Picking the right niche can make a huge difference for your agency’s new business prospects. More difference means less competition, for one thing.
There are at least two issues underlying agencies’ lack of differentiation. One is identifying what sets your agency apart. The second is communicating that effectively. Both of those issues bring their own set of problems.
In the past, we’ve discussed how agencies tend to not dig deep enough when they do positioning work on their own. Often they will give up too early in the process and be biased by their insider perspective. The outcome is positioning that is not fully baked; not quite as unique or compelling as it needs to be.
If you haven’t fully articulated what sets your agency apart, how can you know what skills you need to hire for? How will you know what prospects to target? Where should you be looking for those prospects, how should you be speaking to them?
Not clearly communicating what sets your agency apart brings other problems. If a potential client visits your website and can’t figure out exactly what you do or whether you can help clients like them, in their industry, in their region, of their size, they will likely leave and look elsewhere. What starts off as one issue can easily spread until it’s damaged multiple aspects of an agency’s business.
Sometimes agencies try to be too many things to too many people. It’s hard to put a stake in the ground and own a niche for fear of what it might cost in lost business. But getting better at articulating your agency’s area of expertise can make it easier for your ideal clients to find you and make your agency more attractive to them. If your agency has a long list of capabilities, by all means, trim it back.
There are over 120,000 agencies in the U.S, according to AgencySpotter. Some agencies have been able to side-step the agency horde with a unique niche. What can we learn from agencies that have been able to nail their niche positioning?
Carving a Niche
Here are three agencies that have successfully carved out niches for themselves:
Niche: Building mission-driven brands by connecting them to their purpose, and building initiatives that realize their potential for greater business and societal success.
Positioning on homepage: We build mission-driven brands and Shared Mission initiatives that create positive impact at scale
Why it works: Consumers increasingly care about a brand’s politics. For-profit brands that have a “conscience” and are driven by an altruistic message may want to make that focus more consistent and prevalent. Enso’s singular positioning around the themes of mission and purpose make it clear that they are experts in those areas. Additionally, the positioning strongly implies that Enso’s team shares their clients’ commitment to creating positive impact (or making a difference) in the world around them, encouraging a sense of affinity from potential clients.
Niche: Websites built on Hubspot’s Content Management System (CMS)
Positioning on homepage: Discover a new approach to Hubspot website design; Learn more about our disruptive approach to web design.
Why it works: Hubspot is a leading marketing automation and CMS platform. Hubspot customers need website designers that are versed in that platform. It’s extremely clear what Brand Builder Solutions does (build sites on Hubspot’s platform), and that they specialize in it (it’s the one thing they do). Also, the “disruptive approach” is compelling, it makes me want to learn more about what their approach is and why it’s so disruptive.
Niche: Alcoholic beverages
Positioning on homepage: Strategic solutions for wine, spirits, beer & other alcoholic beverages.
Why it works: By focusing on one specific category, CF NAPA is able to offer a fairly broad range of services while still being extremely targeted and clear about what they do. It helps that they are located in the heart of California’s wine country, so they have no shortage of potential clients. It’s clear they have built an unparalleled expertise in their niche, which should put them on the radar of every brand in the alcohol beverage category come pitch time.
How can you differentiate your agency?
Here are a few examples:
- Size, scale (regional, small, international, independent, etc.)
- Superstars on staff
- Market focus (industry, B2B, B2C, etc.)
- End customer focus (marketing to millennials, Gen Z, women, Hispanic consumers, etc.)
Want even more ideas? Here are some examples of “profitable” niches for marketing agencies from Coveted Consultant.
When describing your agency, use caution with terms that are overused or have limited meaning, like these:
- Full service
Is it time to revisit your agency’s positioning?
When is the last time you audited your agency’s positioning for relevance, currency, and consistency? How often do you check your agency’s area(s) of specialty against competitors, either in the search engine results page, or in agency databases? Change comes fast in adland, so make sure you regularly re-evaluate your position, your niche, and consider whether it's time to pivot or refine your agency’s presentation.
Read more about agency positioning:
- How an Agency Brand Audit Can Boost Your New Business
- Positioning and the Art of Agency Branding (Hubspot)
- How to Position Your Agency to Win New Business (Sutter)
- Ad Agency Positioning: 13 Companies That Have Found Their Focus (Hubspot)
- 243 Ad Agencies Share How They are Different from the Rest for New Business (Fuel Lines)
Image credit: © iStockPhoto/oonal