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Inbound Agency Prediction #3: Agency Differentiation Is Getting More Challenging

Posted by Mike Lieberman on Dec 15, 2015 10:00:00 AM

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Inbound Agency DifferentiationIn my role as advisor to inbound marketing agency owners many of you have asked me to review your agency strategy and specifically your differentiation strategy.

The bad news is you all sound the same. In 2016, it’s going to be increasingly more difficult to tell one inbound agency from another inbound agency.

You all talk about getting clients leads, you all have the required inbound marketing flow chart on your websites, the one with attract, convert, close and delight. Maybe you have different words, but the story is the same. You all have pictures of your team and your cool creative offices but if you were a prospect, how would you tell the difference between one vs. any of the others?

You wouldn’t. You would be confused and as we know, being confused is the opposite of how we want our prospects to feel.  

Going into 2016 now is the time to look at your agency and come up with a way to clearly and quickly make your agency stand out from the 2,500 other inbound agencies circling the inbound universe.

Try to Apply The Remarkable Filter

Seth Godin coined the phrase remarkable and it’s always stuck with me as a much higher bar than simply differentiation. I talk to clients constantly and ask them what makes them special and they go on and on about their people, their services, their software, their experience and their building. Those attributes might actually make that business different but those characteristics are NOT different enough to get anyone’s attention.

The same is probably true in your agency. You’re an inbound agency. That sounds interesting on the surface but so is everyone else these days. Cross that off.

You have great people and an amazing team. Ok, but do you think your competition is telling prospects they have an incredibly average team? No, they’re not, so cross that off too.

You care about leads or you get results. Also interesting but no longer remarkable as a large number of more progressive agencies are saying the same thing.

To be remarkable you have to be saying things and telling stories that NO ONE else is telling. Seth’s example of the Purple Cow is the consummate example. It’s simple, it’s illustrative, it’s easy to share and it gets attention. What’s the one story people would tell about your agency that is as good as the Purple Cow story? If you don’t know it, you have work to do.

What Do You Do That NO ONE Else Does?

This field of inbound marketing agencies is only going to get more crowed as we go through 2016. Look closely at your business and find services, products, processes, methodologies, systems or deliverables your agency provides that no one else does. If you can’t find anything, you need to build or create something. Savvy clients are going to be looking for these elements and if they’re missing, your agency is going to be invisible to prospects. No amount of inbound marketing experience is going to save you from that fate.

Here are a couple of options. You could specialize in a vertical, if no one else is in that vertical. You could specialize on working with a specific size of business. Again, you have to be the only one. You could have unique pricing like 100% per for performance. That would be remarkable and definitely get a prospect’s attention.

Yes, this is hard work and very challenging but you need to do it and you need to do it well.

It Might Be How You're Telling The Story

Some of you have remarkable agencies. I know because you’ve shared your information with me. But I also know when I go to your website or ask you to tell me about your agency the stories fall flat. What you say, publically and privately, does not reflect what you’re actually doing. This is very common across all types of businesses, not only inbound agencies. This is when the inside reality does not match the outside perception.

If this is the case, you’ll need to work harder to create the compelling stories associated with your remarkable elements. For instance, if you have a special social media practice that dramatically drives social engagement then you need to create a story for your agency that sounds something like this…

“We specialize in using social media to get more qualified prospects to your website and then turn those new visitors into raving fans and potential leads for your business.”

“We do that by using our special software, our unique three step process or our team of dedicated social media specialists who all worked at Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter prior to joining out team.”

You should see the difference. These stories are easy to remember. Everyone used to work at Facebook and they use social media to get me more leads. These are the stories you’re looking for and sometimes they're buried in your business.

It’s not going to be easy, but you’re all highly creative people. Coming up with business attributes that make you remarkable shouldn’t be too difficult. Remember that marketing can be and in some ways should be aspirational. This means what you come up with might not be a reality today but if you aspire to have an agency that is remarkable, there might be some hard work internally today to build the business you aspire to have tomorrow.

Start Today Tip – It’s easy. Look at three to four other inbound agencies and then look at your agency. Do you look different? Do you sound different? Are you telling any remarkable stories? If the answer to these very important questions are NO, then you need to get back into the conference room with your team and make your agency remarkable. Don’t come out of the meeting until you have those stories that clearly separate you from the crowd. Then spend the next few weeks making sure that those new and remarkable stories are told on your website and in all your marketing. It might sound like marketing 101, but you’d be surprised how many agencies have not moved from ordinary to extraordinary. Don’t be another unremarkable agency.

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Topics: inbound agency, inbound agency differentiation

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