In addition to guest posting on the UpCity blog, 3 Media Web is featured as one of the Top Digital Marketing Agencies in the United States. Check out their profile!
The trend of businesses specializing or “niching” creates an opportunity to convert competitors into your best customers and collaborators. When an agency specializes in a specific industry or service area, it creates an opening to partner up for the services they may be lacking or unable to provide and vice versa.
Two businesses may offer similar or even identical products and services, but every business has a unique selling proposition that distinguishes it from the competition, and this can be a valuable asset in your business development efforts as well as the products and services you offer.
Even businesses that offer similar products and services can form strategic partnerships and relationships to compensate for gaps in resources and talent. If a competitor offers a service or tool that can enhance your own services and products for your customers, teaming up can help with everything from customer retention to scaling your agency.
And when you bring partners in on client accounts, they will do the same for you. At that point, you can create a continuous flow of business from partners who already trust you.
So, why not embrace the competition and use it to your advantage? Some of the benefits and advantages of partnering with “competitors” include:
- Encourage development
- Build better relationships
- Increase your customer base
- Improve your business
The Trend of the Niche
In a recent conversation I had with my friend Isaiah Bollinger, owner of Trellis.co agency, we talked about the niching trend. There is no doubt the trend of agency growth is in the niche, instead of trying to “be everything to everyone.” That recipe has failed in the past and the trend in niching is what is leading to success for many agencies.
A recent article on Business.com talks about the trend of niching and why companies are choosing to go this route:
“In 2016, there were over 13,300 marketing agencies in the United States alone. These agencies are expected to generate over $45 billion in 2020. Many of these companies focus on standard services like web design, lead generation, and digital marketing. However, due to high competition, niche agencies are sprouting up in the industry. These are agencies that focus on very specific services or types of clientele.”
From this perspective, we can say that it’s harder to pin down the competition. That makes your competition (in general terms) your new best friend, partner, or customer.
So How Do You Turn Your Competitor into Your Customer?
If your business or agency offers niche products and services, partnering with another agency to complement your services and fill in any blanks can help you keep your existing clients, bring in new ones, scale your company, and turn a competitor into a valuable asset where you both benefit from working together, rather than competing for the same slice of the pie.
Bring in Value-Added Partnerships
You want to provide your clients with the very best services. But as I said above, you can’t be everything to everyone. So how do you help your clients succeed when you can’t really help them or feel confident you are the best for the job?
Client success is your most important business strategy. So, you want to make sure your client is successful by providing them with the products and services they need so they won’t go somewhere else to find them.
Building value-added partnerships with trusted vendors can benefit you in many ways. Your client will be pleased that you are honest and don’t want to take on something you may not be a 100% expert at. From my experience, working with trusted vendors has been a very successful model. The more you work together, the more successful you are and the more you continue to grow.
At 3 Media Web, we focus on three core services: web design and development, support and hosting, and digital growth. In many cases, our clients need branding or very specific vertical messaging. We can’t staff full-time writers in various verticals full-time. So we rely on our agency partners to bring in their top guns.
One of our agency partners has over 10 full-time seasoned writers who specialize in very specific verticals. When it comes to a project where very specific messaging and content is needed, we bring them to the table. We love working with them and we trust them. The client sees that trust along with our past successes with this other agency, and it seals the deal.
Do we compete? Maybe a little here or there, but again, you have to look at the larger scale need for expanding services for your clients. I have yet to have a vendor take a client. You become a team and rely on each other.
Collaboration is fun! It’s also a proven method to build trust with like-minded services and businesses. You may cross-over on some things with collaborators, but the power of coming together can help you build trust as thought-leaders. It is also a representation of Industry Leadership and demonstrates how businesses can use the power of collaboration to create the best results for your clients. Collaborating with other businesses helps build trust with both your clients and theirs. When people see you collaborating they see the value of using multiple businesses who partner together.
It can also help you align yourself with a business you aspire to be like, which in turn can align your business credibility with theirs. This can get you great publicity, create credibility, and in turn get you new customers who might be aligned with those organizations or even their so-called competitors.
Recently we collaborated with one of our partners to produce an Ebook for the manufacturing vertical. In the past the relationship working with manufacturers has been very fruitful for both companies, so we continue to collaborate on content around that industry. You can check out that example here.
Build a Referral Business
Create new leads by building a referral program for your business. Turn your competitors into your partners and help them generate income by selling services they don’t currently offer. Reward your partners with generous referral fees and or a commission structure. It’s a no brainer when it comes to a great ways to increase revenue, not just for you but someone you thought was a competitor.
Some statistics show that referral leads convert 30% better than leads generated from other marketing channels. Referral leads are not only easier to close but they help your business long-term. Referred customers have a 16% higher lifetime value.
Another technique to build your referral funnel is by sending out referrals, or bringing in value added partners. Learn to give business away – yup turn it away and give it to an agency partner you trust. You can also make some referral fees, but also, take comfort in the fact, you didn’t try to do something out of your wheelhouse and put your customer at risk.
Become a Mentor and Thought Leader
Trust and authenticity in an industry that you serve can go a long way. Industry peers will look to you for your knowledge and start to trust you (plus, 20% of clients prefer working with visionary professionals!). Thought leadership establishes your reputation and puts your brand at the forefront of your industry.
Last year we partnered with Accelo to provide automation expertise to other agencies (yes, our competition). That event aligned us with this industry software innovator and put us in front of hundreds of other agencies around the globe. It also helped Accelo demonstrate how agencies are using their software to grow.
Partnering with them was a great thought leadership move and showed our innovation when it comes to how we manage our company. When our customers see that, it helps solidify our brand, as a leading-edge digital agency. Who wouldn’t want to partner with a leading-edge agency?
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The bottom line is People buy from experts. Be one.
Peer to Peer Learning
Go through the journey together. Share knowledge with other insiders, and learn and grow together. Going through this experience together will help you understand your competitors (aka customers) strengths and weaknesses, helping you choose the right partners for your business and vice-versa.
Creating communities and partnerships with peers will not only help you learn more about the state of your industry but help you keep on top of new developments and industry trends. I often attend events for CMOs and marketers, and many of them are also my customers. That’s a win-win for me. I learn and I meet potential customers.
Being a part of online communities, is also a great way to gain insight and share your own journey. Jason Swenk’s Digital Agency Owner’s community on Facebook draws in over 5000 agency owners world-wide. As an agency owner myself, the group is a great resource in many ways, so find your tribe.
Why is this important? Go back to the previous paragraph on thought leadership. You can talk about everything you’ve learned, and where you are going in the future. You can be a thought leader (an expert people buy from) and you can solidify relationships in your industry (our next topic).
Build Industry Relationships
Here are a few tricks of the trade to help you leverage existing business relationships, and build new ones:
Grow and Diversify Your Networks
Attending and sponsoring events within your industry are one of the best tools for establishing and growing business relationships. Even in the age of LinkedIn, in person connections and real life face time are still your best weapon.
Many people make the mistake of treating networking opportunities as purely transactional. The more you give, the more you will receive in return as the old saying goes. Look for ways to add value to your community to build quality relationships.
Invest in the Causes You Care About
Your brand’s values and commitment to your network and community should be well defined. From mentoring to fundraising, using your resources to support others will help to align your organization with the right partners
In a recent non-profit endeavor we formed a social media dream team of peer agency owners to help a local organization continue to operate after an unexpected eviction. The campaign generated exponential exposure and turned an about to close local small non-profit into being awarded “Best Small Non-Profit” in the State of Massachusetts. The judges claimed liked what they were doing on “social media.” Not only has the dream team been successful, we have gotten to know and trust each other. We now work together on outside projects and events.
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Quality Over Quantity
Bigger is not always better when it comes to professional networks. There’s nothing wrong with casting a wide net to open yourself and your company up to new opportunities, but part of the appeal of niching is to harness and focus your efforts and resources where they will be most fruitful. Focus on building quality and enduring partnerships.
In business as in life, it all comes down to quality relationships. Creating relationships in your industry is the key to building trust and establishing your authority as a leader and authority in your field. Clients and prospects leave jobs, move to competitors, or start new companies, but they always take their professional relationships with them, and will always come back to the people they know and trust when they need something or are asked for a referral.
Today’s competitor could very well be a future customer, partner, or collaborator.