test right away.
I understand that it is tempting to “make sure they are as good as they claim they are” before investing too much in the relationship.
However, the first few projects are essential to get through the learning curve and ensure the expectations have been fully covered and understood.
Therefore, we always make sure the first assignments we take on with a new digital agency are well within the normal scope of projects.
That way, all the “other things” besides the developer’s technical skills can be sorted out first. After that, we welcome a challenge to show what we can do.
We also recommend assigning a first project with a bit extra time before it needs to be delivered to your client.
That leaves room for us to double-check the work we do against your requirements (that may be new to the developer), and we have time to correct any mistakes and misunderstandings.
STEP 4: Progress
As the first project is underway, there are certainly going to be some questions that your development partner needs to ask.
Also, you’re probably eager to learn about their progress to get the first indication that they will be up to the task.
We usually schedule a meeting after a couple of days, where we collect questions for clarification and talk about how far we have got on the project.
If possible, we start the project with whatever is “the most uncertain” in the project to show our proposal and get feedback before continuing.
For example, the backend setup or a specific front-end animation could be difficult to write a precise specification for upfront.
STEP 5: Post-mortem on the first assignment
After the first assignment is done, you should have another meeting with time for discussions.
This time, you can discuss everything from technical execution to pricing and how the communication worked throughout the project.
For us, this is where we review and extend our documentation on how our new partner wants their projects done.
What did we miss when we started this project? What did we learn that we should do for them specifically on their next build?
The next couple of projects will likely also be part of the onboarding process, but gradually you can scale back the discussions and progress reports to a comfortable level for you in the long run.
The onboarding process is critical to success when working with a new white label web development company.
We’ve seen this first hand and learned how to set ourselves–and the agency–up for success. However, missing any of the items we covered in this article will lead to issues that will lead to parting ways in the worst-case scenario.
The most important takeaway from this article is that you need to think through what expectations you have on your development partner, even those that may seem obvious to you.
The list we provided will go a long way as it helps resolve the things we know to be the most common problems in new white label web development partnerships.