Marketing on Demand – Your Digital Marketplace
Working at Blueliner, a place which helps develop a huge range of startups in partnership with our parent company B.Labs Ventures, ‘The 7 Pillars of Digital Marketing’ stands out as a trademark initiative. 7 Pillars was founded by Blueliner Marketing’s CEO, Arman Rousta, and after 20 years of helping clients achieve their goals as a marketing agency, both in the pre-digital and digital eras, the 7 Pillars model was founded as a means to distill this success into a systematized framework. More about that at 7pillarsdigital.com.
After years of success as a digital marketing academy bringing the science behind excellent marketing to other entrepreneurs through bootcamps, online resources, and a comprehensive book, the next phase in 7 Pillars’ development was to build ‘7 Pillars Marketing On Demand’. This would become a digital marketplace where businesses and entrepreneurs alike could purchase services from academy certified vendors. This platform is tailored specifically for startups and small businesses who may struggle to pay standard agency fees for marketing, design and development services. Need a quick Drip campaign setup? A homepage redesign? A 7 Pillars MOD can turn it around in days, for a fraction of a standard agency price.
As the lead developer on the project, I was tasked with the delightful challenge of designing a beautiful, comprehensive website with full e-commerce capabilities and a robust project management system to allow clients and vendors to communicate and manage projects.
I recently heard Jordan Greenhall (former CEO of DivX), a brilliant tech innovator, state in an interview that “good design is when something makes as much sense from the top down as it does from the bottom up”. This is quite simple, as most profound things are – and with this phrase in mind as a mantra of sorts, I set out to build 7Pillars Marketing on Demand (7Pillars.io). The following is a summary of how I went about it, what components were used, and what I learned along the way.
“Good design is when something makes as much sense from the top down as it does from the bottom up”.
Content Management System (CMS): WordPress
In a world where it is literally impossible to keep up with the rate of technological development, WordPress, after all these years, still reigns supreme in the land of content management systems. This due to it’s UX, range of possibilities, and the robust developer community around it. As a developer, my main gripe with WP is the heaviness of the install. I have spent time with other CMSs and static site generators, the latter of which I am excited about digging deeper into. Having said that, I have yet to encounter a real-life situation in which I could sincerely convince myself that WordPress was not the best solution for a content, marketing, or information driven website.
E-Commerce Engine: WooCommerce
Just as I have maintained a healthy, functional and pragmatic (if not always unconditionally loving) relationship with WordPress as a CMS, I almost always find myself unable to make an argument for a solution outside of Shopify (“almost” being the operative word in the story of 7pillars.io). While there are several legitimate, healthy ways to connect WordPress and Shopify, the lack of access to backend code can limit customizability and lead to a tangled web of third party apps that one can only hope will play nice with each other. In many cases, the clear boundaries and lack of access can actually be helpful but 7pillars.io is not a typical online hub for clothing, kids toys, or other tangible products.
The key question for me was how to create an environment that would allow for the purchase of digital services as products with each purchase automatically generating a project within a native project management system. After mentally constructing several REST Api-based solutions in my head (e.g. WordPress talking to Hubspot and/or Zoho), completely customized solutions (e.g. an AngularJS webapp), or some combination of the two, I stumbled into the wonderful discovery that someone had already built most of what I had been dreaming up!
Project Management: Project Panorama
As it turns out, there are several project management plugins that extend WordPress in various ways and allow for tracking of tasks, sharing of documents, etc. natively on a WP site. The following criteria is what made me decide on Panorama:
1. Integration with WooCommerce
The fundamental crux of 7pillars.io backend is the ability to create project templates, which are linked to WooCommerce products. For example, looking at a “Website Refresh”, which essentially constitutes a home page redesign and 3 other primary pages, I can set this up in Panorama as a series of tasks and sub tasks, each with its own corresponding percentage of total project, expected delivery time, vendor assignment, etc. The purchase of this project generates a new project and access link unique to the customer and assigned vendors.
2. Extendability via Child Theming
My main concern with using a WP plugin was the fear of being limited by the plugin. 7Pillars.io is a wholly unique product and neither Panorama nor any of the other plugins I evaluated would quite provide everything we needed out of the box. Luckily, Panorama comes with plenty of it’s own hooks and filters to be used by developers, as well as the ability to scan a child theme for customized files. In layman’s terms, this means the plugin can be customized to no-end, without the risk of conflicting with updates rolled out by the Panorama developers.
3. Fantastic Customer Support
Panorama is a newer and in some ways less developed product than some of the other WP project management plugins. As such, the developer documentation is not as extensive as it could be and there isn’t much in the way of forums or a developer community around it. These two points will be remedied with time – but in the meantime, the team at Panorama provides very responsive, helpful, and engaged support for developers and non-developers alike.
Building 7Pillars Marketing on Demand has been the most challenging and exciting endeavor of my career, thus far. As a developer, it provided the perfect meeting point for all my realms of experience while carrying with it loads of acceptance criteria and edge cases that required me to level up all of these skills. As a human being who has worked for years in various marketing, design, and development agencies, it’s become clear to me that the services we provide are necessary for success in the digital world.
Unfortunately, they are not often accessible to the ‘little guys’ like startups, local businesses, etc. Marketing on Demand provides a reasonable means of acquiring these services for businesses of all sizes, in addition to providing digital marketing professionals a means to become certified and offer their skills outside the range of clients they would be connected to working under a single agency.
The experience has been quite fulfilling thus far and I know I speak for the entire team when I say that we await the new challenges and opportunities that will arise from this endeavor going forward.