This morning I checked out a great episode of the Bright Ideas podcast from Trent Dyrsmid featuring Rebecca Geier of Trew Marketing. Trew is a B2B marketing agency focused on the scientific, engineering, and technical markets. The episode highlighted how focusing in on a niche helped Trew achieve extraordinary results.
I was excited to hear this episode even before it began. Arjun Moorthy (head of the Hubspt partner program) often references Trew as an example of a differentiated, successful, and profitable agency. I've also written about how an agency can target in the past and was eager to hear Rebecca's thoughts.
Here are 3 pieces of targeting advice for agencies I took from the podcast.
1) Foremost, ask yourself - 'Who do you want your next 3 accounts to be?'
After a year or so in the agency business and having worked through her referral and networking pipeline, Rebecca was at a loss for where to go next. This question - 'who do you want your next 3 accounts to be', posed to her by an associate, was transformational.
It's a question which forces action which is what makes it so powerful. Rebecca wrote down a larger list of dream clients and then narrowed it by putting it in priority order. After that, she examined common elements, and those represented her target account criteria.
With her top target accounts in mind and the criteria for what made them so, she could then go out and concentrate her sales and marketing pursuits on these top companies and other ones that were similar.
2) A new agency needs oxygen as well as targeting
Rebecca mentioned that one key to Trew's growth was getting through the first year. Although her and her partner Wendy took a steep paycut initially, they were able to hustle and get their agency off the ground.
Rebecca doesn't recommend that a new agency go full-on with targeting off the bat. She recommends first doing what it takes to get some oxygen - clients and cash flow. However, she would say that if a year has gone by and an agency is still taking a reactive un-targeted approach, it is not doing itself justice.
3) Say no to grow
Rebecca mentioned that her agency was featured by the WSJ as one of the 10 most innovative small businesses in 2011. Part of what the WSJ found so interesting is that Trew says 'No to Grow.' In short, they say 'No' to companies who are not a good fit for their targeted approach.
They do this because they want to dominate the market for engineers, and they realize that what influences engineers is doing work with other engineers, not hotels or consumer products or services.
Trew is fairly mature in it's targeting. For agencies that are not as mature, I believe in aspiring to this ideal, but as I mentioned in my Inbound talk, it's okay to target while not boxing yourself in. This might look like accepting *good* clients in different industries, but as far as proactively pursuing new opporutnities, keeping your energies focused on your target market.
As I think about it, the stages of agency targeting evolution would seem to be:
Stage 1 -Oxygen. Get your agency off the ground and get oxygen - do what it takes to get some business in the door and get cash flow going. Learn the service offering, the market, and where you have talents.
Stage 2 - Target. Actively target one or 2 niches, however don't box yourself in. This is the phase where you actively sell, market and test your target market, however you accept good business opportunistically. even if outside your niche. In this stage, you still need a lot of oxygen, even if not as acutely as in stage 1.
Stage 3 - Refine and Restrict. You've been at it for at least a little while, you are confident in your target market and you are ready to restrict who you work with.
Do you agree with Rebecca's thoughts on targeting? What would you add? Which stage of the targeting evolution are you in?