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5th July 2018 3 min read

If you sell to everyone, you sell to no one

Categories — Thoughts

When a client wants an additional service you don't currently provide, it's often tempting to include it in your service offering. Tread carefully.

“As the internet and new business tools continue to tear down barriers to entry in many industries, business owners everywhere are experiencing increased competition and noise.” – Larry Alton, Forbes

From being in the creative digital industry for 20 years and experiencing the pace of change, I understand the level of effort, time and focus required for companies to keep abreast of emerging technologies and trends. Knowing that a number of smaller agencies dedicate the majority of their resources to delivering client work, there is little time left over for R&D. So unless the company has a team of more than 100 people or a very solid set of partnerships with a talent bank of specialists, “the full-service-agency” offering is a diluted offering.

Agencies are trying to cover a multitude of creative and technical services because clients are asking for more. But once we encounter the discomfort of knowledge gaps, flaky processes and unforeseen grey areas, we come to the realisation that we can’t be all things to all men. Technology is advancing at breakneck speed. Staying on top of the digital landscape is important. But it’s risky to pretend we know more than we do. I’ve encountered frustrated admissions from agency owners who dabbled in additional digital services that threw up all sorts of roadblocks and expectations they hadn’t anticipated or encountered.

If an organisation offers prospective clients a service that hasn’t really been mastered or doesn’t have an established, tried-and-tested process, then they are doing both themselves and the client a disservice.

The more experience amassed by an agency, the more wisdom and insight they can impart. Knowing what’s going to present a challenge early on, being able to advise on best practice or a better approach is invaluable to their customers. A proven track record and an established process is hugely reassuring. Creatives like problem solving, exploration and discovery. Specialisation doesn’t take that away – it sharpens the focus, builds on expertise and experience and leads to breakthroughs and innovation.

“Resist the urge to search for new problems and instead focus on going deeper into a narrower spectrum of problems…. and you can see patterns that others don’t see. That’s when you build expertise.” – Blair Enns

We’re not a full service agency and we don’t claim to be. There’s so much value to be gained from the range of expertise that spans the digital spectrum from search marketing, content marketing, AR, VR, IoT, EoT, AI…

That spectrum is continually expanding its depth and range in equal measure – new services, platforms and technologies are emerging on a daily basis. Instead of spreading ourselves too thin, let’s determine our sweet spot and own it.

To do this, we took a step back to reflect on where we perform best as a creative digital agency. What are we most passionate about? Is there a need and appreciation for it? We began thinking about our favourite clients and what aspects of our offering they seem to most value. They all share a desire for an outside-in perspective to uncover their unique value, express it in a digital experience and collaborate on innovative ways to take it further. Unsurprisingly, this is our favourite part of the process: bridging the gap between insight development, creative expression and digital execution.

We find collaborations with specialist tech partners ignites creativity and imagination on both sides. The result is a solution packed with innovation that delivers the utmost value to the client and is mutually rewarding for all parties. If well managed, a collaborative partnership of specialists puts the notion of a “one-stop shop” in the shade.

Discarding generalist services requires a leap of faith. But if it ultimately leads to more of the work you enjoy which in turn attracts more clients and collaborative partners who value what you do, then it’s a leap worth taking.

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