There’s a fine line dividing what an agency can do and what it should do.
Let’s face it, most agencies could do pretty much anything as once you’ve grasped the basic concepts of design, interactivity and storytelling, it’s not hard to apply them across all sorts of formats. Nowadays the question isn’t what can you do, but what should you do?
If your agency isn’t focussing on what it offers, you can fast become a classic Jack of all trades. Of course, that’s what a lot of businesses want to be, but look at it from your clients point of view. If you’re a small company, will they truly believe you can provide all of the design, print, advertising, web, SEO, TV and so on. It’s just not viable. For one you won’t have the skill set and secondly if you’re a small company you won’t have the sheer volume of personnel – you’ll need to outsource.
If you claim to be doing everything while actually outsourcing, then you’ll be competing against the real big players who are slick and full of knowledgeable people. You won’t be able to beat these companies on the services you can provide, so then all you can compete with them on is price. If that’s all you’ve got as your USP, then you’re going nowhere fast. It’s just not sustainable.
Too many companies start out shouting ‘we can do the same and we can do it cheaper’ but in the creative industries that is a terrible model. Price gives you clients who want everything for nothing. It doesn’t give you profitability and it doesn’t give you growth.
By focussing on a single or very closed group of disciplines you are able to bang that one drum and focus all of your energy on ensuring that people hear the right message. Soon people will begin to associate you with that discipline and when that happens, when you’re already in the back of people’s minds as a ‘specialist’ in one field, you’re already on potential clients’ horizons. If I was looking for someone to help with SEO on a project, I instantly think of two or three companies who do nothing but SEO.
They’re the people I would contact. Simply put, bang too many drums and your message will get lost in the noise. Companies need to know what they are good at and find how they can use that talent to differentiate themselves from the competition. It might be that you are far more creative than anyone else or that you are very technical. I would say use that; lean on it and go after the appropriate projects. If you establish yourself as known, say, for being very technical, then it will be easy for a more creative-led agency to see the benefit in working with you.
Focusing your discipline goes hand in hand with focusing on how you market yourselves. Small companies don’t have huge marketing budgets and it is so much easier to promote yourself when you’ve only one identity to push. By dividing your efforts and your resources between too many specialities you might soon find that your marketing becomes a drop in the ocean.
In my experience it is best to focus all that energy, time and money on shouting about one thing.
If you’re starting out, you may not yet know which sector or discipline you would like to specialise in. That’s fine, carry out a few projects, see which ones best fit your company, which ones you are good at and let it come organically. But when you do find that speciality, you should really jump right on it.
Though 3 Sided Cube started out offering a few different disciplines, it became a no-brainer to pursue just the one. We saw that the app market was growing, had lots of opportunities and so we went after it. Yes, we lost work; we could have taken on lots of work handling web applications as well as mobile, but in the long term it has strengthened our brand within a niche market.
In turn this has allowed us to take on large clients like Boots, who would have laughed a small agency like us out the door had we claimed ourselves able to create their site, their mobile, and their advertising.
Ultimately, focusing on a single discipline has made our name, won us clients and allowed us to grow.
While there are many noble goals in the creative industries, 3 Sided Cube’s chart-topping Red Cross app has saved countless lives during US natural disasters and took them to the White House in 2012. Top that!
Illustrated by Studio Ade
- One Thing I Know