How did an agency in the middle of nowhere Amish country grow 50 percent at the height of this recession? At a time when agencies around the world are cutting back, down-sizing, reducing staff or just flat out closing, how did this agency seize this opportunity to grow? I recently met a fellow new business person, Lance Baird, whose B2B agency, Godfrey, has been recognized by Advertising Age as one of the fastest-growing advertising agencies in the country. The secret to their success: focus your brand so you stand out in the market.
Lance said this about Godfrey: “Regarding a specialty, initially, to be honest, people were extremely uncomfortable with this position as they felt it confined us. Today, this positioning is not only internally accepted, it’s promoted. We help highly technical manufacturers market themselves better. Period. I think this concept is really, really important for agencies: define who you are or someone else will do it for you.”
Don’t Label Me Bro!
Most marketing firms I’ve worked with are afraid of developing a focus that stands out. They never go beyond the generic “full service marketing firm, great creative, outstanding service” shtick. They never shout from the rooftops “we’re the world’s best at … something, anything!” Without focus you run the risk of trying to be everything to everybody and fail to be remembered – your brand effectively fades into the haze gray of marketing speak. In other words, you become one more marketing firm that is “integrated-marketing, brand-building, highly-strategic, results-oriented, media-natural, crowd-sourced, social-media, idea-driven.” The more precisely you can describe your ideal client, address their marketing needs, and deepen your knowledge, the more new business you’ll get.
Growth With Focus Is Easy!
- Marketing an expertise is easy! If you commit to an area of focus, you then have a very specific client in which to market. Social media makes this more of an opportunity for you than ever. Focus your efforts, build targeted content and get found. New business efforts start to make sense.
- Referring prospects to an expert is easy! If your agency is known as “the expert in …” then it becomes simple for clients, friends, family, and staff, anyone in your network to refer prospects to you. Focus means more leads through referrals – it’s that simple.
- Familiarity makes relationship-building easy! Prospects don’t mind having a conversation with someone who has deep knowledge in their field. They need to know that you understand their specific industry and have something of value to offer. We’re in a relationship business, and relationships drive growth. If you are positioned as an expert, then more people will be interested in developing a relationship with you.
- Winning a pitch is easy! There will be less competition, as you provide specific services for specific clients, in a specific way. Walking into a pitch as a recognized thought leader in a field gives you more freedom. Free to make a solid case for your recommendations. Free to stretch your strategies, ideas, and creative into real award-winning work.
- Growing existing clients is easy! Experts understand how to get more organic growth. As you provide increasingly better service based on your client’s needs, the chance is that you will get more organic growth. Clients will come back for more and often will start spending more with you as the relationship grows.
- Accepting projects outside your focus is easy! Becoming an expert doesn’t mean that you won’t get work outside your niche. In fact, I’ve found that the more an agency clearly defines their expertise, the more their brand stands out. And the more the brand stands out, the more prospects notice. And prospects are busy people, so they really don’t care what your expertise is IF they’ve noticed your brand. Counterintuitive I know, but it works.
If you are unsure of how to develop your unique area of focus, get help. Don’t keep doing the same ol’ same ol’ expecting different results. Don’t go in for half-measures. To focus your brand and become an expert, you must go in 100 percent. Seek out help from thought leaders in marketing, existing clients, new staff, and anyone who can assist you in finding that special niche.
Define Who You Are Or Someone Else Will Do It For You
I thought it would be interesting to see how Godfrey marketed themselves over the last 10 years or so. Going back in time, you may notice a steady narrowing of focus over the years:
1999: Specializing in integrated marketing communications programs, we define, shape, and nurture your corporate positioning through marketing communications. We have the experience, skills, and in-house staff to develop and implement effective marketing communications across a wide range of industries.
2004: A full-service integrated business communications company specializing in strategically driven business-to-business marketing for both national and international clients.
2007: Specializes in developing strategic marketing solutions that drive growth, competitive advantage, and value for business-to-business companies.
2011: Specializes in helping highly technical manufacturers market themselves better.
So Godfrey, throughout the years, has clearly defined and narrowed the focus of their brand. By doing so, they are now one of the fastest-growing agencies in America. The future belongs to those agencies that brand themselves best, don’t compete where the competition is high, and avoid getting marginalized by quicker, cheaper competitors. Agencies are discovering that there are no winners standing in the middle – soon enough they will be forced to move one way or the other.
According to this recent survey by RSW/US over 77% of prospects state that having a focus, or specialization, is important to them. In the notes section of that survey this is what marketers had to say about specalization:
Reasons why Marketers DO want specialization include:
- Agencies can be more focused and strategic when they’re specialized
- I don’t have time to train “beginners” in my space
- We don’t have the time or money to waste.
- We need experts in our industry who know it intimately
Implications: At the end of the day, I personally believe that if Agencies can make the Marketer feel like they know their category (no matter your level of experience in their space), the Marketer will be more likely to feel good about the Agency. I recently wrote a post based on my past two Agency Searches we ran. In both cases, the marketing clients told us that they selected the winning Agency because they “felt like they were already ramping up”. The winning Agencies tailored their presentations to the Marketer, they showcased their knowledge of the space, and they shared smart, strategic thinking applied from the Marketer’s and other industries. In both cases, there wasn’t any marked advantage that the winning Agency had over the other Agencies in terms of category experience. They just came to the table with a smarter, more creative, more strategic, and more energetic approach.
Bottom photo by ~wojtaaa