When I started Vokal in 2009, our core service offering was mobile application development. We built great apps, and the client was responsible for the rest, which essentially was the marketing and distribution of the app.
That model actually worked great for a while, but as time passed, the mobile industry turned more Digital. The word “Digital” evolved to mean more than just building mobile apps, websites, and digital marketing; it turned into the results that the digital efforts provided.
Here’s a timeline of how it changed:
- 2009: Build an app, and they will come
- 2013: The app must be beautiful
- 2015: The app must be beautiful and easy to use
- 2017: What is the purpose of the app? Is it necessary? How will it drive company growth?
- 2019: How do we drive growth using all of our digital assets? How do these all work together to make an impact?
These changes resulted in many digital agencies being unable to adapt and becoming commoditized software developers unable to distinguish themselves from the market leaders.
I have some more thoughts on how these changes are impacting the role of digital agencies.
The Expectations of Digital Agencies Have Changed
We used to approach our clients with a single mindset of delivering beautiful experiences and “wowing” them. While we still have that mentality to make things beautiful, we also recognize it’s no longer enough to move the needle.
Instead of just a beautiful digital solution, our success is rooted in improving a growth metric and tracking it along the way. For the client, it’s no longer a question of “What is the cost to build this?” but instead, “What is the return on our investment?”
Here are some questions clients should be asking themselves:
- What is our north star metric that will be the foundation for growth? We covered this extensively in a previous blog post if you are interested in learning more about this topic.
- What is required to grow? Is it by improving a product? Is it by improving how we market our products? Is it by creating a new product or service?
- What team is needed to support our growth (not just product development)?
The Roles Have Changed Too
In our early days, we had a strong engineering- and design-centric organization. That’s all our clients needed. Then that evolved into product owners helping clients not just build their requirements, but also guide the team in building the right product.
Then, ultimately, further evolution brought us to where we are now: Growth via Digital.
For us, that meant hiring leaders across multiple skill-sets:
- Product (Product Owners with a specific focus on metric growth)
- Digital Growth Marketers (performance marketing, social, brand)
Previously, marketing talent would work on their own and not be integrated with the product team. The term “Growth Hacker” was created in 2013, but that term was really only relevant for startups such as Uber and Facebook. Enterprises and mid-market companies have started to look at growth closer, and the need for a “growth team” is increasing significantly.
The growth team is a combination of engineering, design, and product and digital marketers, all working in conjunction to increase the north star metric.
Best Practice Playbooks Have to Be Thrown Away
The biggest change to the digital revolution is that playbooks with play-by-play instructions for company growth aren’t effective in a world where changes are more frequent. By the time you’re done creating a playbook, the world has changed, and the expectations of your business have also changed.
Here are the biggest changes in terms of expectations for agencies:
- Instead of creating a PowerPoint presentation for a strategy, have an approach that allows clients to react to what’s happening to them at the current moment to fuel growth.
- Agencies need to be able to move quickly, if not quicker than their clients. They can’t react based on client needs. They should lead the path to growth.
- Instead of focusing on getting a polished product to market in a six-month timeframe, agencies should be expected to get a solid product to market, test to see what works, and improve based on analytics and customer feedback.
Times Have Changed and the Best Agencies Are Leading the Way
We’ve been lucky to be in business for 10+ years, and we’re excited to be at the forefront of helping companies grow. Throwing away a best practices playbook isn’t an easy thing to do, but it’s necessary to grow.
As companies look for partners to not just build what they need, but also build a foundation of growth for years to come, they shouldn’t have to hire multiple specialty digital agencies to do it. The best agencies have adopted the new model of providing an all-in-one combination of product, marketing, and growth.
If you have any questions about how this works, or we can be a fit for your growth, feel free to contact us at any time.