Overseas producers seeking a foothold in the US have historically found it challenging. Each territory has its own unique factors influencing market conditions.
An HVAC manufacturer would need local sales representatives and managers to be trained before even beginning to sell units. Their strategy would have to be different with each location due to climate and use conditions. What works in Florida may not succeed in Texas or Utah.
Out of the need to simplify these operations, companies sought an all-in-one solution. The agency consulting business model provides that service across multiple industries.
Working with an agency allows clients to leverage scalable expertise while still focusing on their core competencies. There’s no need to deal with multiple tiers of staff. Communication is cascaded effectively to individuals handling the appropriate region.
But as the nature of business grows increasingly complex, some agencies will thrive where others falter. What differentiates them is range and their efforts to make this quality visible.
A complex and unpredictable scene
Survey the landscape of professional consulting agencies, and you’ll find that it’s highly fragmented. There are full-service industry giants and smaller bespoke creative agencies. The former even acquire some in the latter category while allowing them to continue operating independently.
In theory, this is a good thing because one approach doesn’t fit all. But it also means prospective clients can face a high degree of uncertainty when seeking which agency to partner with.
With the onset of analytics and data-driven decision-making, the issue of complexity has only grown. Modern agencies are now being pushed and pulled in different directions.
Some clients want them to specialize; others expect a standard, generalist package of services. Everyone has access to information and expects a rapid response, exploring diverse new routes. The balance of power has shifted towards clients’ demands, and traditional models are bearing the strain.
Going for range
The scenario agencies face today is only going to present even more uncertainty and complexity in the future. It’s what psychologists call a “wicked environment,” involving many actors operating without perfect information, in which the path to success is never given.
These conditions don’t naturally favor the small-scale outfits or the major industry players or those in between. Any of them could succeed or fail, but often, that comes down to luck or the strength of previously established relationships. Neither of those is something you can control in the present.
However, there’s one thing individuals can do to succeed in any wicked environment, and that’s cultivating range. Range is defined as possessing both depth and breadth of knowledge. It lets you establish yourself as a specialist in one facet of a domain while still being sufficiently versed in other aspects to operate on a generalist level.
For an agency, this could mean assembling a team of people who all meet some minimum, relatively shallow familiarity in the skills associated with your service offerings. But drill down to the individual level, and you’ll find that everybody is an expert in some vital aspect. Maybe one person is a creative video editor, another is the in-house SEO guru, and somebody else is the resident expert on campaign funneling and paid ads.
Range isn’t without its drawbacks. You have to make sure that employees have real depth in their designated specialty. Some functional redundancy is good so that if one specialist’s bandwidth is limited, another can tackle additional clients without sacrificing the quality of experience. Process consistency and investment in training will be the key to harnessing this attribute for your organization.
Having range allows an agency to continue to thrive in an environment of uncertainty, serving clients whose expectations may vary greatly.
But it’s not enough to merely possess range. You also have to establish it as your core competency. Otherwise, how will new clients seek you out and entrust you with their business amid an ocean of disparate competitors?
This makes it vital for agencies to position themselves as visible experts in their field. Expertise is what you’re selling, and if you claim to differentiate yourself with range, find ways to showcase it.
Take advantage of the ways that potential buyers check out service providers online. This isn’t limited to SEO or social media. Word of mouth still works, and they will often read a relevant article before landing on a company’s website.
In turn, you need to release content that distinguishes you from the rest. It has to be helpful and accessible but also related to the problems your audience looks to solve and tied to your company’s unique experience and offerings.
Be represented in respected platforms such as webinars or speaking engagements. Write long-form, evergreen, educational articles. It will take more effort, but it helps you establish visible expertise and become the go-to agency for a diverse client base.