Web Hostage Negotiation Process

Web Design Hostage Negotiators: As a provider of a wide range of digital marketing services, Lift Conversions has had the opportunity to assist an incredibly diverse group of clients over the years. We’ve helped business, both large and small, to make their digital dreams a reality, but, and this is one of the most distasteful things in our business, quite a few of those dreams were nightmares when they came to us because of terrible past relationships with less-than-reputable web design companies.

In most instances in business, you sign a contract for a service, pay for the service as long as the deliverables are met, and continue on that way until one or both parties decide it’s time to part ways – be it the contract ends or they agree to separate. It’s a pretty cut-and-dried approach and works throughout the business world with one notable exception – web design.

Often, and this is bewildering, a company will enter into an agreement, or worse no agreement is written at all, for web design without any thought being given to the actual endgame. No other vendor, and that’s what we are, is given so much power over the fortunes of a client as a web design firm and, what’s worse, clients give it willingly. They enter into agreements wherein they’re actually renting their website without realizing it. Basically, they’ve never been in a scenario where their money paid wasn’t transferring ownership – just extending it.

Let’s take a look at a situation we encounter regularly:

We’re contacted by a potential client in a panic. Why? They’ve decided to try something new with their website only to be informed by their current designer that they can’t do that. Wait, what? You read it right. A designer has a contract with the client that states unequivocally that the site is a rental and is not now, nor has ever been owned by the client. Again, this happens all the time. In fact, it might be the single biggest crisis we encounter each week – yes, weekly.

We’ve seen this problem grow beyond what we would’ve imagined when we started and, sadly, it’s growing faster every year. Basically, it’s inexperienced web design firms trying to build a book of business by any means necessary, but can you actually blame them for trying to “rent” their work instead of sell it outright? It’s a lucrative model with dependable cashflow – much like any business aims for. Unfortunately, many of these agencies don’t disclose nearly as much as they should to a client before they get a signature.

You could even surmise they’ve designed their entire agreement process to disguise the true deliverables knowing the courts are an unattractive option for disgruntled clients. It’s very much like holding a website hostage and making an owner pay for it in installments which is repugnant to any reputable agency.

Now, let’s look at what’s at stake in most cases:

Your Domain: Is there anything more important to own outright than your domain name? This is the foundation of everything and should be in your name – no exceptions. Think of your domain as your online business – a virtual “brick and mortar” if you will – with locks on all the doors. The owner of the domain is the only one with keys, so why on earth would you allow anyone else to have the keys? You wouldn’t if you viewed it as an extension of your business instead of simply a website. Today, your website is just as important as your physical location. Imagine how much more important it’ll be five years from now.

Your Host: This is the lot on which your virtual location is built. Unlike your domain, this can be changed without harming your business, but only if it’s done competently and in a reasonable timeframe. While this isn’t the equal to your domain, if you don’t have access to your hosting company and server, you might as well not have a website at all. It’s imperative that this be in your name and paid for directly by you. Why on earth would you lease space from a third party when the owner of the space is available to you at the same (or lesser) cost? Having your host information is the equivalent to having a signed lease with all of the protections and assurances you’d expect built-in. If it’s not in your name, none of those protections will be extended to you, so make sure you’re the name on the bill – just as with all else tied to your business.

Okay, so what can Lift Conversions do to help? Let’s take a look:

Step 1: This is where we gather all of the relevant information regarding contract terms, contract length, breach terms, ownership stipulations, and possible exit strategies. Through in-depth discussions, we’ll identify the key points at issue, identify the pertinent credentials missing, and draft first correspondence with the design company on client’s behalf.

Step 2: If unsuccessful in communicating directly with the design firm, we will then use our attorney network to draft and send a “cease and desist” letter on client’s behalf wherein we lay out the demands for access and any legal ramifications possible for noncompliance. This is where the threat of legal action is used to open communication. If still unsuccessful, we communicate our intent to report the behavior through our network of agencies and partners across the industry – locally, regionally, and nationally.

Step 3: If still unsuccessful, we will begin the reclamation process through back channels with the domain and server companies in an attempt to wrest control from the design company. During this phase, we’ll begin construction of a new website utilizing tools we own to dig for the archived page contents and imagery. These will be used to complete a new template owned outright by client. This new site will be moved onto a server of their choosing (including our own) and all backups, data files, and login credentials delivered to client at completion.

Step 4: Lift Conversions will monitor the site continuously to ensure no attempts are made at access. We will also mitigate any review fallout from the displaced design firm. All services will be defined in a clearly explained agreement between Lift Conversions and client. Client will have complete and total control of all data at all times.

What Lift Conversions aims to deliver:

  • A Domain You Own
  • Hosting in Your Name
  • Content You Own
  • Imagery You Own
  • WordPress Template You Own
  • 100% Complete Website You Own

As you can see, we’ve done this so many times that we’ve nailed the process down to a few simple steps. All a client has to do is give us the necessary information and allow us to work on their behalf. Once empowered to do so, we’ll aggressively defend their rights to data and ensure they never encounter the same issues again. We make educating clients a priority at Lift Conversions. That education’s value will only continue to grow as the internet and web-based activities become more and more interwoven into our daily lives. One call to Lift Conversions can help you safeguard your virtual footprint and guarantee you never end up with data held hostage again.