As mentioned yesterday, I’ve been dwelling rather a lot on this post by Khoi Vinh over at Subtraction about the end of client services. To someone who’s just taken the plunge and started up their own web agency the article is a bit of a kick in the balls so, surprise, surprise, I’m of course tempted to refute his argument and defend a counter position vehemently. But I’m not going to.
Instead let’s just assume Khoi’s right. Let’s assume that all reasonably sized companies and corporations out there are going to drop their agencies like a pile of shitty bricks and take their developments in-house, no longer requiring the standard services that most digital agencies have to offer. In an increasingly competitive industry this would probably mean end of days for a lot of agencies and, whilst I seriously doubt it will ever happen (read Nate’s article for reasons why), we at Primate actually do have a rather cunning strategy for surviving web agency armageddon. In fact, it just so happens to be our normal operational strategy too. Call us the Bear Grylls of web agencies.
So without further ado, here’s our plan for surviving the apocalypse:
If you find us lying in a gutter somewhere in three years time then you’ll know it’s failed miserably.
Embrace all things web
A fundamental principle that we adhere to is to embrace everything about the web, not just web sites themselves. After all the Internet is vast and glorious place, everything being ultimately inter-related and inter-dependent. Treating the Net as our entire playground rather than just approaching it with a mindset of ‘web site development’ allows us to stay on top of new technologies and new trends, making us more agile and able to respond to the shifts in customer needs. Staying up to to date with cutting edge technologies also reduces our development time and means we can focus more on the things that matter – design, content, SEO, social media – whilst still being competitive in price. It’s an overarching company principle that ties in nicely with my second point…
Offer something companies can’t get themselves
A no-brainer really but let me clarify what I mean. I’m not actually talking about the horrendous cliche that is USP (God, I hate that term) and chances are anyway that you don’t have one (we don’t). It doesn’t matter anyway. Instead I’m talking about offering those unique one-off services that aren’t financially economical for even a large company to develop in-house. Facebook campaigns? iPhone apps? Copywriting? Blogging strategies? It doesn’t matter. Find something to offer that in-house web developers can’t do themselves. For Primate, this means typically leveraging our Ruby on Rails skills to develop custom complex apps that your average web dev can’t handle in a meaningful time frame.
Diversify or die
We knew right from the beginning that we wanted to diversify our offerings and not just be another web site company producing only, well, web sites. As much as we love creating sites, we don’t want to be running around chasing clients in three years every month for our basic buck. Indeed, it seems like we aren’t the only people who feel that way. As a result we’re diversifying our revenue streams and are looking to cater to larger, worldwide markets by offering a selection of SAAS products. It’s proving tricky to pull off right now but hopefully the pain will be worth it in the long run.
Man, I can’t stress this enough. We work in a technology industry that moves so quickly it would put The Flash to shame and what better way to solidify your company’s position in it than helping to actually contribute to some new tech? Not only does it create a fantastic reputation for your agency but it can also pay off financially in the end (or so I’ve heard). At Primate we’ve been working to help pioneer IP TV applications and, although it’s still very early days, have had the privilege of being involved in some exciting projects.
Will it work?
So will our strategy work? Who knows. It’s all about diversification (in case you hadn’t picked that up) which is a high risk strategy as we’re forced to spread our time over a variety of undertakings rather than simply focusing all our attention on a single area. Still, the long term benefits should pay off. Or at least that’s the play anyway. If you find us lying in a gutter somewhere in three years time then you’ll know it’s failed miserably.