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Agencies, Product, and the Business of Building for People

Agencies, Product, and the Business of Building for People




“You have clients? So you’re an agency?” For the first two years of One Mighty Roar, the question of “What do you call yourself?” came up a lot. Externally, people saw as a company with a growing portfolio of brand clients and a trail of websites and social campaigns behind it. Internally, our team saw a growing stockpile of self-made code and tools which tied those projects together. Whatever OMR was didn’t feel exactly like an agency, but it was close enough. So we relented and embraced the byline of “Digital Agency” for the next two years. It wasn’t a perfect description of what we thought made the company great, but the people who mattered understood the difference and that was good enough for us. A funny thing happens when people hear you have clients — they categorize. Consultants have clients. Agencies have clients. Product companies have customers. Customers who buy widgets or subscriptions to things — prebuilt stuff. The “sort of” agency In the early years, being labeled an agency on the outside wasn’t bad. We got to solve challenges for a constantly evolving group of interesting brands and individuals. The answers tended to be websites and mobile applications, but the freedom to build foundations for others inspired us. Our team approached client projects like a product team would. Instead of building for an expiration date of rotating seasonal campaigns, we focused on making reusable building blocks. Some of those blocks were pieces we would later assemble to be products. At the time we thought product companies required outside funding to get started, and being self-funded is an opportunity you protect. Unlike many early product companies, our business model did not require hitting user count or investment milestones to succeed. Our “funding” came from the projects we contracted. Building for others was great because we were handed challenges to solve pre-validated by the brands and budgets behind them. It afforded us the opportunity to remain self-funded with access to top brands. From agency to product thinking Client services aside, One Mighty Roar has two products with enough traction and revenue to have “made it” as independent business models. One is You Rather, a giant predictive modeling engine based around the game of “would you rather”. At time of writing, it tracks about ⅓ billion responses and a few million views each day. The second product is Robin, a platform that connects digital and physical things by bringing digital layers into physical environments. Despite being early to the “connected device” and “Internet of things” game, Robin has been fortunate to see use from global brands and has grown to a key initiative that powers much of the work we do. When we interview for open positions, these are the things we talk about first. Without understanding our toolbox, a candidate won’t understand the problems our team can solve. When prospective clients come to us now, we greet them with thinking that supports the products we’ve made. In many cases, it works better than the mobile application or Facebook campaign they originally wanted. We don’t view product as a way to escape client work. It’s all the same — our client services help evangelize our products. Our products are designed to make certain problems easy to solve. We love when there is a fit, but it’s…


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