Sitecore for Marketers – 16 Tips for Choosing a Great Sitecore Agency

Oct 17, 2016 | MVP, Sitecore | 0 comments

After launching dozens of Sitecore sites, microsites, landing pages and campaigns, I’ve come to acknowledge the important role agency partners play in successful product launches. Here are a few tips to finding a good partner.

Sitecore is a wonderful tool for marketers, and in capable hands, can provide marketing teams with a wealth of capabilities to reach customers effectively and efficiently. Sitecore provides the core capabilities of an enterprise-class CMS, like custom roles and workflows, distributed management capabilities and a scalable architecture.

Beyond the basics is where Sitecore sets itself apart from others in the market. Sitecore also provides advanced marketing functionalities such as A/B and multivariant testing, implicit and explicit personalization, social listening, and through Sitecore Experience Platform (XP) can provide a “total view” of the customer right inside the content management system.

Sitecore in North America: Agency Partners Drive Success

Sitecore is still relatively new to most organizations outside of Europe – where Sitecore was founded. North America is the fastest growing market for the CMS platform, but most organizations still rely on outside help with their Sitecore projects.

Planning your Sitecore implementation strategy is one key to a successful implementation, and with most organizations not having a lot of internal Sitecore expertise, Sitecore agency partners play a huge role in a successful launch.

Many brands rely on their agency partners even before a CMS platform has been chosen. Agencies can assist in evaluating technology options with an eye to the future of the brand’s capabilities and focus. If the agency you’re working with recommends you consider Sitecore, be sure they can also help with the implementation because knowledge of C# .NET will be helpful, but expertise in the development language doesn’t directly translate to expertise in the specialized marketing platform.

Make sure you and your chosen partner are answering these key questions when choosing a CMS:

  • Will the brand be able to support and maintain the platform on its own?
  • What hardware and infrastructure requirements are needed–at launch and into the future?
  • Will the brand treat the implementation as a “set it and forget it” project or will development continue after launch?
  • Are there specific sets of development or marketing automation skills already in-house that should be considered?
  • Can the brand support the costs of licensing the platform?

An Introduction to my Sitecore Module & Product Idea.

I created this project to act as the "hub" for all posts related to my Sitecore MVP pursuit and my Sitecore product idea. My first post is an introduction to the series and is titled, "Pursuing Sitecore MVP - My Sitecore Product Idea". As I post more segments to this project, they will all be included here. You can follow along on my Sitecore MVP journey from start to finish.

Characteristics of a Good Sitecore Agency Partner

After working with multiple Sitecore partners over the past five years, I’ve definitely noticed the good ones share a few things in common. Good agency partners will:

  • Demonstrate Proven Sitecore Expertise
  • Have a Solid History of Launching Sitecore Projects
  • Posess Advanced Sitecore Functional Knowledge
  • Be Able to Guide or Drive Sitecore Roadmap and Planning Discussions
  • Be Knowledable of Sitecore Licensing and Ownership Costs
  • Actively Participate in the Local, Regional or National Sitecore Community

Great partners don’t need to posess all of the above characteristics, but I can tell you with certainty that they more they lack, the more challenges you, as a client are likely to encounter along the path of your implementation.

Five Tips to Finding a Capable Sitecore Agency Partner

  • Consider Attending Sitecore Symposium – The largest of all Sitecore events, Sitecore Symposium has just begun to build momentum in the North American market. There have been two Symposium events so far in North America: Las Vegas (2014) and New Orleans (2016). Originally planned every 18 months, they now will take place every year, with the next Sitecore Symposium scheduled to return to Las Vegas in 2017. I’ve attended both North American Symposium events and have found them incredibly helpful from a client / user perspective. The business and marketing sessions are a great way to see which agencies are presenting and to get a feel for their level of expertise in the platform. In addition, the networking events are also a great way to gain exposure to new potential partners as well.
  • Attend a Local or Regional Sitecore Event – While Symposium is a great event to meet new potential agency partners, not everyone can attend for budget or scheduling conflicts. Sitecore has a number of local and regional events and meetups as well, and these can also be a great way to meet other marketers, developers and agencies as well. Click here for a list of current, active Sitecore Meetup groups and see if there’s one in your area.
  • Talk to Past Customers About Their Sitecore Implementations – Testimonials can be a great way to learn more about your potential Sitecore agency partners, but we all know most agencies refer the clients they know will provide a positive review of their services. You may have to do a bit of detective work, but many agencies still place “site by” links in the footer of the sites they’ve built. Easier still would be to check out the agency’s website to see if there are a list of clients or projects and hit up LinkedIn to locate someone in their digital marketing or IT teams that may have had experience with the agency.
  • Evaluate Agency MVP Membership – There are some certifications that aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. The Sitecore MVP awards do not fall into that category. MVP membership is possible in three different categories: eCommerce, Technology and Marketing. An agency that has one (or more) MVP’s on staff is almost certainly going to be a better Sitecore partner than one that doesn’t employ any MVP’s.
  • Check Out the Agency’s Glassdoor Reviews – While not specific to Sitecore agency partners, I always like to check out employee reviews of the agency on Glassdoor.com. It’s expected that you’ll see a mixed bag of reviews – that’s the case with almost every company. But if most of the reviews are trending negative it may be an indicator of a storm brewing within the agency and you may want to keep a few other options open.

The Story Behind the Photo

Frenchmen Street - New Orleans, LA

The featured image on this post was taken inside Cafe Negril on Frenchmen Street in the heart of the French Quarter, New Orleans, Lousiana. Live music and great food aren’t difficult to come by in this part of town, and despite its inconspicuous nature, Cafe Negril has a whole lot to offer those willing to give it a try.

Frenchmen Street - New Orleans

Do you work with a Sitecore agency partner?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and your experience with Sitecore partners. Do you have a good partner you want the world to know about? Have you had good or bad experiences with agencies? Please leave a comment below or feel free to contact me with your thoughts.