14 min read
I think it’s pretty obvious (all things equal, i.e. facilities, skill, budgets) that if you niche into a certain sector, you’ll likely become a leader in that market, faster than if you worked with all markets. This will be due to in-depth research, listening to clients, insights, analysis, audience behaviours, a/b testing and becoming what the industry likes to call an ‘I or T level of knowledge’ in that sector all leading to your agency developing a deep level of expertise in that sector as each project compounds the knowledge.
As someone that’s been an in-house buyer, this is an ace offering and one that I really understand. The notion of partnering with an agency that only works in that field feels like you’re in safe hands as they know the industry inside-out, no teaching required, “they just get it”, infact, they may even know my audience better than I do and deliver brilliant work that cuts through, hopefully bagging an award or two, bolstering my status, my career path and their own standing as an industry-leading agency.
On the flip side, there’s a chance it’s an idea that’s just been regurgitated from one pitch to the next that another brand didn’t want. Copy, paste, apply relevant branding, ta-dah.
With industry leaders that only work in your field, comes the price tag to match and in my opinion, so it should.
Agencies that operate in just one sector are specialists and some are really bloody good at what they do. They’ve not only perfected their craft, whether this is building Strapi websites, creating bespoke digital strategies or seamlessly editing video, they’ve also spent time to study, learn, and dissect your industry, enabling them to apply all this knowledge into your singular field for the success of your business.
Niching = higher price. Music to our ears, from an agency point of view, especially if you’re running one… contrary to popular belief, whilst we love what we do, we do want to make money and succeed too!
If you specialise in one sector, you have a captive audience ready to work with. You know the drill, you know everything they do; you know their competitors, in-fact you already have three of them on the books and can demonstrate 150% growth YoY since working with them and success stories for each, chronicled in a beautifully aesthetic case study. They can’t afford to not engage you at this point, can they?
No more wasting time considering who you want to work with, learning their industry and then targeting them with a well-honed strategy, in the hope they leave their current agency-partner in favour of you. Your agency is the static object they come to.
The second option sounds crazy, remind me again, why we’ve not niched?
Working with only one industry isn’t great when it comes to trying to recession-proof your business. If the industry you happen to work in goes pop, so do your dreams. In the world we operate in, marketing budgets seem to be the first to go (madness, I know but it’s true). Spanning across sectors seems to be working great for us. We work in the public sector with the NHS and Universities, with stock market businesses, with sole traders in the fashion world, with B2C clients in retail and hospitality, with recruiters, renewable energy providers, professional service providers like IP firms, lawyers, accountants with childcare providers, with property experts, dentists, games developers, land specialists … now, if all those industries go pop, I think we’re all f***ed.
Recession aside, it’s also not great when you’re wanting to achieve BIG, beyond your imagination and reach dizzying heights of success and creativity, because working with one industry does place limits on you. For example, if we just choose to work as an agency for law firms, the opportunities to work with cutting-edge tech and creativity in the Metaverse will undoubtedly be lowered. Maybe when the metaverse has its own judicial system…
What a segue … niching into one sector, I think, could stifle creativity. As per the example above, working in one industry or providing only one service puts limits on creative freedom. If we were to become an agency that only produces digital Annual and ESG reporting, it would mean our team of all-round creatives only get to use a tiny percentage of their skillset every single day. They’d just get really good at working within brand guidelines, interpreting information, editorial design, typesetting, data visualisation, layout and working to strict deadlines. There is little room for conceptualisation, animation or problem-solving through code here. It’d become wholly prescriptive which is the opposite of what I think a studio or agency should be.
Creativity is for all at GR, where ideas are heard, you’re encouraged to push boundaries, try new ideas and communicate effectively through any medium. One of the reasons the team and I love working at GR is no day is the same because no brief is the same. The team collaborate across projects, learn about different industries, and are exposed to different ways of thinking which gets them brimming with thoughts and concepts. When we’re at our best (which granted, isn’t every second of every day!), we’re a hive of activity working on vast swathes of projects –it’s this diversity that gets everyone excited and talking. As sad as it is, it gives me stomach flutters of pride when I see it unfolding.
Having interviewed a fair few people in the creative sphere, the thing that attracts them to us always seems to be the variety of work and clients we have. More often than not, what I’ve heard from when they’re in-house people become bored of the monotony, if they’re at a specialist agency the same applies. I’m not taking this sample size as gospel, as we’re currently only small fry ourselves and I’ve personally only interviewed under 100 people in my life, but the longing for something different certainly resonates for me and those I have spoken to. (Yes, I know they may be biased whilst in an interview at Ginger Root!).
It's not for everyone, but if you are compelled to join the agency life, selling your soul for a fast-paced life where no day is the same, filled with endless laughing about nonsense, surrounded by wildly different, creative, talented and inspiring people is probably for you as all these late nights of collaboration, freedom and encouragement to learn in a relaxed and fun environment where you can express yourself surrounded by an abundance of client projects is what being an agency is all about.
Afterall, variety is the spice of life.
For us, right now, our plan is to continue working with all clients, those that pique our interest, allow us creative freedom, and let our ideas come to life.
We’re strategists and problem-solvers at heart, craving to make a difference. Whether it be dreaming up characters in an animation to communicate dull but necessary health and safety requirements, streamlining a users’ payment journey through the creation of complex APIs on a website or reimagining a businesses’ brand and marketing deployment for the next five years. We just love a challenge and quantifying the seemingly unquantifiable. We love having the freedom to work across sectors and it allows us to analyse what works and what doesn’t so we can then think differently and deploy strategies that succeed for our clients.
That said, we are seeing benefits already from niching and have begun to heed the advice. We have created specific teams within GR to specialise in core-services we know will help us serve our current clients and attract more of the ones we want. People who love what they do, do the best job so to circle back to a previous point, we have a team who love editorial work, as big advocates of L&D, we ensured they were fully equipped and skilled enough to be able to offer Annual and ESG Reporting services. We’ve picked a few of these jobs up as a result since. Similarly, if members of our marketing team were passionate about Metaverse strategy in the future, we’d support and upskill them to ensure it could become a sellable service.
In summary, we’ll niche our way … by learning and targeting.