Principles of Growth: How Vokal Drives Strategic Partnerships

When we started in 2009, we were one of the few mobile development companies on the market. If you uttered the words, “we build mobile apps,” you had people knocking on your door, and that was the case for us.

10 years later, everything has changed.

Mobile clearly hasn’t gone anywhere, but how and why companies build mobile applications has changed dramatically. Our customer base has moved from individuals saying, “I have a crazy idea that might just work,” to companies who are looking to use digital platforms to transform and measure their business.

So, with that, we also changed the clients we partner with. The decision to be selective with our clients has single handedly altered our business trajectory and the impact we’ve made for our clients. It was a hard decision to make, but it has paid off in dividends.

There are two things we look for when deciding to work with a company:

  1. Can we add strategic value to their business?
    • Do we believe in what the client is building? Do we think we can make an impact outside of just building what they want us to build?
    • Can we help them validate their ideas quickly?
  2. Is the client open to rapid experimentation and testing?
    • Do they have strict non-negotiable requirements?
    • Do they expect the first product to be a grand slam on first release?
    • Do they have a path to get quick product wins?

When we discuss these questions with our clients during our discovery sessions, it also gives them an idea of who we are as a company. We believe that in order for us to make an impact, we should budget for experimentation, testing, and building a great experience long-term.

Our success is based on the impact we make, not simply what we make.

Mobile apps are commoditized. Web apps are commoditized. IoT apps are commoditized. There’s not a single product development or digital agency who can’t create these things. The technology to build these platforms is mature.

Several years ago, when we saw the switch from mobile to digital take place, we asked ourselves, “What business are we in?” And that single question changed everything. It changed how we build our products, how we sell our services, and how we hire. Yes, we build products, but our true value is in the impact we create.

Everything we create must revolve around business impact. If we truly believe the product we are creating won’t make an impact, we will tell our clients, or potential clients, that directly. They either find out now or they find out later, and we like to keep the conversations upfront.

Impact can be measured in new revenue generated, cost-savings, users acquired and improvement in Net Promoter score, to name a few. We prefer to identify a few core metrics up front that allow us to measure impact as the project progresses.

The clients we choose to work with tend to be the clients who understand the impact of what they are creating. Crazy ideas still work, and occasionally we take them on, but we tend to do a little bit more due diligence on why they are creating what they are creating, and their long-term product roadmap.

Enterprises are starting to experiment (and that’s a good thing).

Many of enterprise executives I speak with are moving to a new innovation model: Rapid Experimentation. Enterprises are creating separate innovation teams to build out products, and then test them in the market. If the product fails, it fails. No one gets fired. They use the assets and lessons learned to place a bet on the next experiment. Everyone moves on.

This concept is what has made startups so successful, and enterprises—albeit a little late to the party—are starting to adopt these agile methodologies with a lot of success.

speed-to-value

This is where we fit in. We believe in speed to value. We help companies take ideas and build a team with diverse skill sets that can quickly build prototypes and products, then run targeted experimentation to gain insights for product-market fit. If companies aren’t open to experimentation and testing, it makes our ability to create impactful products a lot harder.

So, in those situations, we explain the value of our approach and offer up new suggestions on how to structure the engagement.

Invest in building magical experiences (even enterprise apps).

The consumerization of the enterprise has happened a lot quicker than many people imagined.

Enterprise users of their internal applications want the same look and feel of their favorite applications. They want to be “wowed” by what they are interacting with, since they are most likely using the application every day. Although they can’t rate the app as a bad one, a non-magical experience can end up with employees not using the application.

So, when we partner with clients early on, we ask them about the types of experiences they want to build. And we’re direct about our belief in building magical experiences into our products. We’re intentional about every design decision. We look to partner with companies who understand that this takes a lot of work and time, but that, when finished, a great experience drives significant impact.

It’s not about building a beautiful app. It’s about building a product that knows exactly what you want to do and makes it easy for you to do it, while giving you joy.

I’ve been extremely happy with the growth of Vokal, and a big foundation of our growth is being selective about the clients we work with.