Updates on my latest posts by email

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Getting on the client radar - part 1 brand

If you're a start-up agency or an agency with a relatively low profile, getting on the radar of prospective clients and earning a place on a pitch list can be really tough. It helps if your key members of staff have a personal brand and a portfolio they can trade on. It also helps if you have a client that is willing to be an advocate for your work. If you don't have either of these two things then how do you put your agency on the map?
A truly unique proposition

Developing your brand and service proposition is the obvious place to start when considering your new business strategy. A compelling and unique proposition increases the chances of you getting noticed, it helps to clearly differentiate you from the competition, and it informs how you think and act as a business.

Your brand proposition must be based on a belief system, your organisational values and a point of view that is easy to understand, unique and compelling. Ultimately the proposition must be true to your personality and strengths i.e. articulating (simply) why you do what you do, not what you aspire to be.

There are four alternate strategies you could consider for your agency brand and it will depend on your agency skill set and the talent you employ, and whether you specialise in a particular discipline or disciplines:

Your proposition could be:
  1. Relationship led e.g. Good Works® - Karmarama, a service POV that underpins their ethical approach to business and their promise to always put their customers (and staff) above everything else. 
  2. Strategy led e.g. Predatory Thinking® - The Gate, a strategic POV which defines their approach to developing competitive business advantage for their clients. 
  3. Creative led e.g. Fallon or Saatchi & Saatchi, who believe in the unreasonable power of creativity and it's ability to help businesses to outsmart rather than outspend their competitors.
  4. Service led e.g. Energising Ideas -  McCann Enterprise, who offer brand strategy and integrated comms with the aim of engaging all stakeholders not just customers.
I've found from personal experience that employing an industry specialist PR agency during the development of your proposition will help you better understand the competitive landscape. They provide a valuable second opinion on whether your proposition is truly unique and if it will cut-through, giving you a fighting chance of gaining the media exposure you need to develop your reputation. An outside perspective will also help you to stay focused and encourage you to sacrifice everything that does not fit with your proposition, beliefs and ways of working.

Whatever route you chose to go with your proposition, you must ensure that it is Marmite. Some people should love it and others hate it because there is no room for indifference. By creating symbols of re-evaluation which represent your unique POV, breaking with typical agency conventions and seeking to change how clients view agencies, you stand a better chance of being considered as a viable alternative to more established competition. Your overriding aim must be to place yourself in an entirely separate space.

When your proposition is in place, look inward rather than knee jerking into a external launch. Your staff need to understand and then engage with your business strategy if they are to embrace who you are and commit to vigorously pursuing your business objectives. That doesn't mean launching it with a presentation and a few cocktails, it means involving your people in the process of developing and implementing your strategy and engaging employees in conversation across every function of the business. It also means making some tough choices on staff recruitment and retention.

As a challenger brand you will inevitably encounter the inertia and resistance that every business experiences in a mature market dominated by a few big players and saturated by a plethora of others. That's why overcommitment and a desire to do what everyone else is either unwilling or incapable of doing is essential if you want to stand out. Clients must perceive you as a can-do agency that is willing to adapt and innovate to suit the business and industry you are servicing.

With a solid brand and business strategy in place you have the foundation from which to take your proposition to market and begin the process of actively engaging customers, the media, key opinion formers and prospects. Part 2 will address some of the methods I have used for agency sales and marketing that I have found to be effective in engaging organisations and driving client acquisition.