How are we better than other digital marketing agencies?
I started asking myself that question last Fall. And the more I tried to answer it with conviction, the less confident I became.
For the last 5 years, my answer was rooted in better. Better process. Better talent. Better experience with the SMB. Better results (boy have we touted that).
“We’re just better, Mr. Potential Client.”
There are numerous problems with the BETTER argument (see “More Better” Is Not a Strategy), but here’s what really rattled my cage as we started this process.
If every agency is saying the same thing (“We’re just better...”), are we really that different? Are we truly separating from the pack? Can prospects see and compare tangible differences?
Let me save you the analysis. NOPE.
If we look and sound like every other agency, then...
How are we going to:
- Deepen our expertise? (and prospects recognize it vs other agencies)
- Attract the right clients? (because of our focused expertise)
- Do exceptional work? (because of #1 & #2)
- Not be washed away into the sea of mediocre agencies? (drown is probably the better word, but let’s not be dramatic)
Scary reality? Yes. Motivation for change? HECK YES.
A blog like this could quickly get loaded with unnecessary details, so let me share the most critical aspects of ProtoFuse’s repositioning in Q&A format.
Let’s start with the meaning of positioning in this context.
What does “Positioning” mean?
Tim Williams from Ignition Consulting Group explains this way better than I ever could.
Positioning = Deciding what not to do.
He goes on to say:
Seth Godin says “What makes a great museum is the stuff that’s not on the walls.” Similarly, one could argue that what makes a great agency are the things they don’t do.
How were we NOT positioned well?
Two words: FULL SERVICE. From 2005 to 2012, we wore the label as a badge of honor.
We designed and developed websites and custom web applications. Dabbled in branding (logos, brochures, flyers, business cards). We did UX. We offered SEO and Content Marketing services. We developed curriculum for Training and Workshops. We even hosted some of our clients’ email (what were we thinking?!)
And we did it for anybody (B2B, B2C, Non-profit) that had money to spend.
Did we ever try to re-position prior?
2012 — the year of quasi-positioning.
We sharpened our offering slightly. We dropped web applications, branding, email hosting, and few other things. We put a focus on working for just small to mid-sized business and an emphasis on conversion-focused websites (hoping our outspoken despise for brochure-websites would provide a competitive edge).
All good steps, but not enough because:
- We still were void of VERTICAL positioning (no specific industry focus)
- We hadn’t stopped enough services to claim actual HORIZONTAL positioning
What was the tipping point that started this REAL positioning change?
Last Fall I opened ProtoFuse up to an objective perspective, something I hadn’t done prior. It undoubtedly took some courage.
I hired David C. Baker for that objectivity and had him perform his New Business Audit — which is rooted in defining a strong positioning. While undertaking this advisement, I attended one of his conferences in Nashville and read his book Expertise.
All these exercises, research, and dialogue validated my concerns I had with the outcome of our quasi-positioning in 2012.
So, what’s our new positioning?
We’ve decided on vertical positioning offering:
- Digital Marketing Services, to...
- Mid-sized Business-to-Business companies in the US, with...
- Revenues ranging from 5M to 250M, that sell a ...
- Technology-focused product and/or service
Why Mid-sized B2B Technology companies?
- Been there, done that. We’ve done some incredible work already in this space. See Cactus Tech, Contec DTx & Falcon’s Creative Group -- and we want more.
- Alignment. The challenges B2B companies face with their digital marketing align more with our experience, skill set, and offering (vs B2C companies).
- Revenue goals. B2B Tech companies trying to reach and exceed 10 Million in revenue (the pivot point from small business to mid-sized) require a short and long-term plan. We know what works and doesn’t (see #1 & #2).
- Technology is fun. We find clients with a technology product/service incredibly interesting and the collaboration required continually challenges our team (a wonderful added benefit).
What was our OLD positioning statement?
We help small to mid-sized businesses build intelligent, results-driven websites that inspire conversion, generate qualified leads & drive more sales.
What is our NEW positioning statement?
We help mid-sized B2B Technology companies sharpen their digital marketing to boost qualified leads and improve sales efficiency.
What services are you Adjusting/Removing?
Many of our services, because of our quasi-positioning in 2012, will remain unchanged. The significant change is WHO we’ll offer these services to HOW we’ll package them up moving forward.
- Content Marketing Training & Workshops. Initially created for anybody and everybody, we’ll tighten this curriculum specific to B2B.
- Ecommerce. It’d be rare for a B2B company to sell their services/products online.
- Small one-off service engagements. We used to offer specific services (SEO, Content Marketing, etc.) starting at $2,500. We’ll be raising the minimum level engagement for these under our Website Consulting umbrella offering.
- Conversion-focused Websites. Only available to prospects in our new positioning.
- Conversion Analysis & Testing. Honestly, we didn’t put in the hard work to offer and grow these services outside of designing a conversion-focused website.
What services are you Adding?
We’ve been intentionally hands-off in some areas of digital marketing for the last 5 years, but in interest of offering more holistic digital marketing solutions to these types of clients we’ll be adding:
- Paid Search Engine Marketing. We only offered Organic prior.
- Social Media. Curation, Planning, and Posting.
- Marketing Automation. We became a SharpSpring partner last year.
What happens to existing clients? (who are not a B2B Technology company)
We know A LOT about all our clients’ businesses. We’ve had a front row seat to what’s working and what’s not for many years (some for 8+ years!)
We are not going to leave them high and dry. We’ll continue to grow and support their website and digital marketing until we feel our new positioning is getting in the way of providing value. There will be some specific changes, and we’ll be communicating that directly with them.
If our new focus prevents us from delivering results (which we take seriously), we’ll help transition them to a new home.
We promise not to cry and make it weird. :)
How long will this entire process take?
The act of positioning well month after month is indeed a long-term goal. This is going to take work now and into the future.
But, the initial act of choosing our new positioning and making the immediate critical changes will take us 12 to 18 months. We officially declared our new positioning in January, so maybe by January of 2019, you’ll see ProtoFuse in a whole new light.
Are we excited?
Does a dog like a bone?
It’s challenging to balance existing client work and completely rework our marketing and sales strategy. But, we’re making incremental changes every month. And that feels like progress.
If you’re an existing client and have concerns, you have my email address. Please reach out and let’s talk more!