We’ve all been there… You’re in a relationship, you’re in love and then, it ends. You were unprepared and now you don’t know what to do. You spend weeks or months trying to sort through how to let go. Is this getting too real for you? Eventually you let go, hopefully. For some in your head you find yourself trapped and investing time into something that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s true and if you haven’t been there, I applaud/feel bad for you because a lot can be learned from moments like this.
Hey Chad, that’s neat, but what does that have to do with your company?
Well, a lot actually. I think it has to do with the next stage of “agency” work. The understanding that not only will things not last (which I think we all get), but moving towards the idea of “dating” your clients. That you’ll meet, the stars will align, there will be sparks, and then for the most part you’ll both just have to move on. This typically has a lot to do with what you offer. You’re “going in different directions”. You get to know that person and discover things over time. You learn and grow in hopefully great ways. How do you optimize your dating experience then?
Okay, so what do you mean let go?
So, in a traditional agency model you try to acquire clients that you can keep for as long as possible (because $$$$). You want them buying your services, whether it’s design, strategy, etc. For us at Zemoga it’s incredible design/development talent. We’re very good at what we do, especially in the commerce space. But, as we’ve evolved, like most companies, we’ve had to actively think about offering more than just great “services”. The growth of small shops doing great digital work began to look very much like one dimensional person who eventually is broken up with because our partner “just wishes there was more”. This is was where our shift happened. And the process of letting go began.
Moving to a “dating” model because our focus is on building products vs providing services.
For a while now we’ve been incubating, and developing new products and platforms that help empower clients to own aspects of their business. It’s pretty common for shops similar to ours. A lot of these were one off and unique to each client’s need. Several were platforms we created that could be used in a variety of ways. We were product focused for our clients, but execution wise we were service driven in our approach to making money. Essentially, we built things for them, they depended on us to keep it running, and so we did. We started to realize these were massive time sucks for us and our clients.
The problem was we didn’t have a “it’s time for us to let go” strategy. Both sides didn’t know how to break up. The products were still tied to a “services” model where you basically were buying our time to keep it going. This was all well and good, but extremely high touch and tapped us of our bandwidth a lot of the times. It was scary to think about letting go because you are essentially breaking up based on what you think is your best attribute, your service.
Most agencies aren’t thinking about new revenue in relation to product development. They see these things as products they’ll make money on to maintain.
Some are, and doing well, but most agencies can’t seem to break up with this idea of “revenue from services” even in the way they create products/platforms for clients. Mostly because no one has time to think about creating new revenue models. It’s easy to say, “Hmmmmm we do great UX work, but we really need some strategy” or “Want an extra iOS developer on that? Sure we can do that.” and it’s really hard to say “We’ve built this thing, how do we grow it and help it stand on it’s own?” or “We recommend you hire X person internally to manage this.”
Again, scary stuff. The benefits are obvious though. Creating a great product/platform is a great way to create recurring revenue, but again, not always easy to figure out. So many questions to answer.
How do we price this offering based on how we provided it as a service before? How does it compare to the market? Can we really let go? How do we set those expectations with the client? This might all seem obvious, and bravo if it does for you, but I talk to other friends in the agency world all the time struggling with this. This is something we’ve finally been able to start addressing, and which we are now seeing the fruit of at Zemoga. The great part is, now there is NEW $$$ coming in from products that clients now can own themselves. We’ve seen great success in this, but man it took some work. They see great value in us because we have now empowered them with something that they can run with without us, essentially. It increases our value prop as a group going forward and it usually equates to more services from those clients.
Our hope is that over the course of this blog series we’ll keep pulling back the curtain a bit as it relates to our business, design thinking, and execution of these things. Let us know what you think!