Do you ever stop to consider what a brokerage website launch entails?
Web development companies tend to throw around a lot of tech jargon, and some of the words get used so often that we end up losing touch with their actual meaning. I find “launch” to be one of those words. It doesn’t sound too scary, and so most people just take it at face value and don’t get too worried about the many, many details that go into a brokerage website launch until the day finally comes. Then panic sets in. And the best way to curb that kind of panic is simply to explain the process.
It’s all about preparation.
Launches are a public occurrence, so things can go from good to very bad in a matter of seconds. It’s far easier to set things up correctly ahead of time (when you have the luxury of time) than to be forced to run extra updates while all eyes are actually live on the site. It’s also much less embarrassing when done the right way.
Our custom website builds usually take between 9-12 months from kickoff to launch. We build in phases, and so we don’t begin with a launch date in mind. We start by defining overall goals, then outline project requirements, create visuals, build and test; then finally begin launch preparations and scheduling. This keeps the focus on all the important puzzle pieces (small and large) that pave the way for a successful launch day.
- Don’t announce your date too far in advance. This will lead to unhappy agents when it ends up getting pushed back multiple times. Instead, announce that it’s coming soon and only share the date once you’re absolutely certain.
- Prep agents ahead of time. Consider all the features that are most important to them, and create announcements, how-to guides and overviews of those features in advance. Bonus if you start sending information months in advance to deliver information in bite-sized messages.
- Schedule launches early to mid-week. Very few companies offer support 24/7, and most of those that do route you to lower-level or offshore support over the weekends. Launch is much too important to risk a mishap while help is slow or nonexistent.
You don’t have to dread it.
Oftentimes we watch clients put off their launch for weeks or months, all because stress skyrockets (pun intended) just thinking about launch day. This inevitably leads to anxious agents who don’t understand why the delay is happening (Is something major broken? Are we not pleased with the finished product?), as well as upset management over the project delay and having to pay two sets of vendor fees.
Especially for clients who’ve had terrible experiences in the past (loss of data, extended downtimes, etc.), they’ve been burned by previous vendors and tread extremely carefully around the subject. Launch doesn’t have to be a horrible experience, but being cautious is still a good thing. You should never commit to a brokerage website launch until you feel confident and know exactly what to expect — that means what should go right, as well as what may go wrong.
- Ask questions! We want to make sure you feel comfortable with all the changes that will occur.
- Make sure your vendor can provide detailed and understandable answers to each of your questions.
- Plan in overlap time between vendors. Bad things happen when you shut off one service at the exact time that you launch a new one — if you can afford to keep both running simultaneously for a week (or even two) after your new brokerage website launch, do it!
Launch is a process, not a single event.
Occasionally people think we hold the keys to flick some switch once it’s time and, poof, the site is live. Sorry, but it doesn’t happen that way. The day begins with DNS/Nameserver changes, find and replaces, redirect rules, network/site setup and SEO; but it doesn’t end there.
At this point the site is considered “stable,” and it’s just the beginning of a much larger launch-day process. It’s a huge set of tasks, so early morning launches are highly recommended.
- Prep registrar details in advance. There have been launches where my team is ready to go, but we unfortunately end up stalled while the client finds out how to access their domain settings. The domain is the crucial starting point of a launch, so make sure you know exactly how to make all necessary updates.
- Be available all day. This allows us to get clarification on issues and confirmation on priorities right away — which keeps everything moving forward. We even recommend that you provide your cell, direct and home contact info just in case something important comes up and we can’t reach you on your normal work line.
- Compile a list of redirects. We have you covered for any content powered by us (switching from the temporary domain to your custom domain), but we’ll need your help in identifying URLs or patterns on your old site that differ from ours. Most importantly: Agent login links, IDX search pages, roster pages, and cornerstone content.
The entire day is pretty stressful.
Everything is important. Everything. I actually joked this past week that even though we have an “urgent” tag, we should consider adding “urgent-er” and “urgent-est” tags during launch week. “Urgent” just wasn’t cutting it since that included just about every task on our launch list.
It’s not just stressful for us though — tensions will be high inside of the brokerage too. All of a sudden every agent is attempting to access their website/roster profile simultaneously, ask questions about what’s most important to them, and voice their dissatisfaction for anything they’re not 100% in love with. All this time staff members are busy answering questions (coming in from a variety of channels), sharing important updates and working with TRIBUS to prioritize the next round of changes.
- Have more people than necessary on staff that day. You may need to pull in people from other departments or deny time off requests, but having extra hands will be a life-changer when something important needs attention.
- Tell your team that the day will be fast-paced, and get plenty of rest the night before! You’ll wake up early, be busy all day and go home exhausted; but throughout all of this it can still be a pretty satisfying day.
- Remember that timing is everything. I can’t stress this enough — be available! There are things that don’t have to become a fire drill if you work side-by-side with us to voice your likes, dislikes and priorities as they arise or change.
Perfection is impossible.
This goes hand-in-hand with setting good expectations. A brokerage website launch will have hiccups, no matter how well you prepare. Unfortunately you may not see those hiccups coming until they arrive — there are some things that you just can’t control or plan for in advance.
It’s okay, because your web developer should be on your team and ready to dive in and help with whatever comes up during launch. We’ve got your back.
Give it time for the dust to settle. Launch day will pass, and things will return to normal very soon.