Know what you’re NOT great at, not just what you’re great at.

Here is the third topic in the series from the report “Survivor to Thriver”. (In Survivor to Thriver we interviewed agencies that had turned around the performance of their business from under-performance to astounding results.)

Too often we see agencies chasing after everything and anything as long as it’s revenue whether in their sweet spot or not, whether in their core competency or not.  They try to be everything to everyone. They seek revenue to pay the bills, not necessarily profitable revenue. It’s better to be brilliant at a few things rather than average, or mediocre, at ten things.

The Thriver agencies had taken time to develop a compelling value proposition that resonated with clients and prospects. As well as being clear what they did, they were also clear what they didn’t do. They knew that being able to say ‘no’ is vital. One danger is that when we take on work in peripheral areas it is likely our work will be ‘average’ at best. That average work tarnishes the brilliant work in our sweet-spot.

Clients typically ask agencies “What do you do?” “What’s special about you?”

Too often the answers are clichés and truisms which many other agencies will trot out. When the client hears truisms and clichés it just confirms in their mind that ‘you’re just the same’ in which case price will be one of the most critical factors in the client’s choice.

Agency differentiation continues to be a challenge for many agencies. With the blurring of the lines between different agency disciplines this becomes even more critical. This needs to be a considered decision requiring agency heads to really stop and think.

A clear value proposition also excites your people to want to go on the journey towards excellence and being well known for excelling in certain areas. When you get known for excellence you can charge premium prices or at the very least not be battered down by procurement as you become the agency of choice. When your agency becomes known for particular work, clients will beat a path to your door and want to work with you.

This is a virtuous spiral upwards. Brilliant work leads to higher value and more delighted clients. That leads to increased agency confidence to do more brilliant work, charge the right price and be more selective over which clients they want to partner with. Churn of the agency’s people reduces as employees feel they are themselves growing and delivering work that they are proud of. Their pride in the agency’s work grows.

I recently worked with an agency that specialises in a specific target group and during one of the workshops we develop their value propositions to position them more credibly and also more persuasively. I predict that the agency will be more confident in front of clients and prospects especially when asked “so what do you do?” and the answer will be more compelling to clients.

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