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Stay in your Lane (and get to where you want faster)
If you start your agency as a freelancer and grow from there – as many do and have – it’s easy in the early years to take on any project that comes your way.
It’s how I grew my marcoms agency, Klaxon. I started offering PR, then branched out into events, then building websites, followed by SEM, and ultimately marketing strategy, identity consultancy, market research and even business planning for start-ups.
Before I knew it, I was doing everything for everyone.
And you know what, I loved it. Variety is the spice of life for me, and every day brought a new challenge and a new way to flex my consultancy muscles.
Then I got too busy to handle all the work and started building a team.
My team members enjoyed the variety less. In fact, it was the cause of many stress issues and dissatisfaction.
I can switch from SEM to brand, from business planning to events. But my team members couldn’t. Or they could and didn’t enjoy it. They wanted to do SEM and websites or run events, and none of them wanted to do business planning.
Not only was this approach challenging for my team, but for clients and prospective clients too.
It’s impossible to build a compelling value prop or position in the market when you’re a jack of all trades.
Sure, you can generate revenue, but you can’t develop expertise. And what marketers want from agencies is specialist expertise to help them overcome a challenge.
That might be expertise around a discipline, an industry sector, or how to overcome a specific marketing challenge. That’s something you can build an agency around.
For example, ‘we’re the experts in Shopify for health and beauty brands’, which is simple for clients to understand your agency and how you can help them (and how you can’t). Much better than ‘we help brands to overcome their marketing challenges as an extension of their team’ – the bland positioning you see from many micro-small marketing agency businesses.
Once you’ve found your area of expertise, stay in your lane.
Build your presence and position in the market. Become the go-to expert in your space and watch as opportunities come to you.
I’m working with a creative business, and the directors know precisely what they will and won’t do. They have a definite picture of the type of projects and clients they will work on, sometimes sacrificing short-term cash-generating opportunities to focus on where they are genuine experts, i.e. staying in their lane.
Ask them to go outside their area of genuine expertise, and the answer will be a quick no. They bring in external and specialist knowledge, where needed, to build the best possible team for their clients rather than trying to learn the work as they go.
This focus helps their team develop the correct type of client and opportunity. It also helps their clients to know how they can help. There’s absolute clarity in the service offering.
But this creative business is outside marketing. It’s an architecture practice, and there are a lot of parallels between marketing services businesses and building design companies. Lots of lessons each discipline can learn from the other.
If you run a small or micro agency, I encourage you to refine your offering and stay in your lane. Build partnerships with other agencies, but if you want to grow, whatever you do, avoid becoming the jack of all trades.
Stay in your lane and get to where you want to go quicker.
Get in touch with us here if you want to learn more about the value of specialising and staying in your lane.