Marketing 101 for Agencies – STP

Marketing 101 for Agencies – STP

I can tell you from experience that it’s a great feeling running an agency that’s growing. But it is horrendous running one that’s going in the other direction. That’s where our marketing 101 for agencies comes in.

When your agency is shrinking, it goes a little like this:

  1. Client work slows, or you lose a big sexy account.
  2. Your cash flow dries up, and you wonder about hitting payroll
  3. Your team starts leaving to work on better accounts at other agencies, and morale falls through the floor
  4. You begin chasing every possible new business opportunity to keep your head above water

Before you know it, you’ve abandoned one of the core marketing principles – Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning. The result? You start to look desperate, and desperate agencies never win clients. Fact!


Because you make your positioning and messaging as generic as possible to appeal to the broadest audience, you become that vanilla agency—the jack of all trades. You begin competing for clients that don’t deserve an agency. They will be shit clients if you win them too.

So, what can you do about it?

Get back to good old marketing fundamentals. Remember STP – Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning. Here’s a quick refresher:


Segmentation is about defining a target market and breaking it down into manageable groups (aka segments) of similar buyers – businesses or consumers. Typically, segmentation criterion uses demographics, psychographics, geography or behaviours.

For most agencies (or other b2b focused companies), you should start with industries. Look at sectors and segments within it that are big enough to support your growth objectives but, at the same time, small enough that you can become a recognised expert.

Consider the technology industry. Start big; consumer tech or b2b. Then drill down further; maybe you could focus on cybersecurity, cloud computing, or database companies.    


Once you have chosen some segments, you need to understand how attractive they are for your business.

  • What is the market size?
  • What dynamics and macro factors are at play?
  • Who are the 100 pound gorillas?
  • Which other agencies are in this space? 

In short, it’s market research time.

You need to evaluate the segments and decide which you are going to target. How are you relevant to buyers in that space, and crucially how likely are you to compete?

You also need to know what your target customers care about most. This knowledge will help you define an impactful positioning strategy and is crucial for effective lead generation.

Remember, you can’t target every segment. You need to evaluate and target, so choose wisely based on market attractiveness and your strengths and weaknesses.

Be wary of those that are too big or too small.


With the segments selected, it’s time to think about positioning.

In essence, this is about finding a clear, distinct and attractive place in the market. It’s how you want to be perceived relative to your competitors.

Are you the budget option working with SMEs and start-ups, or the recognised expert working with established brands and decent budgets?  

Here’s an example of two simple positioning statements:

  1. We help our clients to grow through digital marketing.
  2. We help innovative healthcare brands to grow using SEO and PPC.

Can you spot the difference?

One has a clearly defined market to play in (segmentation and targeting) and has articulated it to potential customers in that space (positioning).

If you are a healthcare brand, which of those two service providers sounds like the better bet?

You can find out more about marketing 101 for agencies and positioning your agency in our podcast with Roland Gurney from a specialist agency called Treacle.