Defining your ideal client and communicating that focus to the marketplace makes a big difference in the effectiveness of any agency’s business development efforts.
It not only helps generate more revenue, it serves to improve the odds that you obtain profitable new business that fits with your strategic direction.
In this webinar, Chip Griffin will walk you through how to define (and refine) your ideal client definition. He will share advice on building this positioning and explain why it increases your opportunity for revenue and profits.
The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.
Hello and welcome to today’s webinar, Find Your Focus Agency: Identity and Positioning. I’m your host, Chip Griffin, the founder of SAGA, the Small Agency Growth Alliance, and today we’re gonna be talking about how you can best focus your agency in order to drive new business and drive profit. And so as part of that, we’ll talk briefly here at the outset about the agenda for today’s webinar.
Then we’ll go over a couple of housekeeping items and dive right into the content. So let’s start with what we’re going to be exploring today. First, we’re gonna talk about why focus matters. Why should you have a focus? Why shouldn’t you just go out there and market yourself as all things to all people?
We’ll talk about the fallacy of the full service agency. Something that many people when they’re first getting started with an agency are inclined to do because they think it opens up a lot of opportunity. But in fact, we’ll look at why it may actually close the. To a lot of opportunities. We’ll talk about the difference between what you may be reading about or hearing about from others in the space where they talk about nicheing down and the term I prefer to use, which is finding focus, and I’ll explain why that difference matters.
We’ll start with what you know, because what you know is going to be the best way that you can start off with the identity and positioning of your agency, whether you’ve been around for one day, one month, one year, or a decade. , we’ll talk about how you define your ideal client and how you can use that in order to tell a compelling story.
And finally, we’ll talk a little bit about your elevator pitch and why. Even though you may not be a startup, which is where classically we think of the term elevator pitch coming from, it’s still important that you and your team are all singing the same song when it comes to talking about your agency.
And we’ll talk about how that can be done in such a way. That it helps to focus your agency’s efforts and also makes it easier for people to refer business to you. So from a housekeeping standpoint, uh, today, uh, as always, the full webinar replay will be available to all Saga Pro members on the Saga website.
If you are here live, you can ask questions using the q and a function that should be located at the bottom of your screen. If you have questions that you’d like to ask privately or something comes to mind after this webinar, or you’re watching this on replay, feel free to email me directly at Chip Small Agency growth dot.
If you are going to share anything that you learned today on social media, I’d encourage you to use the hashtag agency leadership so it’s easy for other folks to find the content. And finally, if you have an interest in learning more about Saga, or if you’d like to check out any of the resources that I may mention today, just visit www dot small agency growth dot.
All right, so with all of that out of the way, let’s go ahead and jump into understanding why focus matters. Why should you have a focus? And the the basic reason is it makes everything easier. It makes it easier, certainly from a sales and marketing standpoint, which is mostly what people are thinking about.
Think about identity and positioning of their business, but the reality is it actually makes it easier for you to produce results for your clients. It makes it easier for you to generate profits for your business, and it makes it easier to recruit new talent. So let’s break those things down just a little bit.
From a results standpoint. It helps you out because you’re able to become. Someone who doesn’t have to creep, keep reinventing the wheel. You don’t have to keep learning a new industry, learning a new challenge and solution. If you’re able to do things and learn from everything that you’ve done before, you can become more efficient in the work that you’re doing, which means you can produce better results for your clients.
You cap produce better results for yourself. That efficiency means that instead of having to have a lot of professional development time invested in understanding the language of an industry or the norms or the outlets that you’re trying to target or, or key things about the audience, you already know those things.
And so you start out, uh, much further down the field and so therefore you can get the same results or even better results in less time. That’s good for the client and it’s good for you. It’s also helpful to have a focus though when you’re trying to recruit new talent because you become known for something and becoming known for something is certainly good from a sales and marketing standpoint.
If you want to generate business, who do you want to to go to? If you’re a prospect? Do you want to go to someone who is known for something or do you want to go to someone who is all things to all people? Now, the reality is focus is also important because frankly, unless you are. absolutely giant. You can’t truly become full service.
And so that takes us to the full service fallacy. And when you try to be all things to all people, it’s sort of like being the Walmart of agencies. There aren’t that many of them out there, and it takes a long time to get there. And part of it is that they can offer. Groceries and electronics and clothing and all these kinds of things because they are of such scale as a small agency, you don’t have that scale.
And so if you try to offer every kind of service to every kind of industry, you’re going to be struggling. You’re gonna struggle to get results, you’re gonna struggle to generate profits, and your team is going to struggle because they’re gonna be confused and they’re not gonna be knowing what goes on.
So you want to specialize. It makes you much more attractive to someone. Think about it in terms of a doctor. If you’ve got a specific problem, do you want to go to a generalist or do you want to go to a specialist? If I’m having chest pains, I wanna go to a cardiologist. I don’t want. To just a, a regular family physician.
It’s not that a family physician might not be able to help me, but I want someone who really understands what the problem is and understands how to solve it. Similarly, those specialists make more money. A cardiologist makes more than your family doctor. You can make more as a specialist agency than as a generalist agency because you’re coming across as someone who actually has the expertise and the ability to solve a particular problem for a particular set of clients.
And when you do that, people are willing to pay more because they feel like there is less risk. And I’ve talked in some of my pricing discussions that I’ve had, uh, on other webinars and some of the other videos that I’ve created. Pricing is all about risk, and so if you’re a specialist, the risk appears lower, which means you can charge more, which typically means better profitability.
It’s also a problem for full service agencies cuz they spread themselves so thin. And so instead of being able to have two people who have a particular expertise, so you’ve got some backup if someone is out sick or someone decides to leave the agency. If you start becoming full service as a small agency, you probably only have one person who knows paid media.
One person who knows Earned Media. One person who’s an expert in social, one person who knows video. And at that point it becomes really challenging because you have a lot of single points of failure. You have a lot of places where the business can fall apart if one individual leaves or is unavailable, or has simply too much work to complete in any given day.
So you want to try to have specializations so that you can build in some redundancies. You can build the expertise and the knowledge so that the whole agency can swim in the same direction and really get the results that you’re looking. Finally specialization means that you get to spend time earning and not learning.
As I mentioned before, if you are trying to be a generalist and working for a lot of different kinds of businesses with different challenges, you spend a lot of time building. Lists of influencers or media. You spend a lot of time, uh, studying the publications and understanding, you know, what kind of language they’re using.
You have to understand what moves the client’s prospects so that you can help them in the communications activity that you are doing to help them achieve their results. And so that’s a lot of time burned. And if you are able to develop that expertise, you don’t need to do that, which means that that same staff time becomes billable time as opposed to professional development time.
And that’s good for everybody involved. So now let’s talk about something that you’ve probably heard if you’ve listened to any other videos or podcasts or webinars in the agency space. And that is nicheing. and nicheing down is a term that I don’t particularly like for a couple of reasons. First of all, the whole concept of of nicheing suggests that this is, uh, really by industry that we are trying to, uh, uh, Increase the focus that our agency has.
And that’s not really what I want you to be thinking about. I also don’t like the term down cuz it’s negative. Right. And so finding focus is the, the way I prefer to think of it because you can find focus in a lot of different ways. And it’s not just by industry segmentation. Finding focus can be looking at any number of different criteria, and I have on the screen here a whole bunch of different things.
Some of them you may have thought about, some of you, some of them may be new to you as far as thinking about how you can use them to develop specialization within your, within your agency. Certainly you want to think about the service or services that you’re providing, but you also want to think about the geography, the client size.
The primary contact. So are you dealing with someone in an A, in a client organization who is new to the role? For example, there are some agencies that work better with new CMOs and some that work better with established, experienced CMOs. . There are some who work better with, uh, younger, um, you know, maybe a, a Gen Xer or a Gen Zer, and there are some agencies that work better with the, the grizzled gray hairs.
And so you need to know who you work best with. Who can you and your team collaborate with most effectively to produce results? And it’s not just about the organization, it’s about the individuals. It can be about the structure of that team that you’re working. Do you work best if they’ve got in-house expertise and you’re supplementing it?
Do you work best if you’re working with a client who has no staff in a particular area and so they’re effectively outsourcing? All of that particular function to you, do you work better with large teams, with lots of decision makers and bureaucratic structure, or do you work better with an entrepreneur of the unit where maybe you’re dealing with, uh, the CEO directly and maybe his or her marketing person?
Are you working with someone who typically has worked with an agency before and it didn’t? Or are you the first agency that that client is working with? That can be a really big differentiator for a lot of agencies and understanding what works best for you and what your experience has been, and we’ll talk about that in a minute.
That really helps you as far as figuring out how to get the focus that you’re looking for. So you wanna think about all of these different characteristics and frankly, things that I haven’t listed on the screen at all. Things that that you may find as you study your existing client. . And so that’s really where you should begin.
You want to start with what you know, and so that means looking at your current and recent past clients. Print out that roster. Sit down, try to figure out for each one of them, were they a good client, a bad client, or somewhere in between? Do you want more of them? Do you never wanna work with that kind of client again or does it kind of depend and so you can work with sort of a red, yellow, green structure for all of the clients that you’ve worked with.
And so as you do that, you start to put them into these different buckets. Once you put them into the buckets, start looking for those commonalities that will help you to, to basically establish a fingerprint for the kind of client that you work best with. . And so find those common structures because one of the things that you’re going to find is that you really need to be thinking carefully about all of these different characteristics so that you can more effectively target the right kind of client going forward.
And the way that you do that is by looking at not just. You know whether or not that client was profitable, but whether or not that client got good results from you and they would agree, they got good results from you, and whether or not you and your team were happy working with them. A lot of times you may find that there are clients that you can make a lot of money with, but your team becomes miserable.
Now it becomes a talent retention problem, and we all know how difficult it is to recruit and retain good people in our agencies. So we need to factor that in when we’re looking at our definition of an ideal. And so defining that ideal client becomes really important, and it’s based on having looked at this client roster, the starting with what you know, but you have to be very clear with yourself about what you do and what you don’t want.
Defining an ideal client is as much about building a list of red flags so that you avoid the problem clients, as it is about defining the, the green lights, the things that tell you, these are the kinds of folks we want to work. Going forward. And so you need to, when you’re defining an ideal client, be really clear and honest with yourself about what those characteristics are.
You need to define your ideal client in such a way that someone who is not an expert in the business like you, but someone with reasonable intelligence can look at this list of criteria and say, yes, company A or organization B is a good fit or is likely a good fit, or likely not a good. . So if you’re able to define it in terms where it’s not, I know it when I see it, but it’s very clear cut.
You’re talking about objective things that someone can look at and understand those. That means that you’re starting to get to a place where you’ve defined your ideal client. You’ve defined your red flags really clearly. Now it’s okay. When you’re putting together your ideal client list to be a little bit aspirational, I would encourage you not to put together a list that just says, I wanna work with the Fortune 100.
A lot of agencies come out and say, fortune 100, that’s who we wanna work with. We want to have those giant logos that we can put on our client slide when we’re doing a presentation, and that’s how we know we’ve made it. The reality is a lot of those clients can be very difficult to work with and very difficult to generate.
Profitable results for, and so that means that you may want to be thinking about how you can be realistic while also being aspirational. And so you may want to balance those things out. In fact, I would encourage you and tell you that you need to balance those things out if you want to create a healthy business.
So make sure that you’re considering those things as you’re putting together your ideal client. Definit. now just because you have this list of criteria for ideal clients and and red flags for clients you don’t wanna work for or with it, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make an exception. and every rule is designed to be broken.
As they say, just don’t be doing it all the time. If, if it, if it’s no longer a rule and it’s just something that you put on a piece of paper, but you still will work for anybody whose check will clear, well, that’s a problem and that’s not going to be a good way to build a thriving agency, nine times out of 10.
So make sure that when you do make an exception, you understand why you’re doing it and there’s a good reason behind it. Finally, I would say when you’re defining your ideal, Don’t worry too much about the competition. And I see a lot of agency owners who spend far too much time worrying about what this perceived competitor or that perceived competitor is doing, how they’re describing themselves.
And I talk with agency owners all the time who feel like they need to describe themselves in some way that is completely unique. The reality is most prospects are not looking for a truly unique agency. They’re looking for a. Fit. If you’re going out, for example, and hiring an accountant, you don’t want one who’s created new rules of accounting.
You want someone who you can work with and who understands you and understands the laws and regulations, and can help you to achieve your goals. If you have someone who’s out there and they’re so unique that they’re creating their own laws of accounting, well, you may end up getting into trouble and you may not get the results you’re looking for.
With agencies, the same sorts of things can happen. There are people out there who want to, to work with someone who is, is like them, who can communicate effectively with them, who understands their needs, can get them the results and the special specialization that we’ve been talking about. Finding a focus helps you to more clearly communicate that to your prospects and more easily find those matches.
And at the same time, repel those who are not good fits because you don’t want to waste your time or the prospect’s time having conversations if they’re unlikely to lead anywhere. And these conversations have to be centered on a story. You need to be able to clearly explain the value proposition that you bring to the table.
As an agency, you want to be able to share your expertise. You want to be able to clearly communicate who you work for and why. And so I would encourage you to take a journalistic approach to this and think about the who, what, why, when, uh, who, what, why, when, how. It’s on the screen. Okay? I’ve, you know, I’ve got myself all confused here trying to name them all in the correct order.
But in any case, you get the idea. Focus on telling that story. Focus on looking at who you’re servicing, the services that you’re providing, why you’re doing it, when in terms of the. , uh, the life cycle of the business or the life cycle of the campaign. Are you a product launcher or are you someone who helps with an existing product?
Are you someone who helps to, uh, a startup company? Or are you someone who helps an established company? Think about all of these things. Weave it into a story. Take your own experience as an owner and make sure that you’ve integrated that into this story, particularly in the earliest days of your agency when you know it’s maybe just you and a few contractors or a couple of employees.
You really have to be the center of it. And so you have to lean into what you know and get that into the story and talk about the results that you’ve created, both in past lives as well as within the agency. Start bringing in, uh, your team as your team is growing, and make sure that you’re weaving their stories into it so that you’re telling this collective story about the agency and what you can do, because you wanna get a prospect excited for what it is that you bring to the.
and you need to speak in a language that they will understand and they will appreciate. Going back to my example of trying to create new rules of accounting, you don’t want to create new language that you have to spend a lot of time explaining to a prospect. And I know as, as marketers, as communicators, we all like to coin terms and, and we like to come up with a, a fancy construct for how we do things.
But I would encourage you, particularly in the early stages, Communicate clearly, concisely. Use the language of your prospects so that they understand what you are delivering, what the value is that you’re providing, because if you do that, you’ll be in much better shape. And you need to think about in this story about the importance of clarity over detail.
and by that I mean a lot of you are spending too much time creating really elaborate slide decks and proposals and websites that have tons and tons of detail, but it’s unclear the real value that you’re bringing because you’ve muddied the waters with all of this. And there’s a real instinct when you’re first getting started as an agency or even when you’re.
maybe four or five years in, but you’re only a five or 10 person team. You feel like you need to justify things. You feel like you need to look bigger than you really are, and the reality is there are plenty of good fit prospects out there. No matter your size, whether you’re one 10 or a hundred employees, it doesn’t matter.
There’s a fit for you out there. Be honest, be direct, be clear, and don’t just feel like you need to start throwing stuff at the wall in order to make yourself look more impressive. So all of this then boils down to having a clear elevator pitch. And this elevator pitch needs to take that, that longer story that you may tell and boil it down to just a couple of sentences.
And you really need to be able to do this so that if you are talking with someone, you can be very clear and say. We work best with organizations of one to 500 employees that have been around for at least five years, that have this particular challenge that are located in the northeast of the United States.
All of these, if the more clear you can be about the results. That you provide and who you provide them for. And if you can do that in just a couple of sentences, it makes it really easy when you’re talking with someone in your network to communicate that. And then they immediately start to go through their mental Rolodex and they can come up with a referral just like that.
Whereas if you just say, Hey, you know, we are a, an SEO agency, or we’re a PR agency, but you don’t give any of that additional clarifying information in your elevator pitch. They’re, they’re, they’re at a loss. I mean, if you say that to me, I, I start going through hundreds of names of people that I’ve come across, but I’m not necessarily gonna come up with a good fit.
One the more specific you are, I start looking at just a handful of names and so then I’m much more likely to be able to make a good. at the same time. When you’re able to boil down this elevator pitch, it means when you’re talking with a prospect, you will immediately click with the right people.
Because if in your elevator pitch it sounds like you are speaking about them and to them they will, that will resonate. They will then, uh, choose to, to further the conversation with you and see if there is some work that can be done with your. , if you just say, Hey, I’m a PR agency. Yeah, it doesn’t mean nearly as much to them.
So you want to make sure that this elevator pitch is really clear and compelling, and you need to make sure that this elevator pitch is echoed not just by you. And this is a mistake that I see a lot of agencies make. The agency owner is very good at. Pitching the agency explaining what the agency does, but a lot of the team members may not be as good at it, and you need to make sure that every person on your team, if they’re asked to give a two sentence description, gives something almost identical to each other.
if you have everybody telling their own story. It really minimizes the impact that you can have in the marketplace and it makes it much more difficult for you to promote the firm effectively. So really make sure that this elevator pitch is something that is, is really ingrained with every team member.
It’s something that you’re, you’ve honed, you’ve got clear. It really resonates. Doesn’t mean you may not have to update it from time to. Your ideal client definition may need to be updated. Your story may need to be updated as as things happen, and so your elevator pitch may need to be updated as well.
But whenever you do make sure that everybody is preaching the same thing and you will get far better results. There’s nothing worse than having a conversation with a prospect and then a team member has a conversation with that same prospect and they are explaining things differently. It really needs to be consistent.
So with that, um, that will bring us to an end of the prepared portion of the presentation. So I would tie it all up with a bow by telling you that you need to really think about how you find your focus, how you can define your ideal client, how you can tell the story around that. If you do that, you’ll be able to get better.
For your clients, you’ll be able to generate more profitability through efficiency. You’ll be able to make a name for yourself in the marketplace so that people will come to you proactively because they’ve heard that you are the agency to go to if you have this particular challenge and you’re this kind of organization.
So find your focus and you will see much better. . So that draws to an end the prepared portion of today’s presentation. This is also where the replay will come to an end. Uh, but for those of you who are here live, I will uh, take some questions at this point and um, I look forward to seeing all of you back here again for another webinar very soon.
If you are watching this on the re. Be sure to check out the other webinars that are in the library on the Saga website. We’ve covered a lot of different topics over the years, and if you have suggestions for webinars that you’d like to see, feel free just to email me at chip small agency growth.com.
And so now we’ll uh, move on to the q and a session for the live attendees. Thanks for joining us.