Posts Tagged ‘unique value proposition’

It’s Okay To Be Different: Positioning Your Agency to Stand Out from Competitors

It’s OK to be different.  When it comes to your agency’s new business program, differentiated positioning is the foundation.

Given the near-demise of the Agency of Record concept, differentiation has never been more critical. Today, clients work with a network of agencies they can draw on, assigning work on a project-by-project basis that plays to strengths. Singular relationships (and the retainers agencies long enjoyed) are practically extinct.

One of the first things I’m usually asked when I first speak with prospects is, “What makes you different from my current agencies?”

If you can’t articulate concisely and clearly what you do, for whom you do it and how, your agency new business program is dead in the water.


Standing Out in the Crowd

Today, you really need to stand out. According to Ibis World, there are more than 66,000 advertising agencies in the United States. Most of these agencies look and sound the same. Their pitches also look and sound the same:

  • Full service
  • Collaborative
  • Wide range of experience
  • Committed to our clients
  • Customize our services
  • Results driven
  • Our clients are our partners

If you see phrases like “wide range” or “full service” in a brand statement, it’s usually a sign the agency has been unable or unwilling to name what it stands for.

Economists would call the market for agencies “perfectly competitive,” with low barriers to entry and products and services that are all too easy to copy.

Too many agencies are fearful that a narrow focus feels small. Consequently, they are unwilling to plant a stake in the ground that says: “This is what we stand for” because they fear missing out on business.

Firms compensate by saying their work is better than that at other firms, and that that’s what makes them different.But simply being better isn’t different. Only different is different.


Positioning Creates Value for Potential Clients

Your firm exists to create value for clients. Positioning is how you articulate that value to clients. Brands sell themselves based on the perceived value, not the costs. But the ever-popular refrain, “We’re creative” is not a credible statement for value-creation.

Positioning is the way to approach prospecting strategy. That means focusing your firm not on a wide approach but on specific markets where you can create uncontested value. Think of this space as the “blue ocean” where no one else is sailing. With today’s multi-agency model, clients want best-of-breed agencies. Think of it this way. If your child was experiencing an irregular heartbeat, would you feel better taking them to a general practitioner or would you seek out a cardiac specialist?

Today’s most interesting and powerful brands are at the edges because they’re doing different things and doing them differently. It may feel like common sense to play in the middle, but it’s actually the least desirable place to be. Safe doesn’t cut it.


Placing the Value Proposition

Your value proposition for agency new business should sit at the crossroads of relevance and differentiation.

Your work needs to be highly relevant to your dream client to meet a need, whether it’s a certain audience, a platform, a style, a technology, or an approach. You can then establish your position within that nuanced space and show how your agency is different than all the others.

For your agency to be profitable, you need to position yourself not just for where the profits are, but for where the profits will be. Your value proposition will produce the most profit when you select a place on the value chain where the offerings are still scarce and underdeveloped.

For an agency used to being a generalist, this isn’t always easy. Positioning means deciding not only what business you’re in, but what business you’re not in.

If you’re still skeptical about the value of positioning, consider the impact it makes in three critical areas:

  • Sales Advantage. By choosing when and where to compete, you gain a real advantage in those sectors. You’ll win more often.
  • Price Premium. Positioned as a true expert in certain spaces means you can charge more for the privilege of working with you.
  • Control. Positioning gives the agency more ability to guide the engagement. Clients are buying the expertise as much as if not more than the service.

Finding the Position

What differentiates an agency from the competition?

Not personality. Not process. Not price.


It is expertise and expertise alone that will set an agency apart in a meaningful way. Expertise allows the agency to interact with clients and prospects from a position of power and knowledge.

How do you determine that expertise? Begin by asking yourself these questions. The answers to these questions will help create a position statement that should concisely articulate the following:

What do we do?

  • What are we selling?
  • Where are we excellent?
  • What are our outcomes?
  • Where are we best in class?

Who do we it for?

  • Audience types
  • Clients
  • Industries
  • Who is our ideal client?

How do we do it?

  • Attitudes
  • Philosophies or point of view

Why do we it?

  • Purpose (Ask if your purpose transcends money.)
  • What motivates us

It’s important at this stage to focus on substance first and style later. Don’t fall into the trap of worrying about “how to say it.”


Showing Results

Services that can command the absolute highest prices are those that the client could never duplicate, no matter how much time and money is thrown at the issue. That’s where differentiation is powerful.

With a clear strategy that makes it obvious that you stand for something, not everything, you’ll stop chasing business and start having business chase you.

You’ll find staff more energized with a more resonant articulation of what makes the agency unique. Their pitches and presentations will be more compelling, delivered with more confidence and conviction.

By playing to these strengths, you’ll see a stronger win ratio. This differentiation will also help align your sales and marketing in a unified approach to themes, messaging and consistency.


Where to Start

Before you begin taking the steps outlined here, it is wise to take step back … way back … and take a good hard look at your current positioning. Ask yourself the following:

  • Does your value proposition feel authentic?
  • Does it make your agency innately and intensely appealing?
  • Does it have strong barriers to entry?
  • Is it hard to find an exact substitute?
  • Does it result in fewer competitors?
  • Can you charge higher prices?
  • Does it make your sales cycle shorter and less expensive?
  • Have you created a new category?

If you answer yes to all those questions, congratulations. My bet is the answer to most is no. That’s the litmus test that a new approach to positioning that emphasizes differentiation is the right path to take. That differentiation will make all the difference. And it’s okay.

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How to Find Your Agency’s Unique Selling Proposition

As the CEO or co-founder of an agency, finding your unique selling proposition (USP) is an important step to long-term success. Your value proposition can go a long way in positioning your agency well in an already saturated market.

You could almost go as far as saying that your USP is what is going to make or break your business. However, it is also hard to define and showcase a USP for prospects when you are still laying the groundwork for your entire business model.

In an effort to help you and your agency, we’ve compiled five simple steps for creating a USP that not only positions your agency well, but also generates new business opportunities as you grow.

1. Hold a company brainstorming session

Come together as a group and throw all of your ideas on the table. Hold discussions on the company vision and the values your company culture is built on. Get feedback on what employees thinks the agency’s strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to client work or overall strategy.

2. Put together a SWOT analysis

Get with your leadership team to go through all of the feedback and ideas from the company brainstorm. While you and the team are sifting through all of these notes, SWOT Analysiscategorize each point as a strength, weakness, opportunity or threat. 

Once you’ve gone through all of the initial feedback, talk with the team on a higher-level about your strengths, weaknesses and the kind of talent you can leverage within the company.

3. Take a walk down memory lane

We’re not talking about taking out old company photos. Think about what you have done for clients up to this point. What is it that clients consistently say that you do well? This can be anything from sales and marketing to operations and account management.

Think about the challenges you’ve overcome with previous campaign tactics and strategies. What lessons or useful tricks came out of those situations? If you can take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly, it will give you a clear sense of where your agency wins the most.

4. Study the competitive landscape within your market segment and industry

Once you have this information, do your research to identify the pain points of your target markets as well as gaps in coverage between competitors. Ideally, you want to find a market segment that the agency has the best opportunity to own and scale with. 

5. Define your comfort zone and where your best work as been done

It’s important to look at the work you have done and establish which projects you felt the most comfortable doing, and which ones were a little shaky. Analyze current challenges and establish how you can fill those in the future. Make sure you measure your performance; where have you done your best work?

Take note of who you were working with, what type of industry it was, and why you think you fit well with that particular job.

6. Thought leadership

Think about it as good karma – and a great way to get your USP in front of target audiences. Put content out that will help people solve problems, and in return, your agency will be at the forefront of conversations in your industry.

This is a great way for your agency to stand out against competitors while also building your brand. It is critical when it comes to generating new business opportunities. By showcasing your knowledge through syndicated content you build authority and trust while creating top of mind awareness with target audiences. 

7. Proof Points

This is where you use actual results (case studies, testimonials) to establish your value proposition in the marketplace. When it comes to nurturing a lead or pitching a new client, no amount of charm or smooth talking will ever go as far as proven results.How can you prove that the skills you have claimed are, in fact, your actual expertise? Take a look at all of your previous successes, and use them as case studies with current and future prospects.

Looking for advice tailored to your unique situation? We’re happy to provide tips and tricks that have been successful for our clients. Feel free to contact us anytime, or tweet  your question to @CatapultNewBiz 

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