You hear about the developer who created Wordle, or who went on to found a large company, or contributed an open source project to the commons. You don’t often hear about the agency developer, and they are both important and often on their own journeys.
The Value of Agency
Agencies, and consultants, are out there helping make businesses a reality. They deliver expertise when it doesn’t exist in house. They quickly expand the workforce and when done right, leave employees better equipped for growth.
By working at multiple companies in a domain, they can bring learnings, just as employees do when they change companies as they journey through their career.
I have found that high quality agencies are true experts who have bet their business on your platform, understand your competition, and know what your users really want. They build true empathy on what it takes to be successful.
If a platform company doesn’t have programs that include agencies as a tier one cohort they are probably doing it wrong. Ask yourself:
- Am I training the developers at agencies to have a great understanding of what my platform or product offers? If they are asked, or are given freedom to choose, what solution to build on… would they choose you?
- Are these developers external advocates in the community? Is there a community for them to show their chops, be rewarded for their knowledge, and celebrated?
- Does the business team at agencies understand your offering and are you supporting them so they can be an extended sales force for you?
- Do you have agencies not only servicing customers directly, but also through self-service opportunities (e.g. building apps / extensions / themes)?
At Shopify for example, our agencies are a vital part of our ecosystem, working with us on a joint mission to be merchant obsessed as a way to improve commerce for all. As I have dived into the ecosystem I am constantly finding agencies who deeply understand commerce and our platform, and are at the heart of delivering for our merchants to make their experiences unique and high quality.
We often talk about learning the tech, and the product, but learning commerce is an important key, and agencies have a lot of that knowledge. And once you understand the domain, competition, and environment, opportunities are unlocked.
The Entrepreneurial Path
Many of the solo or small team entrepreneurial developers that I have met came from a past life working at a merchant or at agencies. That was the training ground for their knowledge.
I have seen some common patterns when getting to know our developers, including one very strong one:
“I worked at an agency working on commerce sites for $YEARS. I started to notice that several of our clients were asking for $FEATURE, so I decided that I would build a Shopify app that delivers the feature and enables any merchant the ability to unlock it!”— Pat
This takes so much risk away from your app development. For one, you can do work for clients directly to prove things out, and this gives you a direct line to a customer with the clear need (else they wouldn’t pay!) Then by working with other merchants you can learn what needs to be customizable, and then when ready an app version unlocks scale. It’s nice to get paid decent money from a merchant to do guaranteed work, and it’s nice to get money whenever someone installs your app.
This is yet another example of the power of de-risking app development with Shopify.
Thank you agencies, and those of you working at them. You are at the heart of it all.
Others in the series:
- Tech writers are underrated
- Project managers are underrated
- QA engineers are underrated.