You hear it all the time – brands are moving more advertising and marketing functions in-house. From media buying to SEO to full service offerings, every day brings news of another brand deciding it’s better, and cheaper, to do it themselves. Brand experience is the same. As brands embrace experience-led thinking, they tend to hire internal experts who understand creative through the traditional experience lenses of activations, pop-ups and live events.
This leaves your agency with two options – either expand your offerings and cast a wider net for more opportunities or waste time going against the current. But moving out of your niche causes your agency to be spread too thin. As a result, you’ll find yourself relying on freelancers to fill in the gaps and run the risk of damaging relationships and reputations by underdelivering. We’ve also seen agencies start to create friction with clients’ internal agencies who are trying to protect their shrinking piece of the pie. Both approaches can create barriers to sustainable agency growth.
We suggest a third option for success.
Focus. It’s not a dirty word. Go narrow, clearly identify where you excel, and make it your mission to be absolutely best in class in that area. All too often we see agencies who have a fear of focusing and differentiating themselves because they are afraid of leaving money on the table.
Brand marketers continue to turn to those who know a subject area, a target audience, a technology or tool, or a sub-discipline of marketing and advertising. They want genuine expertise over generalization. This should resonate with you more than anything. Whether you are partnering with in-house teams or part of a multi-agent effort, in order to adapt to today’s landscape, narrowing your focus should become your new normal. While it may mean closing off certain revenue streams (in the short term), it ultimately future-proofs your agency by making you an ideal partner with valuable expertise.
But how do you narrow your agency focus? To get started, here are two things to consider.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses.
This one is trickier than most think. If may seem risky to lower the number of revenue generating avenues in front of you, especially when times get tough, but the truth is, expertise will always be valued. It is critical to assess what your agency does well, and strengthen in these areas. At the same time, be intentional about removing offerings that aren’t at the core of your business, or within the capabilities of your own team. Expertise will ultimately lead to increased trust and more honest, profitable relationships.
Build relationships with trusted partners.
“It’s only by saying “no” that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
We know you don’t want to say no to a prospect or client, but it doesn’t mean you should be quick to say yes. As you eliminate your non-essential offerings, reach out to partners that are experts in that field, and cultivate new relationships with them.
If clients ask you to take on something outside your narrow focus of expertise, suggest sharing the load with a trusted partner. The benefit of this is you keep your trusted relationship with the client while also building a strong relationship with partner agencies. As a result of this, there could be reverse opportunities as those partners begin recommending your team when in similar situations. It can feel risky to ask for help, but if you’ve laid a solid foundation, you should be able to avoid a situation where you underdeliver.
Here are the benefits of narrowing your focus and finding your true point of difference.
When you offer everything, you’re really competing with everyone.
A few things happen when your agency finds the importance in narrowing your focus and becoming the best at your niche. You may notice your competition is virtually eliminated. The more you focus on your niche, the less other companies will offer what you offer. Once you determine your focus, your competition will be a fraction of what was there before, and you’ll realize only a handful of agencies are doing exactly what you are.
When you narrow your focus, your competitors can become partners.
After eliminating thousands of agencies that were once your competition, you’ll find you now have many potential partners. You’ll also realize there are so many companies with complementary services to a similar client. This aspect of narrowing your focus could lead to the greatest amount of growth for your agency. Coming together with other partners who specialize in different skills in the same industry can help achieve the greatest outcome for clients.
Improvement at a faster rate.
Practice one thing for hundreds of hours instead of hundreds of things for one hour.
Once you eliminate the other things that were dividing your attention, you’ll soon realize your can spend so much more time learning and practicing on your area of focus. You will find you can keep up with the latest methods and trends within your niche that you never had time for before. A narrow focus helps you improve at a much faster rate.
The most important benefit of narrowing your focus is the increased value you can bring to your client. When you provide a specific service for a specific industry, you are better and faster at solving problems. You’ll understand the needs of your client quicker with less of a learning curve on each new project. It may seem like you are eliminating potential clients once you find your niche, but remember how valuable you’re making your agency to the clients that are right for you. Ultimately, you’re growing your pipeline and your business.
We are all living in a world of sameness that needs more specialists.
Think of all the revenue generating opportunities you will create when you excel in your uniqueness. A tight focus on your core expertise ensures your agency is easy to buy and difficult to dismiss. That’s what true differentiation is all about.