We all know the saying “keep your friends close but your enemies closer” and whilst we like to think there is no such thing as an enemy in the agency world, we need to get more comfortable with understanding what it is that gives our competitors their edge.
If you're always pitching against the same agencies, or worse still losing to them, understanding what they offer is the first step to levelling the playing field. It might not feel comfortable at first, but it’s worth it!
At Chime Agency we undertake a thorough competitor analysis for our clients, within our strategy offer. It gives us insight into our clients’ world. We’re so committed to the benefits, we’ve created the Agency Marketing Benchmarking Report, which utilised our unique and proprietary scoring matrix. You can download your copy of our findings here.
Find your rivals
You will always have competitors. Whether it is freelancers, large networks, or unknown agencies offering services differently. Being able to identify and analyse whom you will come up against in pitches (or even those you aspire to) is foundational when it comes to developing your positioning and marketing strategy.
So, how do you identify who your competition is?
Ask! When you’re in the proposal stages with prospective clients, ask who else they are talking to. Then when you win (or lose…) you can ask why. Was it price, creativity, processes or existing relationships? Did you win because of previous work or because of your incredible pitch?! If you don’t know why you were selected (or not) you can’t hone your approach to win again.
Get out there. Keep an eye on who is making moves in the industry, look at who is attending events, winning awards and on social media sharing top class content.
But why is understanding your competitors so important?
Understanding your USP
It is almost impossible as an agency to deliver an entirely unique service. So while it will always benefit you to be clear about ‘what’ you sell, to stand out you need to refine your ‘how’ and ‘why’ too. Understanding how your competitors define their purpose, their ‘why’, allows you to find a gap for your business.
How do you deliver your services in a unique way – what makes you different from your competitors? You will often find your competitors all say the same thing, make sure you don’t fall into the same trap! Proclaiming to be ”an extension of your team” or “results driven” are classic agency ‘how’s’ and ultimately should be the baseline of how every agency operates rather than something to hang your hat on.
Find where you can play
If everyone is going left, you can go right. Find the white space to play in. If all your competitors are discussing a trend, can you say something different? Stay informed and relevant but fresh.
For example, Chime Agency supported a consultancy to reposition after we found their competitors were promising to build long-term strategies for their clients. Instead, we positioned them around helping their clients activate and make a difference right now.
But there are also times when you really don’t want to fight for the same audience as your competitors or other industry influencers – when you run your own webinar, marketing event, or launch a big piece of thought leadership. Make sure you have the space to shine by checking what else is going on in advance.
Cosy up and be the change
Competitors as collaborators – you may surprise yourself and find your competitors can actually become collaborators. If you work together to build up your specialism and industry then everyone wins. There may be ways you can pass work to one another to avoid client conflicts or deal with capacity issues. For example, Liminal founder Julian Rea, spearheaded the Fincom Alliance, a European independent agency network for financial sector communications. By bringing together a range of agencies (some of which may be considered competitors) they created a philosophy of long-term working relationships with a result-oriented approach.
Building relationships with your competitors can lead to a more positive and supportive industry culture. By working together, you can create a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect. This not only benefits the industry as a whole, but it also makes it more enjoyable!
Rather than seeing your competitors as a threat, consider how you can work together to benefit your clients, your agency, and your industry.
Your competitors will be looking at your website and social channels, so make sure you’re looking at theirs. Stay one step ahead and have an opinion. See who is engaging with your competitors’ content, be aware if any of your own clients are interacting with them online, are there questions you can answer within your own content too?
Be the expert
Aside from the practical benefits, building relationships with your competitors or those with adjacent services can also help you establish yourself as a thought leader. By collaborating on thought leadership pieces, such as blog posts or webinars, you can demonstrate your expertise and position yourself as an opinion leader. This not only helps you build your agency’s reputation but also raises the profile of your industry niche.
There is a whole raft of reasons why staying close to your competitors and their marketing is beneficial. Get out of your comfort zone and get cosy.
Download our Practice What You Preach report
Agency marketing is hard. Our research with over 100 UK agencies proves it. Download the report to learn how to become your own best case study.