Hello, and welcome to the Newfangled Marketing Podcast. I’m Mark O’Brien, the CEO of Newfangled.
I’m Lauren Siler, the director of marketing at Newfangled.
I’m Chris Butler. I’m the COO of Newfangled.
Today’s topic is this idea of the work you do versus the work you pursue. If you’ve listened to us talk about marketing or Tim Williams or David Baker or Blair Enns, this idea of positioning comes up a lot. Who are you in the marketplace? What stake are you putting in the ground in terms of how you want to be perceived as an expert, and all of us talk about that really being the foundation of marketing. You can’t be a generalist full-service firm and effectively market your firm.
We deal with lots of agencies around these topics. We don’t consult directly on these topics. We leave it to those other guys to do that, but we still have a lot of conversations around that. We stumbled upon this idea of the difference between the work you do and the work you pursue. Just recently, we were working with a firm out of Canada, and they’re an incredibly well-established firm, very successful.
They do lots of deep work globally for lots of recognizable brands, but they’ve been generalized in many ways. We went through many, many conversations with them to figure out how they could retain their identity but still have a very, very sharp marketing focus. Once we got this idea through to them of you can do this work but the marketing is what you’re pursuing, a light bulb went on. The basic idea there is that they can stick to all the industries they’ve been working in because of the size of their particular agency, but they decided to look at what is the best, what’s the right fit client for them in terms of profit dollars, impact, enjoyment of work, interest of work, things like that?
Who’s the best choice for them and what is the best industry for them to market to. When you go to a website, their website, you see different areas of focus, different categories, but all the marketing, their content strategy, their outbound plan, all the thought leadership is very, very carefully focused on an individual sector. That’s the difference between the work that they do and the work they pursue. Obviously, they do a lot of the work they pursue as well, but they’re talking about a broader range of work on the website.
What’s also interesting, Mark is in that conversation watching it click for them was really an enjoyable moment, and it really did have to do with the language that you chose to use. This phrase of doing versus pursuing, but I think another key component is something that you eluded to quickly that we could probably talk a little bit more about, which is the sort of venn diagram of identifying the right fit client for pursuit purposes.
I think that was another component that they hadn’t really thought about in depth until then and I think also had a hard time getting at until we really pushed it. This idea that it’s not just an arbitrary choice of a client that you work with. It’s not just the ones you like the most. It’s not just the ones that you know the most about. It’s not just the ones that you’re the most profitable with. It’s all of those.
Finding the proper overlap of all those factors, and in some cases, that could lead you to a surprising conclusion I think it did with this particular client. Where they ended up in terms of their target was not where they expected to end up at all.
Yeah, you know, Chris, I think that’s a really important point because when agencies are thinking about how to invest their marketing resources, it can be really easy for them to be drawn to simply what they are most interested in doing, but there’s definitely more that goes into it than that. Thinking about what is going to yield the most results for their business beyond what they just simply have an interest in as an important part of that formula.
Right and there’s so much fear, right? Especially with an agency that has not thought deeply about positioning or has just begun to and they’re trying to go from something very broad, very general to something tighter. They’re worried about missing out on opportunities. They’re worried about being out of their comfort zone. It’s like first day … a school, a new school and all of that is something we can totally empathize with and should be empathized with. It’s a process. You have to slowly strip away all these things that are obstacles to being in the right place.
Yeah. I think that’s the thing that when a firm decides to position it can feel limiting at first. There’s this fear that they’re cutting out their options and limiting their area of focus, but that’s kind of what this entire concept of the work that you are continuing to do versus the work that you’re marketing and wanting to bring in ongoing doesn’t mean you have to let go of the other types of work that you’re doing.
You can still do the types of work that are valuable and profitable, but when you’re thinking about what is the most important work to be bringing in ongoing, that’s where you begin to focus. It doesn’t have to feel limiting across the board.
That’s right and the agency that Mark is thinking about is like many agencies we’ve worked with before. They’re big; they’ve got many offices; and they have a lot of capabilities. A lot of their business is going to chug on just as normal through referrals, so they have the freedom to really focus on marketing and go after a certain type of business without worrying too much about losing out on that other stuff because that’s going to happen on it’s own.
We were talking before this, and there are many agencies we worked with, maybe some who are listening now, that are smaller, that don’t have have that level of scope and reach. Maybe they’ve got 2 to 3 customer sectors that are pretty different, but are really meaningful and necessary to them. They’re really terrified about what it would mean to actually not work with those clients but not talk about them anymore, not go after them intentionally or alienate them in some way.
We’ve seen them think well maybe the answer is building through websites or having three completely different marketing plans or cloning ourselves three times essentially in effort and finding a way to do it all. I think what we’re really trying to stress in those scenarios especially is we want you to run one race, the one race that’s best for you, the one that you’re going to win, where you’re most competitive. It doesn’t mean that you completely leave those other clients in the dust.
You can keep that content. You can keep that focus. If that business comes in, you can do it, but in terms of marketing as a race, let’s run one. Let’s not try to run three at the same time.
Yeah, pick the best one. Back to this agency in Canada, during that conversation, we had the breakthrough moment, which as you mentioned really was a thrill. It was a great moment for them; it was a great moment for the three of us together. During that conversation, they were eager. They had the breakthrough. Okay, it’s going to be this category, and they felt sure that was correct.
We said to them, “Listen, don’t rush to that. Take one more week, and again, look at the profit. Look at the kind of work you’re doing. Look at how hard it is to sell into this industry, how much competition you have in this industry.” They did and they came up with a completely different industry, which is huge. They could have embarked on wasted three years of marketing effort. Instead, now they’re going to get the most out of that value, but they’re big and small agencies don’t have the option to do that. Lauren, you and I were in the Midwest recently with an agency that has sort of like in between those two.
Yeah, yeah. What they’ve decided to do and what works well for a firm that does have the resources to do this is to narrow the focus to maybe a couple of different industry sectors. The important point of note there is that they are fully committed to sustaining two marketing plans to nurture those avenues equally. They’ve got two different internal marketing teams that are going to be developing an equal amount of online content to be attracting those people to the site.
They’re going to be invested an equal amount of time and really double the amount of time that the average agency would be using to focus on a strategic position for their marketing. That’s for them going to work out well because they have those internal resources to do that. They’re not dividing themselves in half. They’re just doubling the resources that they’re throwing at it, which would be required to do that successfully.
In some agencies, they’re really structured well to do that beyond just being big or having multiple offices in multiple places. It can be how they internally structured their own org chart to have fully comprehensive divisions, fully self-sufficient self-sustaining divisions that have their own marketing initiatives, that have their own sales initiatives, that have their production strategy. Sometimes that happens by acquisition, like other companies coming together. Sometimes that’s just the way that the business has scaled out. In that case, they can really do that. Like you say it’s a heavy lift.
Well, it’s a reasonable lift for each one. Combined, its super heavy, but they’re capable of doing that. I think it’s really tough when you see that smaller agency trying to replicate that level of effort and burning out in the process.
We were just yesterday having a conversation with an agency out in the Southeast. This is the nice thing, talking about positioning we get to talk about things like this and reference real conversations we’ve had with real people all across North America and look at what the patterns are between them, which is just a lot of fun. Anyway, there was an agency we were speaking with yesterday out in the Southeast, and they said, “Well, we’re having a hard time doing this because we’re not as big as some of your other clients.”
This issues of volume and how many full-time employees you have and the perception and the pervasive perception that more employees means somehow greater ability to execute proper marketing is just false. We don’t see any tie in there at all, and that’s probably a separate podcast topic talking about the play between full-time employees and that sort of thing and what really matters there. In this one case, the example out in the Midwest, the size did matter because they had simply enough people.
They’ve got five different offices across North America, they could effectively execute two different complete marketing plans at once as you mentioned, Lauren, and twenty-person firm’s just not going to be able to do that.
Yeah, size matters, but I would probably say for a future podcast we can have one called “Structure Matters More” because that’s what this is really about. In the smaller agency, I think one way you could spin that is saying, “Yeah, you’re small. It’s going to be tough. There’s adversity, but you can move faster.” When you’re smaller, you can move faster. You can make change happen faster. When you’re big, change management trickling through the agency, that’s a hard job, and that’s why a lot of agencies get entrenched.
They get stuck. They fall into holding patterns longer than even strategically they know they need to be in. Yeah, size matters, but structure matters more for sure.
Well, it’s been a lot of fun.
Thank you all for trodding through this. Obviously, this is a huge topic and again as we mentioned at the beginning, guys like David Baker from Recourses, Tim Williams from the Ignition Group and Blair Enns from Win Without Pitching these are some of the positioning masters in our industry and they’ve got lots of lots of materials on their site, but since this has been such a theme for us lately, we just thought it makes sense to take 15 minutes or so talking about it. Thanks and we’ll talk to you next time.