Positioning your own marketing agency, part 2: Doing it for ourselves
When we position a brand, we’re trying to create a perception about it in the public consciousness. In other words, we’re trying to carve out a unique position for that brand in the minds of potential buyers.
When you do this for long enough, you find yourself assessing the positionings of just about every company you come into contact with.
And when the company in question is an agency that claims to be good at positioning companies, well, that’s when things get interesting.
A good positioning isn’t a prerequisite for agency success, as we acknowledge in part 1 of this blog series. (We’ve been around the B2B block and worked for agencies with all kinds of positioning – and some with none.)
But it’s pretty helpful, especially when the ability to position a brand is at the core of your offering.
Choose your favourite position.
Often an effective agency positioning is to embrace a specialism. Go all-in on a marketing tactic like ABM, and get really good at it.
Then there’s the other end of the spectrum: the end-to-end, full-service agency: ‘Forget B2B. Forget B2C. Forget specific tactics. We do everything.’
Sometimes a buzzy trend becomes the lens through which an agency views everything. You may have seen the word ‘customer’ followed by the word ‘obsessed’ or ‘experience’.
Sometimes it’s a more emotive call-to-arms that you can’t really argue with. Stuff like: B2B marketing should tell stories, ideally non-boring ones – and be more ‘human’.
(Often the most effective positioning, by the way, is simply to be known for having brilliant, nice people in charge. We’ve seen it work, but only up to a point – if they’re not cloneable, it’s not scalable.)
Anyway, the point here is that unique, compelling agency positionings that actually mean something are hard to come by.
But we know there’s nothing worse than critiquing the competition without offering any bright ideas.
So here’s how we went about our own agency’s positioning process.
B2B marketing needs more depth.
It started with an observation – that most B2B tech marketing is ineffective because it’s too shallow. It doesn’t have sufficient depth to adequately educate the intended audience, let alone motivate them to buy.
This marketing isn’t bad by design. It just tends to be created in agencies that aren’t set up to create effective B2B tech marketing programs. Here are some reasons why.
Too many agency teams lack tech knowledge and expertise. They struggle to understand the tech, so they can’t connect the dots between its features, benefits and the market at large.
Too many teams don’t know how tech businesses are structured – so they find it difficult to unearth the story from the depths of the organization.
Too many teams simply don’t have the time or headspace to deliver, because they’re part of agencies that relentlessly chase revenue and profit at the expense of the work.
These reasons (and more) mean B2B agencies are prone to overpromising. Clients are wooed early on by the big guns and sold a level of service that can’t be delivered long-term. The work breaks down as it makes its way through the bowels of the agency beast.
There’s another consequence to this lack of depth: content programs that over-index on top-of-the-sales-funnel material (which tends to need less technical knowledge to produce than lower-funnel material). Prospects aren’t handheld through their research and buying decisions like they need to be.
Aiming for the bottom
Our solution was to create a different agency model. A lean, top-heavy team of experienced and motivated experts (in strategy, copy, content, design, dev…) who could be hands-on throughout the client-agency relationship.
An agency that doesn’t prioritise growth over quality or spread its people too thin, but instead forms a few strong partnerships with the right clients.
By doing this we could create B2B marketing with depth. We could get under the skin of companies.
We’ve tried to position ourselves as the agency that digs deeper to find the truth, the heart of the story, and to tell it well. To be the experts with the right skills, experience and attention to detail. To be an agency that creates marketing with depth.
Our name, strapline and core messaging encapsulate our positioning. Of course, the name and strapline are just the tip of the iceberg. Messaging isn’t that far below. But deep under the surface, are all the foundational beliefs and commitments.
Ultimately, we’ve chosen a business model that’s hard to scale – and that’s the whole point. It’s simple, quality-over-quantity stuff, and we’re strict about how many clients we’ll work with at any one time.
Now for the caveat.
Our positioning is designed to help us win clients that need the kind of service we can deliver, and share similar values.
But it’s also a constant reminder that we always have to hold ourselves up to our own standards.
We’re broadcasting it because we believe it’s the right model for us and for the kind of work we want to do. And because it’s a way of staying accountable to our clients and to ourselves, now and over the next few years as we grow.
Here’s to not fucking it up!