Building a business is hard, and people often ask how our little digital agency grew so fast since its re-inception in late 2020.
We’re here to tell you our growth story of building a digital agency for the future.
How the idea for our digital agency of the future was incepted
Founder Lysa Miller has always been involved in digital agency life. She’s worked in agencies and corporate as a UI/UX designer and front-end developer. But for most of her career, she freelanced under the name ladybugz.com.
This worked better for caring for her young family. Miller worked in that capacity for more than ten years. Over time, as her kids grew older, so did her business.
In 2016 she merged that version of Ladybugz with another B2B agency. She spent almost five years there working in business development.
Freelance life was the best life, and is the future of work
Miller loved that during most of her career, as freelancer she was in charge of her professional life and workflow. It is one of the things she is the most grateful for in her life.
“So many people miss time with their families and kids,” she says. “I was so lucky to work at home, but still have a flexible career that was full of growth and learning and could flex to my life.”
Miller wanted to give the gift of that to others, and COVID was the perfect opportunity to do that.
An agile web design company that can flex and flow
In summer 2020, Miller left her full-time position to pursue her dreams, this time, on her own terms.
Once again she became a founder and CEO of Ladybugz (not that this was the original plan, but it is how it ended).
She reimagined what an agency for “now and the future” would look like and began building it. Her digital agency quickly adopted the agile philosophy and began building a team that embraced this ever-evolving mentality.
One might say that at this digital agency, nothing is ever complete. The company thrives on being iterative at everything it does.
Finding niche target markets in early-stage companies
One woman’s vision quickly became a reality.
Miller identified needs she felt not many other agencies filled. She found a space between a boutique and a large agency and pulled the best pieces from both.
Miller believed that with the right team, she could service start-up, early stage, and growth companies with a broader scope than a boutique agency, but more affordable than a large agency—while providing high-quality, personalized service and a collaborative agile process.
One space that was perfect for this service was early-growth biotech companies. Most SEED and startup money goes towards building the science and team, so marketing funds are limited. But at some point, they need help with foundational growth to help them get to the next level. There comes a point where a new company needs an experienced partner to help them tell their story.
Other industries that met the model included smaller educational institutions, non-profits, and other B2B and growing, historic, local small companies and small corporations needing a partner to help them transition for the future.
Starting with marketing 101 basics
Miller started by putting together a strategy focusing on basic marketing 101 principles. The original focus was on the four P’s; positioning, pricing, product and promotion. Miller did the research and used her experience to define the customer’s needs so the agency could offer the right solution.
She also embraced the internet-age three P’s of marketing; people, process, and privacy. She continued to build the company using those three core values. People we offered more learning opportunities and a hybrid workplace designed for their lifestyle. Operations embraced a new collaborative, shorter process called agile. Privacy is a top-priority and highly-valued for everything client-related, especially in the world of biosciences.
This new-age company practices what it preaches. It fully invests and embraces its own marketing as a top priority. In B2B, customers buy people, experiences, stories, and testimonials. Your customers have an emotional attachment to all of it. By speaking to specific audiences through targeted marketing, the agency attracts qualified leads and the right type of mission-minded customers to work with.
“We’re always in the process of learning how to be better at talking about ourselves and our process,” says Miller.
Creating a culture of “infinite mindset”
Miller does not like setting limits. “There is no limit to what anyone can do as a person and how they can evolve. I try to create an environment where people are excited about growth and change—what it means for their personal evolution and for the agency.”
Embracing “infinite change” is a hard mindset, but it is one of the main philosophies at Ladybugz.
“We’re never done,” says Miller.
“Everything can always be improved and changed. If you’re not doing that, you’re not doing the best for your clients, yourself, or the agency. If it’s not changing, it’s not fun.”
Accelerating growth with an agile web design process
When entrepreneurs start a business, many have to come into it with an idea of how to run it. One of the ideas that took hold early on in the growth the agency was developing an agile process. Miller felt this would be a perfect fit for early-stage biotech companies still discovering how they are going to go to market. Agile itself started with large companies using it on software projects. Over time, it’s been developed as a process and philosophy in modern businesses.
Agile is kind of a messy process because it’s iterative and involves a lot of parties. At Ladybugz the team finds it works well for the types of projects the company takes on. It also matches the company’s mindset toward creative growth, collaboration, and experimentation.
“It fits who we are,” says Miller.
“Every company needs some processes in place, but you have to find the right ones that don’t limit your growth. The process you choose has to speak to the people in the company and work with their vision. What’s important is having a methodology that works for your business and the people that run it.”
How agile works with our biotech website and other early-stage growth clients
Part of our agile mindset requires working closely with top decision-makers. This keeps the team close to the visionary.
Since biotech and early-stage organizations are typically not marketing-oriented, the branding team spends a lot of time upfront in discovery, but also throughout the process.
“We find out who they are, what the offering is, how to present it to the world, and most importantly, what the overall vision is,” says Miller about her team.
Agile empowers them.
By the end of the process, the client has been so closely involved in the project that the website is what they imagined; it doesn’t veer in the wrong direction or if it does, that gets caught as soon as it happens.
A band of digital experts, excited about science and changing the world.
At Ladybugz Interactive Agency, we only work with “experts” in biotech design, branding, and messaging. The team not only provides digital services but at their level of expertise, easily provides direction, and insight to the client. The agency becomes the trusted partner.
“We love working with biotech. The team gets excited about working with some of the most talented scientists and innovators in the country adapting amazing life-saving technologies.” Miller says.
The clients at Ladybugz have said over and over that they can feel the excitement around working with them, and they want their audiences to feel that way, too.
Building a non-traditional digital agency for the future
Mostly of the agency is built on the agile web design experience, which requires always generating leads and has varying levels of activity. The digital agency has been thoughtfully building its own marketing program, to grow and thrive in this current environment.
What helps balance things out at Ladybugz is having a combination of full-time and part-time employees and freelancer talent, which give us the company a lot of flexibility and varied expertise. Some freelancers work for the digital agency regularly, especially on our web design team. Others work as little or as much as they want.
Given that there is a mix of contractors and full-time employees, there is not one standard design format or process, but a few different ones we follow. We aim for consistently high quality by pairing the right designer with each project based on their portfolio and our experiences with them.
That said, biotech has one solid team, while projects for other industries have more variation. In the end, it’s not about us. It’s all about the client’s vision. No matter who’s on a project, our job is to get inside of the client’s brain.
Setting a vision for the future
Reaching its goals has been easy for the digital agency this time around. Planning operations from the get-go helped with growth. We also looked at other start-up concepts for guidance, including the Lean Start-Up methodology Profit First method and design thinking (also see this link).
We’re working on telling our story to attract more team members. Our non-traditional framework and project flexibility gives us a bigger pool than most agencies our size.
Our vision is to keep the business growing, evolving and changing.
We are building our digital agency around a team that’s happy.
“We are hiring experts, letting them shine their brightest light, and bringing that to clients so they can have the best experience.”