An intro to ZH.Agency and its (hopefully) interesting story

We’ve had a funny route to where we are now as we focus on our agency-to-agency, (or ‘A2A’ as Wis masterfully abbreviated) offering. 

The inception of ZH was the result of a bold decision from the core team of a tech startup; we took a step back from day-to-day operations, to look directly at the following:

What are we best at?

That question will be repeated later in the piece, but in 2018, that fundamental evaluation was the first step toward where we are now.

How We Started

ZH, at the time going by its full-name of ZapHub, was born out of a tech startup that focused on helping SMEs to gain trust on social media. Named Recommendable, it was a pretty cool idea, we thought – though Facebook’s API sadly had different ideas. 

Side note: Ironically, soon after we pivoted away from our core tech offering, Facebook dumped a cool £40 million into growing their Recommendations feature. Clearly, we were onto something, though probably chose the right moment to change things up in the face of that spending power…

Although our pool of heads was far from expansive, and we found ourselves graciously squatting in our Chairman’s office, we knew we were good at communicating with SMEs and attracting them to our products & services. Our messaging was simple, and our acquisition methods were compelling. 

So, with a desire to pivot, and safe in the knowledge that we’d gotten pretty great at getting in front of business owners, we embarked on creating a marketing agency. The mission statement was simple: “Every business in the UK should have a strong digital presence”.

Blessed with early success, we found our initial clients as a peculiar blend of some brilliant businesses, from luxury hospitality, to e-commerce businesses, and some pretty unique digital consultancies. We digitally looked after their brands, and ensured we were pretty damn cost-effective while we did it. I’m proud to say that, over four years on, some of these clients are still happily engaging our team each month.

We were told that the most attractive part of our offering was the way we packaged it. We had three ‘packages’ (each structured similarly to a mobile phone contract) that sat at a scale of price points – starting at ridiculously cheap, and topping-out at reasonably priced. 

Interestingly, our second ever client, and the first that didn’t come from our pre-existing networks, was a white-labelled client. Admittedly, at the time, some of the team had never even heard of white-label, let alone how to deliver with the efficiency and discretion it requires. With a bit of research and some revised processes, we took it on, happy to be exploring new revenue streams. 

Beyond (accidentally) adding white-label to our early offering, we also developed our web development arm to be able to deliver WordPress sites for our prospects. 

Over time, we also added a hosting & maintenance offering, which, whilst not at all lucrative, is a highly requested ‘nice-to-have’ that we’ve kept throughout the years. We’re far from an agency looking to deliver high-tech, bespoke digital projects, but our capabilities are well-tailored to the typical demands of our clients; lightweight, optimised WordPress brochure sites. Nothing too sexy, but nothing OTT either. 

What We Became

The first 15 months of the business were relatively standard. We tinkered with our model, evolved our offering, and brought in our first team members as we grew. One thing stayed the same though; we kept our services wrapped into our transparent and competitively priced packages – making onboarding and delivery as simple as it can be.

We’ve kept that ‘packaged’ approach up until present day. With a bit of added flex to suit each client, it really is the most effective way to efficiently guarantee delivery.

So, all good… Until March 2020. 

The outbreak of the pandemic forced all of our hospitality and micro clients off our books, seemingly overnight; with them went ~40% of revenue. A lot of businesses had it a lot worse than us, so we were lucky in a way, but for such a fledgling business to take such a revenue hit was brutal. Really brutal.

With the above in front of us, facing catastrophe, we were given the opportunity to, once again, step back and evaluate: 

“What are we best at?”

Just as before, the answer was again pretty simple; White-label accounts. It’s where we added the most value, fastest. Plus, and really importantly at that time, it was just what we enjoyed the most. Partnering with other agency professionals, working collaboratively toward common goals and seeing our network expand alongside us was (and still is) truly the best part about our business.

I remember explaining to the team in early 2020 that I genuinely do believe in white-label partnerships being an authentic ‘win-win’. There aren’t many of those in business, let alone in the agency world, so to have honed our processes to deliver for white-label was something to get really, really excited about.

White-label was the way forward…

Coming out of lockdown, we started to angle ourselves towards a real focus on fostering new partnerships with agencies. Our goal here was to collaborate and position ourselves as a discreet extension of their offering, acting as an ‘extra arm’ to their business. We ran with this for 8 to 10 months, slowly but surely metamorphosing our revenue base into a hybrid model of direct SME clients and white-label agency partners. I’ll always fondly remember the day we tipped over to majority white-label revenue, having had >50% of it come directly from SMEs for the previous two years – it’s safe to say we were incredibly energised (and only a little bit self-congratulatory, I promise).

The shift of focus to our A2A offering was as effective as it was enjoyable. We grew the team, bringing in talented specialists and bright, young & enthusiastic team members to meet the requirements of our agency partners.

A big part of this was growing out our Studio & content arm. We moved into our latest office building as it has a film, photography & recording studio just down the corridor. In addition, we restructured our content processes to be able to meet high-volume, fast turnaround design projects. This was a painful process (testing the resolve of even our most patient creatives) but it was definitely a worthwhile switch as it gives us such a stronger, more proactive, content offering.

By mid-2022, we were all-in on our white-label offering and delivery. From the inside, this didn’t really change much; we’d been focused on driving toward this point for 12 months. Externally, we revamped the website (which you’re currently enjoying, I hope?) and added a little “.A” onto our logo. From ‘ZapHub’, to ‘ZH’, to now ‘ZH.A’ – a small change, but we think it works nicely.

We’d spent the best part of three years moulding our A2A processes into a pretty bulletproof array of value-focused services. In fact, we’re so confident in our ability to deliver,  we guarantee margin on our services for every one of our agency partners’ projects.

What We Are

This all brings us to the present day. ZH.A is now highly specialised in offering growth solutions to agencies of all shapes and sizes, as well as their clients, all around the UK. Equipped with scalable processes, top-tier skill sets, and tailored expertise to help agency partners give the most to their end clients, we’re now on a new mission:

“To be the best agency for agencies”

Quietly confident as ever, we think we’re not far off. 

This area of business is where we thrive – it’s where we enjoy ourselves, add the most value, and build important, lasting relationships within the fast-moving industry we know & love.

Being industry agnostic, we get to experience a real variety of end-clients, meaning we get to enjoy a degree of flex within our delivery and solutions. We’re proud of our ability to apply our expertise to the needs of various agency partners, regardless of their positioning. 

We arrived at this point by having a strong foundation and building upon it; adding value wherever possible is as pertinent for our agency partners now, as it was for our SME clients four years ago. Adding value is the lifeblood that allowed us to grow purely from word of mouth and referrals for three years, and will continue to drive us forward.

Long may the journey continue. Thanks for reading.