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Agency Positioning: Standing Out in Crowded Markets

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Updated on:
February 27, 2024
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An agency’s job is often to help clients stand out from the crowd. This might be done through excellent marketing techniques, eye-popping designs, or unparalleled recruitment strategies. However, who is helping agencies set themselves apart from the competition?

The answer is, of course, the agencies themselves. This can be a challenge when you’re not sure exactly what it is that makes you unique. That’s where agency positioning comes in — a strategy that takes your defining characteristics and uses them to position yourself ideally in your market. These characteristics include defining what problems you solve and what makes you the best at it, letting build from that foundation.

Excellent positioning empowers your agency to edge ahead of competitors and close deals with even the most discerning and demanding clients. This article looks at other benefits great agency positioning brings and how to get started with your positioning strategy.

Agency positioning: What does it mean?

The concept of positioning has been around for decades but was popularized in 2001 via a book called “Positioning: The Battle for the Mind.” Jack Trout and Al Ries were some of the first authors to tackle the challenges of marketing to crowded, omnichannel markets. Ries wrote, “A brand is something made in the mind. To be successful, you have to build brands, not products. And you build brands using positioning strategies.”

For agencies, even ones just starting, this means going beyond the services you provide and considering the connection to clients more deeply. Why do these clients need you in their lives? What makes you special? When you can define that, you can start to dominate a niche in the market. From here, it’s often possible to expand into adjacent markets as your agency’s brand gains recognition.

Creating a brand positioning statement

The first step in finding your niche is creating a brand positioning statement. This is a document that clearly states what your agency does, who you serve, and how you address their pain points. This last aspect is crucial. Clients choose agencies rather than relying on in-house employees because they want experts who understand their problems. They come to you looking for solutions, so make sure you’re instantly able to define how you provide those.

There are several ways to create your agency positioning statement, but here are a few of the most common factors.

Ideal client profiles

Your Ideal Customer or Client Profile or ICP defines your perfect client — the person or business to whom your services provide the most value. Many agencies use market research for this process. They look at potential clients and figure out some commonalities. Important considerations may include:

  • The client’s business structure — how many decision-makers do they have? Are these typically smaller or larger enterprises?
  • The products or services for which they already outsource
  • Industry-specific needs, e.g., data protection, cybersecurity, etc.
  • Their average budget for outsourcing
  • Driving needs — a business’s motivation to outsource may come from a desire to edge ahead of the competition but it could also indicate other needs. For example, a client looking for a digital marketing agency may be undertaking this as part of a wider digital transformation project.

Creating an ICP using this information allows your agency to define a target audience. You can then further segment your audience into who is most likely to want particular services or packages. Marketing and sales teams use these insights to drive carefully honed and targeted campaigns. As you learn who responds best to these efforts, you can adjust to your target audience accordingly.

Competitor research

Now you understand your clients better, it’s time to consider the competition. Your agency positioning strategy should always include keeping an eye on other agencies in your field of expertise. This isn’t so you can emulate them. As you’ll see in the next section, that’s the last thing you want to do. However, you can assess their strengths and weaknesses and gain an understanding of how clients react to their marketing efforts.

In many cases, competitor research can paint a clear picture of what not to do. As an agency working on positioning itself for growth, this is very useful information. Also, consider how clients respond to your competitors’ marketing campaigns. A target audience that always reacts positively to fun, light-hearted content might avoid formal, overly verbose posts. You can use that to guide your own content strategy.

Identify differentiators: What’s your Unique value proposition?

To reiterate, emulating success is not the key to agency positioning. Instead, you must identify what makes you different from the rest. Ask yourself and your team members:

  • Why should clients choose you?
  • What do you do differently from other agencies?
  • How do you provide better experiences?
  • What gap in the market are you filling?

Once you’ve narrowed this down to a short statement, this becomes your Unique Value Proposition or UVP. Understanding your differentiators is a core factor that can drive agency growth. Plus, you can use your UVP at the start of proposals and investor presentations, and to help hone marketing materials. Many agencies use their UVP to create a brand messaging framework, aligning their differentiators with overarching business goals.

Use these factors to create a positioning statement

Once you’ve decided on your ICP and created a meaningful UVP, you’re ready to create your agency positioning statement. Remember to keep the problem you solve at the core of your statement. As you grow, this will become the primary pillar of your brand messaging and drive the tone and content of client communications.

Your positioning statement doesn’t need to be static. As your client base expands, you’ll learn what they prefer and what they don’t like so much. Use this data to shift your focus and adjust your positioning accordingly. You can also lean into market fluctuations. Understanding why demand for a particular service has dropped off can help you refocus your resources as a team.

What should every agency positioning statement contain?

Once complete, your agency positioning statement should be a brief description of what you do, who you serve, and why. Ideally, these statements should be no longer than five sentences. Being able to quickly define why clients should hire you is a key component in lead generation and conversion.

When you’ve finished your positioning statement, read it over again and check that it contains:

  • Who benefits from your services — this information should be driven by your previous ICP research.
  • The services you provide.
  • The problem or pain point this addresses — bear in mind that some potential clients may not even realize they have this pain point, e.g., overspending on an area where you can help them cut costs.
  • Why you do what you do — what’s the driving passion behind your agency?

This last point also feeds into why clients should choose you instead of one of your competitors. Working your differentiators throughout your positioning statement ensures that they remain top-of-mind for busy clients.

The benefits of careful agency positioning

Most of the world’s marketing agencies are based in the United States – 58% of them, in fact. That’s a daunting volume of competition, especially for smaller or niche agencies. However, by building excellent agency-client relationships and focusing on your agency positioning strategy, you can still achieve success. Here are just a few of the benefits great positioning can bring.

Win new business

Every agency wants more clients. That’s the key to growing and expanding your business. Effective positioning puts your products or services in front of people who are likely to engage with you. Even if they don’t sign up there and then, they may share your content or tell their peers about you.

Without a positioning statement, it’s tricky to direct your marketing efforts. You can end up trying to please all people all the time, utilizing channels that your potential clients don’t even use. Effective target audience research and ICP creation prevent ineffective marketing.

Provide consistent experiences

Your positioning statement isn’t just something that you show to clients. It can be a driving force within your teams for how you work. When everyone knows exactly what they're supposed to be doing and why, they can work more effectively.

An agency positioning statement that includes your corporate values is useful for reminding employees of company expectations. Mitigate conflict and poor client experiences by ensuring all tasks have the client at the heart of what you do. You can measure the effectiveness of this tactic by recording and tracking client satisfaction levels.

Improve your brand reputation

When you get things right for your clients, they’ll tell the world — well, the bits of it they connect to, anyway. Find ways to prompt your clients to leave reviews or testimonials. Share their social media posts that talk about their experiences with you. All this drives brand recognition and boosts your reputation within your marketplace. It also feeds back into your positioning, allowing you to better define your target audience and differentiators.

Putting agency positioning into action

Gaining these benefits is only possible when you use your positioning statement to good effect. Understanding your target audience is something you can demonstrate in every daily interaction. See if you can implement the following ideas and find ways to monitor their success.

Focus on client satisfaction

Clients are more likely to return to providers that provide a good service. That is an indisputable fact. As an agency, you can start providing this excellent service from the very first point of contact. While 75% of B2B buyers look for sales rep-free experiences, most of these end in what Gartner calls “purchase regret.” If you can take the time to intervene and guide a lead, they’re much more likely to convert and return, driving repeat business.

Excellent service is also essential throughout the client journey. A simple “Thank You” can work wonders for showing clients how much you value them.

Provide convenient solutions

As we saw in that last section, B2B decision-makers want their lives to be quick and easy. Consider making your quotes and invoices simpler and more intuitive. Include “Accept Now” and “Pay Now” buttons so your clients can complete transactions fast. Review your onboarding processes and gather feedback to understand where you could reduce friction.

Bonsai offers a range of templates that provide different ways to obtain client feedback at various points during their time with you. Add your own branding for consistent messaging that helps further cement your agency positioning strategy.

Attach pricing to positioning

No matter how convenient your payment methods are, clients won’t use them if they’re not happy with your prices. Pricing is intrinsically connected to positioning. If you position yourself as an agency for startups and then price every service too high, then you won’t get any clients. Likewise, if you’re aiming premium services at large enterprises, low prices could cause them to question the quality.

You may opt for differing bands of services. It’s quite common for service providers to have a “Basic,” “Standard,” and “Premium” package. If you’re still figuring out your target audience, this could be a great solution to ensure you’ve got all bases covered.

Take a look at your competitors and see what benefits they offer for a particular price. The goal here isn’t necessarily to undercut them, but perhaps to see what benefits your services add. If you can prove that your packages provide excellent benefits your clients can’t live without, you can justify a higher price bracket.

Tools that support your agency positioning strategy

Building excellent service and convenience into your agency’s offerings is simpler with the right tech stack. Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular tools used by successful agencies today.

CRM

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management system. A CRM is a platform that allows agencies to store all client contact details and project information, and may even offer a client portal. There are several different types of CRMs. The best ones offer multiple features and instant ways to contact clients, add team members to projects, and collate business-critical data.

The adoption of CRMs is expected to grow at a steady rate of 12% over the next five years. This indicates that more businesses and agencies are realizing the benefits of a multi-featured business software platform.

Scheduling software

Part of agency positioning is impressing clients with your reliability and determination to complete projects as agreed and on time. Busy agencies struggle to achieve this without effective scheduling tools. A unified time-management platform can replace individual calendars and remove tedious back-and-forth conversations trying to arrange meetings. Clients can quickly see when you’re available and book themselves in. Your team members gain a better understanding of what’s occurring within the agency and when their colleagues may be busy.

Bonsai provides integrated scheduling as part of its business management software. There’s the added feature of allowing clients to book and instantly pay for a consultation. Simplifying processes in this way helps position you as a trusted entity in your market.

Financial tools

You know that pricing and positioning go hand in hand. Other financial aspects of your client relationships also determine the success of your positioning strategy. For example, if you send complex, cluttered, inconsistent invoices, your clients may find this unprofessional. They may even worry about the risk of fraud. Likewise, if you can’t provide simple ways for customers to pay, they may become frustrated, and you could lose repeat business.

Look for financial software that offers instant invoicing and automated follow-ups. See if the platform also provides bookkeeping services, banking solutions, and tax assistance. If you can combine these into a single platform, you could save time that you can then use to provide better client experiences.

Consider an all-in-one agency business software solution for better brand positioning

An effective agency positioning strategy is easier to implement with supportive business management software. Bonsai provides an intuitive CRM with integrated scheduling and financial tools, removing the need to source multiple providers. Your agency can manage costs better while working on offering improved services to clients who want the very best. Send branded proposals, quotes, and invoices using trusted templates. See all your client profiles in a single place, and add collaborators with the click of a button. You can create your free account or start a free trial here.

The ability to run your entire business in a single platform empowers your teams to focus on excellent service and building better client relationships. With 84% of agencies optimistic about growth over the coming years, it could be time to ensure you’re ready to face a highly competitive market. Focusing on your agency positioning and how it drives client interactions could give your team the edge it needs to succeed.

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