Agencies win by focusing narrowly

by Bruce Kasanoff on October 10, 2011

“Once you’ve tasted real expertise,” says David Baker, “You never want to go back to a place where you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

Baker’s firm, ReCourses, advises design, advertising, public relations, interactive and in-house marketing teams. He says that firms in the marketing field are beginning to understand that the best relationships with their clients are ones in which there is distributed control. In other words, each party has to have some control.

Big Duck NYC

Baker observes, “The client’s control is simple to describe: make it difficult to work with them, not pay promptly, not provide sufficient access, not listen to your strategic advice, etc.

“But what control does the agency have? There’s only one good answer to that, and it’s to withhold their expertise. And if it ever comes to that, the agency will know how much control they had by how easily the client can replace them. Thus, agencies with a narrow but deep expertise are in the driver’s seat because they have something the client desperately needs… and would have trouble finding elsewhere.”

In other words, if you are a generic copywriter, thousands of people can replace you. If you write the best copy for season ticket promotions by professional sports teams, you will always be in demand.

How is the relentless spread of information technology impacting this situation?

David argues, “Clients have access to information, which they didn’t in the past, so they can test an ‘expert’s’ ideas against widely published best practices. They also have an expectation of narrow expertise. I call that the Google-affect. If I need a very specific question answered, there is bound to be an expert or more in that field, and Google will lead me to them. That didn’t used to be the case.”

He shared with me a number of examples of agencies that do one thing superbly. Follow these links, and you’ll see the utter clarity and focus each firm brings to their site. There is no doubt what they do, or how:

The Linus Group – marketing for life science, instrumentation, and diagnostics services; I particularly like their opening video

Currency Marketing – changing the way credit unions attract Gen Y

BigDuck – smart communications for nonprofits

Zehno – full service marketing for educational institutions

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

sarah durham June 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm

thanks for flagging Big Duck in this article, Bruce and David! Specialization is key to our success. It’s made my firm smarter, stronger, more profitable and more fun.

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