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Should Your Inbound Marketing Agency Create Products?

Andrew Dymski
Andrew Dymski I'm a Founder at ZenPilot where I help marketing agencies buy back time by developing the processes and systems they need to scale without reinventing the wheel for every client. I'm co-host of the Agency Journey podcast where each week we interview an agency owner, consultant, or author.

Have you ever thought about creating a product as an agency? If so, this is the episode for you! Since this is Episode 010 of Inbound Agency Journey, Gray and I wanted to serve up something special. In this episode we talk agencies creating products – the good, bad, and ugly.

The first half of the conversation is spent talking about inbound agencies that are creating cool things. The second half we shift and talk about the lessons we’ve learned so far launching DoInbound. 

Agencies Creating Sweet Products

Paul Roetzer at PR20/20 wrote Marketing Agency Blueprint and Marketing Performance Blueprint. Through his work as an author and speaker, he has also launched Marketing Agency Insider. This is a community for where marketing agency pros gather to learn how to grow smarter agencies.

He has also launched, a data-driven way to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Pretty freaking sweet stuff here! Eric Baum talks about hiring Marcus and Paul to speak to his team in Episode 008 of IAJ. 

Marcus Sheridan at The Sales Lion created WOW Event for agencies. George B. Thomas from The Sales Lion talks about this process in Episode 001 of IAJ. 

Max Traylor at IMR Corp created the Content Marketer’s Blueprint to help inbound agencies streamline the process of creating an inbound strategy for their clients.  

Ethan Giffin at Groove created to integrate the HubSpot COS with popular eCommerce platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento. 

Bob, Tom, and John at IMPACT created the Blog About tool to help marketers create better content titles. John talks about this and other marketing innovations at IMPACT in Episode 002 of IAJ. 

Finding Focus

If you’re thinking about diversifying your business by adding new products, I think there are two big questions you need to answer. First is, “How am I going to allocate my time to move both businesses forward?” Next is, How am I going to clearly communicate a vision to my team?” It is important to give yourself and the people around you a clear path forward.

Be cautious with your focus. Be cautious with your time. Be cautious with your resources. 

Free Tools vs. Paid Tools 

When you start thinking about creating products or tools, you have the option to do it for free or create pay products. We’ve done both at GuavaBox.

First for the free bit. We created Inbound Revenue Calculator as a tool to leverage in our sales process. Basically, it helps potential customers discover the impact of inbound marketing on their bottom lines. We wanted something visual that would show the prospect just what they could be getting with this investment. 

This tool took about a week to create. The first thing we did was create a fully functional spreadsheet that did everything we wanted it to do. Next, we found a developer who could add some design and turn it into a functional JavaScript calculator. 

This has been helpful for our team internally, but we haven’t spent any time marketing it to other agencies yet. 

DoInbound is a paid tool. This has taken a lot longer to develop. Instead of just adding it as a tool under GuavaBox, we opted to spin it out under a new brand and as a new business. This has really worked out well so far. It is its own SaaSy beast and best kept separate from the processes and operations of the agency. 

Teaching is the Best Way to Learn 

Creating templates and processes for DoInbound helped tighten the operations at GuavaBox. This has helped us deliver better results for our clients because we’re operational a stronger agency. 

Creating DoInbound has also helped us differentiate GuavaBox as an inbound agency. Exposure to other inbound agencies has helped us find new partners and generate more COS design business. It has also helped us relate to prospective clients who are SaaS companies since we’re also growing a SaaS company.

Validate Your Idea Early

Before you spend a ton of time creating products at your agency, validate that there is a market for the product. Build what your agency needs, but validate that others are feeling the same pain and are willing to pay for a solution.

Lessons Learned from Developing Our First Software Product

Building something out of nothing is a unique experience, exciting and frustrating at the same time, and always taking longer than you first expected.

User Experience has been something that has evolved with DoInbound. At the beginning we just needed to find a way to add features. Conversations like “We need to track time – where can we stick a time tracking button?” and “We need to add files, where can we add a file button?” happened all the time. This made the tool bulky and slow to load.

We recently started bringin in users to a complete redesign of the platform. This time we put a lot more thought into where features were located and how a user would interact with the tool. We wanted everything to load fast. The idea, after all, is to help marketers spend less time managing, and more time making great marketing. 

A huge lesson we’ve learned through this process is that it is easier to rip up a design on the whiteboard than it is in the code.

This can be a frustrating experience. I can close my eyes and see the tool that we’d like to create. The gap between where DoInbound is today and our vision seems massive at times.

Gray and I are finding that you have to break the process as a whole into smaller steps and relish the joy that comes with each new milestone. We’re never going to completely arrive, but it is important to take time to look back and see how far you’ve come. This journey is crazy and we’re so pumped to have you along for the ride!

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