Digital Agency Adjacent - Say What?

Digital Agency Adjacent - Say What?
Joel Baglien profile picture

By Joel Baglien, VP Business Development

Categories: Learn,  Culture

It started about a year ago.

People would ask us at trade shows and other events, "So what does High Monkey do?" We had a standard answer about building great websites using different CMS platforms, and doing SharePoint and UX stuff. I could see their eyes starting to glaze over as I spoke. It got us thinking about what we do and we came up with the term 'Digital Agency Adjacent'.

Say what?

Bear with me as I stereotype just a little. I want to give you my fairly broad definition of a Digital Agency.  The primary focus of a Digital Agency is branding, advertising, creative design, market strategy, content creation, digital and social media campaigns, search engine marketing, video production, and marketing collateral.  

As a Digital Agency Adjacent organization, High Monkey stays out of the business of campaigns, branding, advertising and the like. We are the implementers and the 'wisdom keepers' of how to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time on the right device, AND, we make the supporting technologies work on a practical and managable level with our clients. We've always done that, we just weren't sure what to call it.

Before we got to naming things, we had some 'a-ha moments'.

A-Ha Moment #1 - In March 2016, we sponsored a vendor booth at a Higher Education web conference.  A marketing manager from college in Illinois asked me, "So what does High Monkey do?" I said, "We build great websites but everything we do is all about putting content first." I was a little surprised by what I had just said. There was a pause and she responded, "That's interesting, so are you like a digital agency?" My reply (completely off the cuff) was, "Not exactly. Everything we do is focused on the customer experience and getting people to the content they need. We just happen to be really good at doing that for websites and search."  We continued talking - no eyes were glazing over.

A-Ha Moment #2 - We pay attention to the trends of what our clients were asking for us to provide and the types of services being identified in RFP (request for proposals) and other bidding opportunities. Over the past couple of years, it became clear that content, personas, and story mapping are a major focus in every website or SharePoint project we were working on or bidding on.

A-Ha Moment #3 - High Monkey has always had a core strength in search planning, implementation, and delivery. High Monkey's Chief User Experience Architect, Virgil Carroll, has done some extremely creative work with search.  Things like harnessing the power of external search within a college website that uses the Kentico CMS as their web platform and making the search experience more 'Google-esque'.

These a-ha moments were great clues - clearly something we needed to pay attention to. But we still didn't have clarity about what we were seeing until we came up with the idea of looking at High Monkey as 'Digital Agency Adjacent'.

Meaning . . . Everything we do at High Monkey is focused on keeping CONTENT FIRST!

Content Strategy

We often work with clients who have great content created by their team or by an external agency. It's fairly common to see that content added to an organization's website organically in a way that makes sense to the webmaster and to the marketing person but it is almost always missing a well defined Content Strategy. We look at a Content Strategy as a process that includes story mapping, persona development, content modeling, and content visualization. In content visualization, we help our clients create the pathways for their content structure to interact with other digital channels, social media, and search systems.

Content Marketing rules the web!

User Experience (we call it DCX)

The term UX or User Experience gets thrown around a lot by digital agencies. We prefer to call it DCX or 'Digital Customer Experience'. At High Monkey we have a very content-centric approach to DCX. Our discovery process focuses on the 'wants and needs' of real people and the content they need - that information feeds the creation of personas and story mapping. The Usability Testing we do on our client's websites is content and scenario based to ensure that the actual digital customer voice is used to guide the design and development of the website. Usability Testing identifies difficulties that customers have finding content via navigation, search, or links. Similarly, the High Monkey card sorting process focuses on important content that resides within our client's website. The results of our discovery process, user exerience testing and card sorts feed the creation of a Content Information Architecture for our client's website. 

Digitial Customer Experience also rules the web!

Search Planning

All search within a website starts with content. While we don't write content for our clients, we help our clients understand what well written content structures look like, the types of metadata that matter, how content should be tagged, and how content should be managed and refined. Then we implement and build out search to provide a Digital Customer Experience that delivers the most relevant content results every time they search.  

You already know this. Search rules the web!

Wrapping It All Up

Yes, we still do wireframes, creative design, website builds, content migrations, testing, documentation, ADA compliance, and all the miriad of tasks needed to design and build a great content-rich website.  And, yes, we also do some pretty amazing SharePoint work too. The difference between High Monkey and a typical digital agency is that we don't just design a website, we integrate your website into the rest of your multi-channel digital strategy.  But, all of these tasks will be time and money wasted if our clients don't put their CONTENT FIRST!

adjacent (ad ja cent) - adjective
definition: having a common endpoint or border

High Monkey is Digital Agency Adjacent. We have a common border with traditional digital agencies but we take our clients' Digital Strategy past the endpoint of 'just content' and make it a critical part of their Search Strategy, their Digital Customer Experience, and their core content marketing initiatives.

So at High Monkey, we went through a process that enlightened us and helped us clarify that we are (and always have been) Digital Agency Adjacent.

Our sense of humor says we should end with this quote from author Anne Lamott, "The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines."