How Your Agency Can Differentiate Itself from Competitors
Take a moment, get nostalgic, and think about when you first started your marketing agency. Whether you started last year, five years ago, or you’re an industry dinosaur, I guarantee that your services have been refined and your strategy has changed.
You know how I know that you’ve changed? Well the industry has changed, and it will continue to change.
Technologies, tools and even fundamental marketing philosophies are sweeping in entirely new fields of marketing to the point where the competitive agency landscape feels over-saturated.
So how do you differentiate yourself from the pack? How can you stand out, attract new clients, offer better solutions, and change the game?
Apply some thoughtful analysis of these five fundamental aspects to your agency:
- Narrow Your Industry and Service
- Highlight the Value of the Analytics You Offer
- A Website Representative of Your Agency
- Social Proof: The Psychology of Online Influence
- Ongoing Education and Networking
Industry and Service Specific Firms Have a Leg Up
Have you ever really broken down what you consider success for your business?
It’s tempting to try to be all things to all people. To complicate matters, different services within digital marketing are becoming increasingly integrated.
For instance, it’s now essential to understand how Content Marketing impacts SEO and PPC, or how Customer Service impacts Reputation Management and Social Media (and vice versa).
Many agencies try to offer a one stop shop solution for all things marketing, but unless you’re a massive organization, it can be a struggle to provide expert services across disciplines.
You need to know the types of businesses you’re targeting, and the industries that they’re in. Insights and best practices in marketing for Lawyers is going to be significantly different than marketing for Doctors or Home Service professionals.
According to the US Census Bureau, in 2013 there were over 7,488,353 small businesses in the US. That’s too many clients just for your agency! You only have enough time and resources to serve a specific number of clients, so why not focus on becoming the expert in a certain industry?
When you focus on a specific industry, you’ll be able to better communicate the value and knowledge you bring to the exact clients you’re trying to acquire. Your agency will have an advantage over those that don’t focus on a specific industry.
This strategy can also be applied to your location. Being the go-to expert in your region for Local Marketing can also differentiate you from national competitors.
Once you have your focus in both industry and services, develop a list of resources and recommended agencies for when you have a prospect that needs something you’re not offering. Not only will other agencies reciprocate the favor, but that prospect will also be a great source of referrals for clients that are looking specifically for what your agency offers.
Analytics Cannot Be Swept Under the Rug
Being able to provide proof of success has always been a valuable way for businesses to indicate how you can help clients. As technologies have developed, analytics have become an essential component of every marketing agency. Even if you’re not offering technical services like SEO or PPC, you still need to be able to report to your clients that what you’re doing is working and worth the money they have invested in your agency.
It’s one thing to have the tools to monitor and report on the analytics you’re generating, but it’s another thing to know what they mean and how to use them.
If you don’t have an analytics specialist on staff, make sure that you have someone on your team learning about the best ways to use your client’s data. Your clients will appreciate the impact that your services are having on their bottom line with statistical proof. The data you collect also presents the opportunity to create informative case studies that will influence new prospects when they’re researching your agency as a solution to their marketing problems.
In RFPs and your own online marketing assets, make sure that you highlight how you use analytics to support your clients and prove results to them.
Have processes and tools in place to start collecting baseline data for new clients on Day 1. After 3-6 months, approach your most successful clients about using their stats and experience as part of a case study to promote your agency. If you’re producing quality results for them, they’ll be happy to work with you to share their successes.
Don’t Neglect Your Website, Your Digital Storefront
Your agency needs a website that appeals to your target audience while representing the expertise, culture and philosophy of your agency.
Due to the rapidly changing digital landscape, if you haven’t updated your website in 3-5 years, your site might already be outdated! It’s time to take a look at whether the current information and design are relevant to what your prospects are actually searching for.
Many agencies spend so much time helping their clients, that they disregard their own marketing efforts. If you’re overflowing with clients and have no intention of growing your business, then it’s easy to see why your own website and marketing assets are not a priority.
But if you have your eye on growing your client list and are adding more expert employees to support those clients, you need to make sure that your website addresses the contemporary needs of the modern business person.
Research your competition and see what they’re doing. If you see holes in their value proposition, you can capitalize by filling in those gaps on your own site’s copy.
You don’t necessarily have to do a full redesign of your website all at once. If you consistently make minor adjustments, getting up to date doesn’t feel like such a massive endeavor.
Social Proof: Spotlight your Client Support
Whether it’s via your website, social media channels or online reviews, social proof is a very real psychological influence on purchasing decisions. Prospects will be researching your online presence and sometimes coming to conclusions about your agency without even contacting you.
It can be frustrating not being able to explain the value of your agency in a face to face meeting or even via a phone call. You need to put your best digital foot forward at all times. You never know who is looking at you.
Beyond your website, generating social proof on third party sites will influence your online reputation and help you stand out from other agencies. That might well be Google or Facebook reviews, or it might be creatively engaging happy clients to get them to share the good word about your agency on social. Their shares reaches their audience, and increases your agency’s visibility. And that’s power!
These are the value propositions, I’d argue, that trump other kinds of marketing because the “voice of the customer” is a more powerful and trusted voice. Online reviews have continued to grow in influence and represent one of the newer strategies that can help your agency acquire new clients.
Additional strategies to differentiate yourself from your competition:
- Be active on at least 2 social media channels (where your clients are active, of course), have social links on your website, and frequently request others to follow you.
- Include case studies of your successful campaigns highlighting the analytics that prove the results you were able to garner for your clients.
- Spotlight testimonials and reviews (from 3rd party sites) on your website.
- If you have a blog, include social sharing statistics on the blog home page as well as each blog post.
These may feel like minor tactics, but they can have a huge impact on getting the word out about how amazing your services are.
Meet People and Educate Yourself
Finding time in your day for your own professional development can be a major challenge, but being up to date on the latest trends, techniques, and strategies will enhance the value you provide to your clients.
If your agency invests in professional development, the best way to keep up is to attend professional educational events and trade shows in your industry. If you work in a remote location where it’s difficult to attend events, find events that provide virtual access, attend webinars or frequent forums and live streams focused on your niche.
The in-person events are where you will get the most bang for your buck. Not only will your agency’s employees benefit from the scheduled sessions and workshops, but these events are also an opportunity to connect with other marketers that offer complementary services or similar services, but in a different vertical.
If you’re looking for a place to start when it comes to finding excellent digital marketing conference to attend, Kristi Hines has put together a fantastic list of conferences for 2016.
Always bring plenty of business cards to the conferences and networking events you attend. There may be plenty of digital alternatives these days, but it’s still common practice to exchange business cards. It can be pretty embarrassing if you constantly have to tell people that you’re out or that you don’t even have a business card.
Even if your agency has been around for a while and you think to yourself that it’s too late to apply some of this advice, that’s never the case. You can always pivot your agency’s strategy, especially if it will help your bottom line and give your agency a more focused purpose.
- Reassess your target audience and decide if it’s more effective to focus on a few specific industries.
- If you don’t currently use analytics to prove the impact of your agency’s services, hire or contract someone that knows how to set up your assets to properly track the data. New clients will appreciate quantifiable results of your campaigns and marketing projects.
- Don’t neglect your website. It’s going to be important that prospects can find all of the information they need when deciding to hire your agency. If there’s info that they can’t find, they might be more likely to go directly to a competitor than ask you about the omitted information they need to make an informed decision.
- The digital world is becoming more social, and other people’s opinions on various social channels matter to your prospects. Use social proof to show why you’re the best in your field.
- Networking and ongoing education offer a two pronged appeal. You’re increasing your knowledge about the industries and services you help, but you’re also generating contacts, who might become clients or refer clients to you based on your interactions at the events you both attended.
Many of these strategies take time. It’s difficult to see results immediately. But like any long term project, the more you invest in your own online presence, the more it will pay off in the long run with plenty of satisfied clients.
About the author: Garrett Sussman is the Content Marketing Manager at Grade.us, the best review management software for local SEOs, Agencies, and Brands. Don't let his short stature mislead you, Garrett stands tall when it comes to pop culture trivia, cultivating his poker face, and soaking up content marketing insights.