How to Develop a Product and Keep Your Agency Clients Happy with Kyle Racki | Ep #23

By Jason Swenk on July 17, 2014

Have you ever thought of developing your own product – or have already developed one – but have found that the client work is distracting you from finishing?

In today’s episode I talk with Kyle Racki about how your agency can create a product without killing it before it even gets started and how to upgrade any established product development processes.

Product Development for Your Agency

Kyle is a designer, blogger, technologist, and entrepreneur from Canada who ran his own web design agency for five years. During that time, he had several failures. Four to be exact. He then sold the agency and is now CEO and co-founder of Proposify.

Let’s build a product!

Being a service agency is tough. You have to deal with cash flow, invoicing, revenue, etc. All these make building a product even more attractive. But don’t be fooled, Kyle warns, “building a product while servicing clients is hard.” Hard, but not impossible.

Ask before you build.

Don’t just start wire-framing the second you get an idea. Get out and start talking to people! You need to get product market validation and customer development before you start building. Start by talking to people you don’t know. Lots of people. Hundreds, if you can. You want to make sure you’re building a product that actually solves a problem and that people will actually pay for. Things to ask:

  • What is your biggest challenge?
  • What solutions have you found to the challenge?
  • Are you willing to pay for a solution?

I promise, it’s way better to find out no one wants or needs your product before you start spending money and building it.

Dedicate people to work on the product.

If you can, resist the temptation to make building the product an add-on to someone’s job. Think about it: your developer just spent four days coding for client projects and now has to switch over to working on your product. You’re going to lose time on ramp up. Not to mention, paying clients will always come first. So without having a dedicated person to work on the product, you’ll find yourself putting it on the back burner. Take it from me, if I had the chance to do it over again at my agency, I absolutely would have hired a dedicated person for product development.

The investor route.

Startups are expensive and not all agencies make enough profit on services to also fund building a new product. Kyle went with an investor to fund his product but there are lots of options, like incubators or crowdfunding. There are also VC’s, but Kyle cautions that venture capitalist funding may be hard to get if you haven’t made the full leap into being a product company. Some investors want to know you’re fully committed to the product and not just moonlighting.

Tinkering versus actually building.

Make sure you do your homework! The grass isn’t always greener on the product side, so learn the metrics of what you’re getting into. And there’s nothing wrong with tinkering. Use your service-based role to get to know your customers and to become really knowledgeable about your niche. Learn their pain points so you can make the kind of product that will actually make a difference.

Proposify offer for listeners!

Proposify is a cloud-based proposal management system and the product of Kyle “scratching his own itch.” Putting out proposals, responding to RFPs, and keeping track of all of them is daunting. Proposify helps agencies simplify the entire process so you don’t have to spend forever putting together proposals. Smart Agency Master Class listeners can sign up for the free 14-day trial of Proposify and get 3 months free with promo code “JASONSWENK”. Simply upgrade at the end of the 14-day trial.

Growing Your Agency

Having the right product development processes established within your agency could be the helping hand you need in getting your product off the ground.

Now the next question is, what other challenges are you facing?

I have probably experienced all the different struggles for an agency owner through my own experience and I can help you from what I learned. From what to do with your sales processes, ways to increase your profit margins or how you can build authority for your agency.

I can tell you the best ways to stop losing money on projects, why performance based pricing can be the best pricing strategy for your agency as well as why including remote working or freelancers in your team can be beneficial in the long run.

You can learn more about my career and different experiences as well as tips, tricks and insights by checking out my blogs that cover a wide variety of topics.

Find more from my Ask Swenk series and more of my videos on my Youtube channel. There you will find advice from myself and other agency experts.

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