Not Every Agency Can Be an Expert in Everything

Don't Let Need to Please Client Get You in Over Your Head

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Anthony DelMonte
Anthony Del Monte
Worth can be defined by what someone is willing to pay for it (a service, a meal, an object). Consequently, the worth or perceived value of an advertising service is defined by -- yup, you guessed it -- the client.

Traditionally, agencies specialized at a core competency or unique offering and leveraged that specialty to best position their case to perspective clients. Today, not so much. How so? Let's take social media for example (is there anything else anyone talks about?). Who should specialize in it? A digital design firm? PR? Customer service? Promotional? Media companies? Experiential? Your cousin Jimmy?

The fact is they all have experience with social media (including Jimmy). However, it all boils down to the expectation of the client. This client, mind you, is also bringing its own experience and opinion on social media and will eventually decide who is the best fit (i.e., their definition of worth).

Lately I have been in meetings with multiple agencies that all support the client's set objective. However, at least two or three capabilities to one degree or another overlap. Everybody is trying to outdo each other by positioning themselves as the expert in social media when the truth is we should all be working together in the client's interest to craft the best position. This is often the case when we already have the business, so it's a little weird at times.

In this depressed economy -- and with so much riding on revenue generation -- many agencies have expanded their capabilities to include services that they are knowledgeable in but are not necessarily experts at. The point I am trying to make is that we are either all experts or somebody's not being honest -- and it'd serve the client a whole lot better if we all concentrated on what we do best. I'm of the school of candor where I'd rather not have to defend something I am decent at that the client doesn't need. They need my excellence and they deserve yours too. In the least, it's what they are paying for, so let them define the turf or dividing lines.

We only wind up confusing the client by presenting a chorus of "I can do that too" and a mosh pit of ambiguity. I can tell you from my experience the same applies to SEO, branding, strategy and so much more.

So how do we assist the client in making it easier? Just do you.

What the hell does that mean? It means: Do what you do best and allow the client to recognize where your strengths are. The client isn't some babe in the woods; he or she is a seasoned professional who can decide what's best for them. And "best for them" doesn't mean "a working knowledge of" a service; it means proficiency and proven success that illustrates to the client where you are a good match.

Channeling my inner Rodney King: "Can't we all just get along?" Or rather, can't we all be frank? Except for Jimmy, he's impossible.

Anthony Del Monte is founder and president of Squeaky Wheel Media, New York.
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