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Scale a More Profitable Web Business

How we Can Use Apps to Scale More Profitable Websites

In today's post I will be borrowing content from my presentation at the 2015 Adobe MAX Conference about how we can use apps to scale a more profitable web business. My diverse experiences of running a web agency (Chicago Digital) online training website (BC Academe) app development company (Solid Sky) and the central BC app marketplace (BC App Store) gives me a unique vantage point when it comes to utilizing apps.

What we will be discussing in today’s post and linked webinar is from the agencies point of view and how the utilization (rather than the creation) of app can help you scale a more profitable agency. I do understand that not everyone wants to scale their business, and that is fine, but if you are looking for someone to put more cash in your pocket or to free up some time, than this post is for you 

Common Problems for Web Developers

I’ve whittled down several of the common issues that seem to come up time and time again:

  • Projects over budget
  • Projects take too long
  • Hard to train new people
  • Clients want features you can’t deliver
  • Clients want to easily change everything
  • You never seem to have enough time

Ways to Scale More Profitably!

When we are looking at scaling there are a few different things we need to do (preferably in this order):

  1. Reduce our cost
  2. Systematize your business
  3. Automate
  4. Build passive income

Reduce Costs

It really comes down to simple math that we all know. If we reduce costs and charge the same amount you will have more profit at the end of the day. Now, how do we accomplish this? One way is to leverage what individuals in the community have already created. An example of how that is accomplished is shown below:

Example of the benefit of using apps with the Twitter Feed App

Champ Internet Solutions decided to purchase the Twitter Feed App instead of paying for custom development time to get the Twitter Feed specifically how they wanted it. They in turn only paid $19 in the App Store. This is just one example on how utilizing apps can save you money.

The beautiful thing about an app marketplace is it allows other developers to leverage what someone already created for a fraction of the cost of developing it themselves. If we want to grow our agency business, we first need to look at what we can leverage that currently exists to reduce our costs. Growing a business at an undesirable profit margin will only create more issues.


The next place to focus is creating systems: how to make things simple and repeatable. Why do we need to do this? Growing often comes with needing more people. If you need to hire new more people they will need to trained, not just in the skills for the job, but also the nuances of the job that are specific in how your agency delivers them. Every moment they sit there untrained and unproductive is an expensive opportunity cost to your business. By making things simple, repeatable, and predictable, it is easier and quicker to train others and easier to provide support.

This is where apps come to the rescue again. Compared to custom developed solutions, apps are more predictable (there is a set of features and clear expectations), repeatable (the app will do the same thing each time regardless of the developer who implemented it or the site it is on) and simple (the interface is often designed for non-tech users or to simplify the experience. Where that fails, there is documentation on exactly how to use it).

A good example is to use the Solid Company Settings App to create a standard way to insert information about the company, marked up with microformats, and an easy way for a non-technical user to update the information 

Systemize Apps


The third step we need to focus on is automation.

Wealth is the measure of time that your automated/accumulated income/money brings you
– Robert Kiyosaki

What does that mean? Ultimately if we really want to make money we need to stop trading our time for dollars. We need to look at ways of creating things automatically.

An example of automation comes from Champ. They have training videos embedded into the backend that automates the training process and they charge their clients for access. There is an app, BC Client Training, that installs training videos that go through everything in the backend. This keeps you from having to take the time to making a personal webinar for your clients and in turn saves you money.

Passive Income

This step is all about getting your time back. Below are a few examples of apps with options on how some agencies utilize these to make a profit without wasting any time.

Passive Income Building BC Apps

Passive Revenue for Developers

Up to this point we have talked about agencies' point of view but we are going to change gears slightly to developers. As a developer there are several ways for you to create passive revenue. Here are a few models of how a developer can monetize and create passive revenue:

Revenue Models

  1. One time downloads
  2. One-time Admin App
  3. Recurring apps per partner
  4. Recurring apps per websites


  1. BC discounts on admin app purchases
  2. InContext app suggestions
  3. Allow partners to install apps on other partner portals
  4. Allow business owners to install/purchase apps

The reason we develop apps is to create passive income, create exposure, and make Business Catalyst better for everyone. There is only so much BC can do by itself. As a community we now have an open platform, and it’s our turn to step up and add the things to Business Catalyst that we want to be there. Making BC better for everyone! Finally, if you wish to watch the webinar on this topic please click here.

Michael Sallander

Written By

Michael Sallander SVP of Digital Strategy & Co-Founder

How many of us get to say that we grew up to be what we wanted to be when we were young? Well Mike does! After graduating from the University of Illinois, he turned his dream into a reality and co-founded Chicago Digital with Scott Shefler. As the President of Chicago Digital he has done it a... Learn More


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