Digital marketing agencies have a lot of choices to make – what tools and technologies to choose, what media formats and social networks to focus on, etc. But before and below all of those is a fundamental decision that should guide everything else we do: What kind of clients are we trying to serve?
A lot of agencies make the decision early on to target a specific niche or industry. There are digital agencies that work only for restaurants, or dentists. Search Google for “advantages of niche marketing”, and you’ll find a series of listicles espousing the benefits of this single-minded focus. They have some good points, and we’ll talk about those, but we’ve chosen a different path, maybe a harder one, but one with some big advantages for both us and our clients.
Why Go Niche?
The proponents of niche marketing aren’t wrong. There certainly are benefits. For one, it’s easier. When you target the same kind of business over and over again, you don’t have to re-invent any wheels. You can be much more automated, creating a process and repeating, rather than working so hard for each new client. There’s less competition and a clearer case to make to new clients, since the agency has made sites and managed accounts just like theirs before.
There are also advantages to the client. Especially in certain industries, specialized knowledge does have value. An agency that only represents physical therapists knows more about physical therapy than we do. That experience can allow for certain problems and opportunities to be spotted before they happen, and it would be dishonest to suggest that doesn’t have value.
So Why Not Specialize?
A lot of digital ink has been spilled on the advantages of specializing in a particular field, and as we’ve acknowledged, those advantages are real. But what gets less attention – not enough attention, in our opinion – is the down side of niche marketing. It’s about representation and avoiding conflict of interest.
Let’s imagine a digital agency that targets music shops. They have specific features ready to go for each new client, like music-related WordPress plugins and themes, relationships with big instrument companies, etc. They promise great search engine rankings, advertising placement, and link building to raise the profile of this new music shop. The problem is, some of these areas are competitive. Every time one music shop rises in Google results, another falls. Each link opportunity is only going to go to one (or at most, a few) clients.
At some point, the agency has to start playing clients against each other, whether explicitly or not, and we think that is a major conflict of interest.
It’s an old-fashioned idea, that a marketing agency wouldn’t just contract with their clients, but represent them. Exclusivity is necessary for real representation, because that kind of service means more than just slotting another client into your system. It means being a cheerleader and advocate for that client, their brand, and their goals. It means recommending them and referring them business. It means succeeding when they succeed.
We want that kind of relationship with our clients. If you’re an entertainment blogger, you’re going to be our only entertainment blogger. If you make jewelry, we want you to be the only jeweler in our client roster.
The Fun Factor
We’d rather run a garden than a factory, and the best gardens are the ones with astounding variety.
Factories are great for manufacturing lots of the same thing. They’re efficient, and their products tend to be both inexpensive and reliable. But there’s something to be said for the attention and innovation that happens when you make or grow something by hand. Factories have their limits, and frankly, being a factory doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to us.
We love working with new clients in all sorts of fields, partially because we can bring new insights from other industries that a specialist might not have, and partially because it’s fun and interesting. Coming from the freelance world, we tend to be dabblers, choosing a lot of different experiences over one single-minded focus.
In the end, it comes down to a choice, both for digital marketing agencies and their clients. We choose diversity over repetition, and representation over specific experience. We won’t be the right fit for every client, but the ones we do represent, we will represent wholeheartedly and without conflict. That’s the choice we’ve made, and we’re excited to work with people and companies who embrace that same kind of relationship. If that’s you, let’s talk.
Next Article: Delegating When You’re a Business of One