Modern Marketing

3 Ways to Build a ‘Riches in Niches’ Agency Business Model

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Every company has a niche—even those that serve other companies.

When I was just starting out, I worried too much about whether my focus limited my appeal to prospects. What if they found another agency that offered more services? Eventually, I realized that without a strong position in my own niche, I would never be able to differentiate my agency from the thousands of others clamoring for attention.

Marketers need to understand that opportunity is not limited—value is. Most agencies offer a wide variety of services, but only a few can claim to be the go-to experts in specific fields. It’s tough to walk away from good opportunities, but when an agency defines its niche, it becomes more able to help clients in their own respective niches.

Turning Expertise into Growth

An agency that positions itself as say, the go-to provider for pharma medicines that target menopausal women limits its prospects to a small range. However, just because that range is small does not make it devoid of opportunity.

An expert agency in one field is far more marketable than a jack-of-all-trades agency in no area. I understand that honing a brand to a point can be scary—I went through the process myself. The more I tried to stretch myself, though, the more I realized focusing on one area was the healthiest path toward growth for my agency.

After I defined my agency’s niche, marketing and sales initiatives quickly fell into place. I knew exactly who to target and where they spent their time, both online and in real life. Mass marketing strategies quickly became targeted campaigns, and people within my audience started seeing my agency as the company to call when they needed our type of services.

Even better, people who knew and liked what we did began to tell others about us. Nurturing campaigns turned clients into advocates. Before long, we had a steady stream of new work coming in through cost-effective channels. Word-of-mouth marketing is a vital component of agency success, and by defining our niche, we created more positive conversations than we would’ve by attempting to do everything at once.

How to Secure and Market an Agency Niche

Follow these tips to identify and dominate your own niche in the agency world:

1) Broadcast Your Focus to Employees and Prospects

Marketing leaders occasionally forget they’re responsible for impressions both inside and outside of the company. When you choose your niche, communicate it to both sides, so everyone knows what your agency does best. Every employee should know the company’s value pitch.

Don’t overload people with a laundry list of capabilities and values; keep it simple. A sentence or a short paragraph is all you need to communicate what you do.

Lindsay Grinstead, a recent podcast guest of mine and founding partner of Tonic Consulting Group, told me about a client of hers who spent three weeks on a robust proposal request—but didn’t get the gig. This company was trying to win a big deal outside its sweet spot, but the prospect could tell it would be outside the agency’s comfort zone. If instead, the agency spent those three weeks on a more niche-specific task, that time could’ve gone to better use.

2) Wave Goodbye to Stale Employees

Some longtime employees, no matter how good they were in the past, fail to keep up with constant change. When an agency shifts to a niche focus, employees who refuse to change become stale workers who hold the company back.

People who can’t follow the agency’s new direction inevitably create distractions. The longer they stay, the more likely others will question your leadership skills as you allow non-contributors to remain on the team.

This is an especially big issue on sales teams. When the company shifts to a niche, salespeople can’t always sell to their favorite audiences. Employees will either get on board or they won’t. If they choose to stand their ground, don’t try to drag them along—cut ties and move on.

3) Make Your Agency Invaluable to Existing Clients

Every year, we ask CMOs about their agency relationships. Every year, they name expertise in one area as the top reason they hire or fire an agency. Some clients prefer agencies with extensive experience in their industries, while others prefer discipline specialists. All, however, want partners who help execute things they couldn’t accomplish alone.

In my talk with Grinstead, we discussed the importance of honing the agency’s brand message to show clients why this agency is better than the rest. She touched on her days at a particular agency and how, after 20 years, its core focus never changed, even as it developed new offerings. When an agency adds new capabilities, clients need to know the company will remain a top partner in the areas that matter to them.

Marketers want all the business they can handle. It’s easy to chase the wrong prospects; it’s much harder to say “no” to lucrative deals that don’t match the agency’s niche. However, owners of marketing agencies must specialize if they want to survive. Pick a lane, stay in it, and do one thing better than everyone else.