​By: Drew McLellan 

Despite their best efforts to stand out, nearly every agency looks, sounds and acts just like every other one. We all think we have figured out how to differentiate ourselves using catchy tag lines and clever techniques, but from the outside looking in, it’s hard to tell the difference from one to the next. 

Don’t believe me? See whether any of these phrases ring a bell: 

• “We are a full-service integrated marketing agency.” • “We partner with our clients.” • “We’ve been in business for X years and have more than X years of experience.”

Don’t Please Everyone All The Time -  New avenues of competition are part of the reason for this. Agencies are now commodities competing with freelancers and others who take advantage of low barriers to entry. Differentiating your agency from the masses requires clearly defined areas of expertise. Clients want specialists, not indistinguishable, cookie-cutter generalists. According to our research, one of the biggest factors for clients choosing an agency is industry-specific expertise, which they define as having 25-50% of the agency’s business in one industry. 

Although most agencies struggle to stand out, differentiating isn’t as hard as it seems. These four strategies help the most successful agencies split from the pack and say something interesting, while other companies waste their breath trying to shout louder than everyone else. 

Ideally, you need four areas of expertise or industry specialization. We all watched entire market evaporate in the recession of the late 2000’s, and agencies that served only single markets dried up with them. Standing on a four-legged stool lets you invest 25% of your business in different markets, meeting the 25-50% specialization criteria of your clients while insulating you from disaster should one niche dry up.

Create a philosophy around how and why you do what you do. Take a specific position or point of view that puts you squarely on one side of an argument, then merchandise that position heavily to the client base to which you want to appeal.

Specialization works even better when it extends beyond client selection and into services provided. Choose a specialization like SEO, public relations, branding, or digital media. Don’t do generalist work - do one thing better than everyone else. 

Are you fully virtual and therefore less expensive than others? Do you have only senior-level executives on your team, ensuring that no client works with a rookie? Does everyone on the team have client-side experience? Make your structure stand out by building a company that doesn’t look like any other. 

Differentiate Your Agency (for real)  1. Create a four-legged stool  2. Believe in something 3. Specialize further 4. Build a unique structure 

A Different Avenue of Success  You can’t serve everyone and expect to stand out from the other agencies trying to do the same. Differentiate your business at every opportunity, and clients will flock to you for the specialized services you provide. This is how we make the BAG difference with each and every one of our clients.