We hustled hard and we did whatever it took to make our clients happy.
We set out with the best of intentions and the ambition to “grow our business by growing our client’s business”. And while that’s a ‘catchy’ marketing claim, which sounds good in theory, it’s exceptionally difficult to realise. Especially, considering that we were kids fresh out of Red & Yellow and Vega with marketing and creative qualifications.
We were hungry and eager to prove ourselves, so we went out and sold what we knew. And when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Over the course of the next year and a half, we were asked to create everything from websites, to brand identities, campaigns and explainer videos. We hustled hard and we did whatever it took to make our clients happy.
Next up in our curriculum, we learnt that while you can stimulate growth with a clever marketing campaign, you needed a whole lot more to sustain it. This realisation brought to light a hard reality: the team we’d formed did not have competencies to develop the systems, process and people necessary to deliver the kind of sustainable growth we set out to help our clients achieve.
Assumptions are the mother of all fuck-ups.
We balanced out the creative flair that was at the heart of Sleuth by bringing onboard an industrial engineer and business science graduate. We then hired an organisational psychologist to help us imagine, design and build the professional services firm of the future.
In our journey, we learnt arguably one of life’s most important lessons: assumptions are the mother of all fuck-ups. This requires some explaining so let’s set the scene.
An entire generation is entering a working world that isn’t designed for them. The forces driving the evolution of customer expectations have also fundamentally shifted what employees are looking for out of work and life. Over the last decade, we’ve witnessed major changes in the dynamics of the global workforce. While technology has been empowering, it’s also given Millenials a sense of entitlement. They value autonomy, freedom and are seeking life experiences uninhibited by the shackles of tradition and convention.
It’s with the above in mind that we’ve seen the rise of the freelancer, and freelancer platform’s like Upwork. As part of this movement, we’ve also witnessed a flood of smaller agencies offering very similar services rushing to get a piece of the digital marketing pie. What this means is that services like graphic design, web development, SEO and digital marketing have all been commoditised - meaning that it’s exceptionally difficult to tell the difference between service providers.
As a business owner, your choices are endless - you could go with a small agency in Cape Town or find a freelancer in India through Fiver. You could even put your brief up on 99Designs and invite their entire creative community to pitch ideas for your project. With all of this at your fingertips - the choice is paralysing - and with little understanding of how their process works, how are you supposed to know who’s going to help you deliver the business results you’re after?
Here’s our take; while these agencies and freelancers may be good at executing creative work, they’re not very good at diagnosing business problems and translating them into creative challenges. The devil is in the detail of the problem definition. It takes restraint to not jump into problem-solving mode and it also takes a huge amount of courage (and know-how) to challenge your client’s assumptions.
We know that our clients are looking to achieve business outcomes.
We believe that a bad brief is the symptom of a client not knowing enough about their customer, about their business, and about their industry. The truth is that most businesses looking to develop a website, for example, don’t have the necessary “self-knowledge” to do so.
We know that our clients are looking to achieve business outcomes. They’re not necessarily after a website, a social media campaign or new brand identity. They’re after the results of what that might bring to their business - growth. It’s as simple as that. This is why we never settle for surface level. We always dig deeper and look further because it's the continual learnings that fuel our evolution, and fuel the evolution of our clients’ businesses.