SpecialistI have to admit, I was somewhat surprised when I read our latest National survey among Agencies and Marketers: 2013 RSW/AgencySearch Agency-Marketer National survey.

We always knew that agency specialization was important.

We see it every day when we represent our agency clients on the new business side of our business.  The tighter we can be when we reach out on their behalf by either shouting out a specific category or media expertise, the more successful our efforts.

But we also knew that talking and presenting an expertise didn’t mean you had to dedicate your entire being (agency) to that space.

And you, the Marketer, confirmed  it in our latest National survey.

Close to 60% of marketers state that an agency only needs 50% or less of their business focused on a sector to be considered a specialist.

This is great news for agencies who are being told otherwise.

In this latest survey report I tell the story of a client we represented whose positioning when we walked in the door was all about “expertise in service marketing”.

It was a great story because he had the chops AND the content to back it up.  He was an avid blog poster (of content that showcased his thought leadership in the space), he developed great mailing materials for our program, he supported our efforts with all the right tools.  And the beauty of the positioning was it was broad enough where we could touch a whole lot of folks across a number of service sectors, so the opportunities were there.  We did a nice job of opening up doors and he won some business in a few different service sectors.

One day a consultant walked in the door and suggested he needed to dial it down even further, so he did.  The suggestion was that if he became the expert in a finely tuned space…if he built it, they would come.

So this agency opted to focus on a specific space within the service sector, one not known for big spending, but one where this agency had a fair amount of experience and this consultant felt he could “own”.

At the end of the day, the positioning proved too narrow, the prospects database was too limiting, and the time it took to “re-establish” his entire agency’s positioning created some serious financial ills for the firm.

While you tell us that you value specialization (77% of Marketers say it’s important), fewer of them (47%) relative to their agency counterparts (62%) think it is more important today than it was 3-4 years ago, suggesting a possible change in attitude.

What you tell us is while important, it’s good to have some other perspective.  perspective

Some of your open-ended comments as to why not having a 100% focus on a specific sector is good support this:

  • Adds different perspective
  • Advertising methods are changing too rapidly
  • Strategy should cross specialties
  • More important to get ideas across industries than from within industries
  • I see too many agencies in our vertical get stuck in the same ideas
  • Specialization is not forward looking

I think that if an agency can make you feel like they know your category, they can share smart, strategic thinking applied from the marketer’s industry and other industries they’ve worked in, show a lot of enthusiasm, and present some great ideas to move the business forward as a result of all of this…this is what will win the day.

Simply being an expert isn’t the answer.