“My agency never listens to me.” It’s one of the most common responses we get when asking prospects why they’re looking for a new agency. In this post, we discuss how Mightybytes strives to create a compelling and purpose-driven customer experience. (Hint: it starts with listening.)
We ask ourselves two critical questions at the outset of any conversation with potential clients:
- Is the problem something we can actually solve?
- Are they aligned with our values and B Corp mission?
If we can answer yes to both these questions, we’ll move forward with other details like goals, timing, budget, and so on with hopes of starting yet another successful, long-term business relationship. We discover critical information by asking important clarifying questions and taking detailed notes on their answers, typically in an upfront sales call. This forms the basis for a proposal and subsequent strategy and discovery workshops where we collectively solve problems.
For Mightybytes, a good customer experience starts with listening and verifying values alignment. It’s important we do both. Active listening helps us craft better proposals and, eventually, better solutions, while values alignment plays a key role in fostering long-term, mutual success. Both help us create winning customer experiences and improve collaboration on projects.
Aligning Values: Profit + Purpose
Certified B Corps like Mightybytes have a long-term vision to build a more regenerative and inclusive economy. We do this by meeting the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.
Balancing mission and margin is hard work, but we know that purpose-driven companies are more successful in the long run. In addition to making money while creating change, Certified B Corps and other social enterprises reap the benefits of higher employee retention and productivity, better customer loyalty, increased interest from investors, and in many cases outperform their peers over time.
Each Certified B Corp enacts our community’s collective vision in their own unique way based on available resources and, often, through strategic partnerships. For Mightybytes, fostering long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with clients who share these values plays an important role in how we fulfill our mission. We are more than just customer advocates. We strive to create collective impact and shared success by helping our mission-aligned clients thrive in every way possible. They, in turn, help us fulfill our mission and create ongoing, sustainable sources of income. This shared prosperity is exemplified in our work through who we choose to do business with and how we conduct that business.
Shared Prosperity: Helping Our Clients Make a Difference
Being a customer advocate is something we take quite seriously. It also requires us to think differently about how we create mutual value. Here are several ways we help our clients create change and align our digital work with their mission and a larger vision for shared prosperity.
Sustainability & Whole Systems Thinking
You can’t sweat the right details unless you clearly understand the big picture. That’s why we incorporate systems thinking into our discovery process, so we understand your entire organization and where it sits within a larger ecosystem. This helps us make better recommendations across the board and allows us to view client challenges from multiple angles, including the perspective of less obvious stakeholders like local communities, the environment, and so on. Sure, we do user research and create user personas just like any digital agency, but we also ask deeper questions:
- How does the organization fit into a larger social, ecological, and economic system?
- Do opportunities exist to foster innovation or transform an organization with this project?
- Where are the collective impact possibilities between our organizational mission and theirs?
- Can we identify potential paths to achieving long-term growth, value, and impact? What about impediments?
- Planet as stakeholder: Can we power their digital products and services with renewable energy?
- How can we create mutual, long-term success for all project stakeholders beyond the initial scope of work?
By asking these (and other) questions up front during the discovery process and revisiting them throughout a project, we can identify opportunities that support better outcomes for everyone.
Example: DePaul University
We started working with DePaul University mid-2016. When vetting vendors, they mentioned that in addition to our experience, Mightybytes being a Certified B Corp drew them to work with us. We schedule regular in-person check-ins with the DePaul team to focus specifically on strengthening the relationship between our two organizations and covering big picture issues. Says Sharon Miller, Director of Web Communications at DePaul:
Mightybytes is a valuable partner to DePaul. They’re smart, they ask good questions and they really listen, which makes the solutions they offer very much on point. They’re responsive and nimble, with a solid team of individuals who each contribute to our success.
Building Mutual Trust
Change and learning are continuous throughout any relationship. Individual projects are no different. We embrace continuous learning because it yields superior products, fosters collaboration, and builds trust. The latter is key. While great products and good collaboration are important, without mutual trust any relationship will eventually fail, so we work hard to build and maintain it:
- We listen intently and ask many qualifying questions (see above).
- Conversely, we are always available to answer questions and alert our clients whenever any new piece of information could impact a deliverable timeline or budget.
- We collaborate: regular project calls and in-person check-ins that focus specifically on relationship-building as noted above.
- We are transparent about budget, scope, deliverables, timing, and so on.
- We are willing to pivot when necessary and share risk with our clients on projects.
In addition to the above, we also regularly improve client onboarding processes to set clear expectations, answer important questions up front, and minimize surprises.
Example: Chicago Community Trust
Our first project with Chicago Community Trust, Chicago’s oldest and largest community foundation, was in 2008. Since then we have worked hard to build and maintain mutual trust with this organization. In 2016, Mightybytes became a dedicated digital agency partner. CCT Content Director Kate Allgeier notes:
Mightybytes is the partner we trust to distill our most complex projects and ideas into clear, purposeful digital solutions. Their smart, supportive people are always responsive to our requests, while keeping us on track, on time and under budget.
Creating Collective Impact
Mightybytes is a 1% for the Planet member, which means we earmark 1% of our topline revenue for environmental nonprofits each year. Being both a Certified B Corp and a 1% for the Planet member not only helps us align customers and values, but also helps us devise new ways to strengthen those relationships and create collective impact with strategic partners. We chose two of our clients—The Alliance for the Great Lakes and Climate Ride—as our 1% beneficiaries.
Example: The Alliance for the Great Lakes
In summer 2018, I recruited riders for an Alliance for the Great Lakes team to participate in Climate Ride Northern Michigan, a multi-day charity cycling event that raises money for environmental causes. Climate Ride’s Growth Fund and The Alliance are both beneficiaries. The eleven riders on that team, including myself and the Alliance’s CEO Joel Brammeier, each pedaled nearly 300 miles over four days and raised almost $50,000.00 of the $260,000.00 total raised by that ride. These funds are above and beyond the money donated as part of our 1% for the Planet membership.
In turn, both these organizations have given us testimonials and referred numerous clients to Mightybytes over the years. I also served on Climate Ride’s board for six years, three as its President. Our day-to-day interactions with the Alliance in particular are more in line with a standard client/vendor relationship—we designed and built their website and continue to improve their digital marketing efforts. By viewing these partnerships through a lens of shared prosperity, trust, and collective impact, we are able to create value beyond the exchange of money.
Per Alliance President and CEO Joel Brammeier:
We have learned much more from Mightybytes than we would expect from a conventional vendor. The company challenges us to think differently about what actions we want our supporters to take, how we raise money, and what our relationships with the for-profit sector could and should become.
What About Misunderstandings?
All this said, any long-term relationship runs the risk of turning sour, despite everyone’s best intentions. We think we’re pretty good at listening and asking qualifying questions, but sometimes it’s easy to misinterpret things. Digital projects are often complicated and can take months to launch, leaving numerous opportunities for miscommunication. So how do you maintain value while also navigating uncertain waters and keeping everyone happy?
In our experience, project hiccups are either about simple misunderstandings, which are generally easy to navigate, or mismanaged expectations, which often aren’t. We do our best to agree upon realistic expectations at the outset of any relationship by listening and focusing on clear, frequent communication as noted above. Despite having processes in place and 20+ years experience building hundreds of complex websites and digital products, we do occasionally miss something. We’re only human. The most important thing is that we learn from these situations so as not to repeat them.
When this occurs, we make every attempt to rectify the situation with the least amount of impact on project success. We own our mistakes and expect our clients to do same. We’re not afraid to have difficult conversations so long as the target outcome is a mutual understanding by both parties on the best path forward.
Example: Dharma Merchant Services
Several misunderstandings occurred during the launch of Dharma Merchant Services’ company website in 2014. Uncomfortable conversations led to a brief period where we were estranged. However, as a fellow B Corp, we know Dharma shares our values and long-term vision, so we came together, collectively course-corrected, and worked toward mending differences. Now, our relationship is stronger than ever and we’re able to create success for both organizations, helping each other thrive along our respective business journeys.
Dharma Merchant Services Founder Jeff Marcous:
Marketing tech, and the practices that accompany it, change all the time. It can be tough to keep up. I’d prefer to work with an agency that will guide us and work with us to navigate these changes rather than one that just wants to own all our marketing. This requires clear, ongoing communication and mutual trust. It’s okay to disagree as long as we’re all working toward the same goal.
Customer Journey Mapping
Finally, to improve customer experience with an existing product or service, we sometimes facilitate customer journey mapping workshops. The exercises in these collaborative workshops help identify opportunities for improvement and enable project stakeholders to create a roadmap that will improve customer experience over time. Mightybytes has run these workshops internally and for our clients.
Scaling Impact: A Better Customer Experience
We don’t always get it right, but we certainly try very hard to create a great customer experience for anyone we collaborate with. Our success, and sometimes that of our clients, depends on it. The stories above are exemplary of relationships we strive to build with every client. Success here enables Mightybytes to scale our efforts alongside those of our clients.
In 2016, over 70% of our work came from mission-aligned clients. In 2017, that number climbed to 81%. By 2019, it was over 90%. Whenever possible, we engage our remaining clients in this purpose-driven work and encourage them to do same. For more examples of how this commitment to mutual value plays out in our work, check out our portfolio.
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