To Grow Your Business, Narrow Its Focus

Brand differentiation is one of the cornerstones of marketing communications. John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing reminds us of this in a post with a funny title, “Is Your Business a Pork Belly?”

Some businesses actually have a core differentiator or they think they do, but it’s either undetectable or based on the same thing claimed by everyone in the industry. I’ll often ask audiences I speak with to raise their hands if they provide good service. This commonly held point of differentiation generally evokes a 100% hand raise…

If the market can’t find a difference, they’ll default, like the commodity market, to today’s prevailing price and, generally, the lowest price wins.

It’s a given that clients often need strategic help to determine a distinct brand difference. But agencies often need to turn the mirror on themselves. In fact, most agency’s clumsily post their patented approach on their websites and 99.9% of the time, it’s a painful exercise in futility resulting in unreadable copy.

If you recognize your own agency in this three-way mirror, Blair Enns of Win Without Pitching can help you find a distinct point of difference.

Agencies suffer from lack of power in the buy-sell relationship. The way to get this power back is through proper positioning of the firm. With no power, the firm is at the mercy of the pitch, the procurement department and the client-dictated buying process. We help firms reclaim power.

Enns argues that a firm must choose a focus and articulate that focus via a consistent claim of expertise. He’s right, and Jantsch is right. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to fall in line. Many ad people, myself included, are proud of our history serving brands in many different industries and applying a wide variety of communications solutions. But pride and habit can be an impediment to growth.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.