August 14, 2021

One of my FAVORITE types of clients to do positioning and copy work with is an agency, especially a tech or marketing agency. Why?

They have MOMENTUM which, when directed appropriately, means fast success.

Agencies also tend to face the same kinds of marketing and sales problems. For example, many struggling agencies have to rely heavily on sales to fill the pipeline and aren't sure how to effectively market all the services they offer. Struggling agencies also have a hard time figuring out what to even say in their marketing.

And even worse, many feel difficulties figuring out how to avoid being undercut by other agencies doing what they feel is subpar work.

In my experience, the problem agencies face is three-fold. . .

Three Struggling Agency Problems:

1. Struggling agencies lack specificity in their ultimate goal

2. Struggling agencies tend to appear to the market as a general "thing", rather than as a collection of experts and expertise

3. Struggling agencies have a "Messaging Gap"

As a result, agencies often see "feast or famine" sales cycles, have a hard time figuring out their marketing, and have a hard time attracting the right consultants to their company to work for them.

Let's break each of those down one-by-one.

1. Struggling agencies tend to lack specificity in their ultimate goal

The first problem I see when working with struggling agencies is that there is no clear and specific goal shared by the entire organization. In these organizations, especially once they diversify into multiple service divisions, goals are radically different. One group may want to grow as large as "the big guys"; another group may want to leverage their smaller size. One groups wants to build more specialization; another group wants to branch out into even more service areas. 

See the problem? It's very hard to gain true momentum, from the quantum level up to implementation of strategy, without alignment. 

I say "alignment is abundance" and in the case of agencies, it means internal alignment. 

In order to do the work of positioning, developing marketing, and pivoting focus, there HAS to be alignment. And so often, I've seen marketing initiatives fail precisely due to lack of alignment. Anything manifested in this environment is bound to be chaotic and haphazard at best. 

The Fix:

The fix is to get SUPER CLEAR on where the agency wants to go. You have to have an end goal in mind. Is it to be the next Infosys? Is it to be known as THE go-to agency for HubSpot? Is it to be the ultimate CRO agency and get $100M in results for clients? 

PICK SOMETHING which can be worked toward. A goal of expanding to 200 employees and having $100MM in revenue may have a different path than a goal of getting the "best" results in the industry and dominating a niche. 

2. Struggling agencies tend to appear to the market as a general "thing", rather than as a collection of experts and expertise

The second cause of a struggling agency's problems is a direct result of number one: agencies tend to position themselves as a general "thing", rather than as a collection of experts and expertise.

When an agency tries to be everything to everyone, they dilute their message and positioning. They also tend to have a hard time keeping experts on staff. 

The agency with generalized positioning and services is now a commodity, rather than an expert (or a collection of experts).

Which means, if the Price-Commoditization Scale™ is accurate, that there's almost no way to get expert-level respect and pricing with that positioning. They will ALWAYS get undercut by lower-priced commodity providers OR higher-priced experts. They can't win!

The Fix:

If you MUST have a collection of unrelated services (as tech agencies often do), then you must do the following:

1. Treat each of the separate services as its own brand, with aligned 11 Marketing Factors, marketing, and sales for each.  

2. Each service should feature individual experts in marketing, especially on LinkedIn, at conferences, and in sales efforts. People buy from people, and your "experts" should be the face of the service. 

3. Within that service, deploy defined offers.

If you can get away with getting more specific, then the fix is:

1. Hone in on the one 11 Marketing Factor that is most important. Is it a unique philosophy/methodology? Is it a person/industry you serve? Is it the problem you solve? FOCUS.

2. Get the entire organization in line with this new focus. For example, if you're pivoting to, "We are the top solution provider in the Big Data space", then you need to make everything in your business align with that. Get your people trained and certified. Get them writing blog posts. Send them to conferences. Develop compelling offers around that. Get REALLY GOOD at speaking the language of that space. Start an ABM campaign around this new focus. Et cetera. 

3. Get good at saying NO to unrelated work. This might mean firing sales people who can't say no. 

3. Struggling agencies have a "Messaging Gap"

Eugene Schwartz "Awareness Levels" turned into a flow that helps you understand copy.

Eugene Schwartz "Awareness Levels" turned into a flow that helps you understand copy.

I've written about the "Messaging Gap" before, but it bears repeating: most struggling agencies have a big, big messaging gap problem. 

What I see most often is that marketing is led by sales and sales messaging, so it's very solution aware and direct, with CTAs of "contact us". 

The number of available leads at this stage is very small, which is why there's so little response to ads run to this stage. 

Struggling agencies often miss the mark on the messaging gap. They either launch completely unware content (e.g., people who don't even know they have a problem!) OR they launch solution-aware content (e.g., case studies and general appeals to be hired). 

The Fix:

1. Figure out your positioning and each of the 11 Marketing Factors™. Don't forget to include sales and service members in this conversation.

2. Once you have these factors, you can then apply them across the buyer's journey and come up with content ideas (and offers!) for:

  • Desire Aware Leads
  • Problem Aware Leads
  • Solution Aware Leads
  • Product Aware Leads

Content should take leads through the journey starting at where they are now

3. Review your current content and fill the gaps. Chances are, bottom-of-funnel content accounts for most of your content, so you'll want to add more top-of-funnel content and middle-of-funnel  nurturing. 

4. Begin launching content ("Marketing for a Year™") and scheduling emails, social posts, blog posts, etc. You should also have come up with potential conference talk ideas, if done right. 

5. Implement tracking of your journey, using a tool such as HubSpot 


Generally, whatever problems you have as an agency are completely fixable if there's the will. And even better, as an agency you likely have the bandwidth to be able to get real momentum very quickly and course correct for fantastic results. 

If you'd like help with this, I've gotten real results for companies like yours. Book a time to talk and let's see what's possible. 

About the Author of This Post

Lynn Swayze

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