A Great New Tool for Ad Agency Branding

 

Believe it or not, a blog is the best tool I have ever used to help ad agencies create an appealing brand for new business. 

Most agencies that I talk with are either redesigning their website or are in a perpetual state of rebranding themselves. Both are a struggle for the majority of agencies.

Creating an agency blog can simplify an agency’s branding process and allows them to answer the tough questions “without throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

I have found that most agency principals are very uneasy to limit their appeal to a narrowly targeted audience through their agency’s website. I fully understand their concerns, fears and reservations.  But I’ve learned that they are much more willing to use an agency blog to create appeal for a very specific prospective client audience, primarily because they are not being asked to “put all of their eggs in one basket.”

How can a blog be used as an agency branding tool?

To create a blog that generates traffic you have to first identify your audience. The broader the audience the harder it is to build traffic.

Here are a some examples of target audiences identified by agencies that are being reached through a blog:

  • Male advertisers who should be marketing to women
  • Advertisers who market to moms
  • Corporations who want an environmental marketing component
  • The legal industry
  • Health and healthy lifestyle brands
  • Reaching professional tradesmen
  • B to B technology companies
  • Manufactures who want to reach blue collar workers

The first step in branding is also claiming a target audience. Agencies have refused to identify their audience. In my opinion that is the main reason they have such difficulty with their own branding.

Agencies do exactly the opposite of what they recommend their clients do:

The majority of ad agencies try to appeal to everyone. The result, they appeal to no one.

Secondly a blog has to have appeal to its target audience if it is to generate traffic. You can’t dictate what is appealing to them, your audience becomes the judge and jury. They decide. It’s up to you to figure it out.

A blog provides a platform for input from an agency’s target audience which I think has been a missing component of an agency’s branding and makes it more very difficult process.

Without input from your  audience you it is difficult to tell whether or not your positioning and messaging is on target.

Trying to create an agency’s brand, without input from their primary audience, is like shooting an arrow into the side of a barn and then painting a bulls-eye target around it. When it comes to creating an appealing brand for new business, a good number of agencies couldn’t even hit the side of the barn.

I listen to “agency speak” every day. A commonality of agency descriptive language that agency CEO Bob Hoffman, The Ad Contrarian, would say is mostly “bull-shit.” If prospective clients aren’t also saying it as well, they think it.

Thirdly, to build a blog that will generate significant interest and traffic you must become a specialist. A generalist will not have any appeal and will be drowned out by all of the crowded clutter of communications online. You aren’t the one who decides whether or not you are a specialist. Your audience has the deciding vote of whether or not you are perceived and elevated to the specialist rank.

A specialist is highly regarded and respected. People are willing to travel great distances, pay a premium for their services and recommend them to others.

Agencies will always have trouble creating their brand if they refuse to put a stake in the ground and declare how they are different from the rest. And let me save you some time by telling you what is not differentiating about your agency:

  • Full service
  • Comprehensive solutions
  • Great ideas
  • Results oriented
  • Integrated marketing approach
  • Wide range of experience
  • Diverse portfolio
  • Strategic
  • Great chemistry 
  • Provide your best people
  • Award winning creative

Fourth, a necessary component that provides reason for people to come back to your blog often is the benefit.  An agency doesn’t demonstrate that they “get” social media by having a blog. If their blog is about agency capabilities, client case studies, awards and other accomplishments they don’t get it and they will fail at trying to build a community of prospective clients.

Social media is not about your agency it is all about your audience. What are their challenges, obstacles and needs?

Writing for a blog teaches you to always lead with client benefits rather than agency capabilities. This is also a lesson for agency branding. Your agency’s brand needs to have relevancy, a functional benefit to your prospective clients.

Fifth, to grow your agency’s blog you need metrics and analytics. I’m receiving instant feedback from my audience as to what content and messages resonates with them and what doesn’t and can make changes to improve. If you have no measurement you are shooting from the hip, depending upon your intuition which often can be wrong.

Your agency’s brand, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

You need to recognize that your prospective client audience is central to the existence of your agency’s brand. A blog provides a unique way to engauge your target audience and have some  reasonable measurement of your appeal, perceptions, quality of relationships and commitment toward your agency’s brand.

A blog will provide you with a more realistic “outside-in view” of your agency’s brand.


About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.

Comments

  1. Wilfred says:

    This was a very helpful and interesting post. Branding is so crucial when it comes to blogging and many other areas, for that matter. It’s so important to create a presence, to have a lasting impression. Especially if you are outsourcing in any area – it’s essential to maintain your brand image. I’ve been very glad that on my Digital Lizard printing portal (http://www.digitallizard.com/marketing-agency-print-online.php) I was able to customize it and have my branding.

  2. I found your post very insightful. Unfortunately, many agencies totally miss the boat when it comes to developing brand awareness and loyalty through social media outlets and blog sites. Building relationships through social media and blogs is such a strong component to enhancing your brand presence. This is a perfect opportunity to truly connect with your core audience and showcase your brand personality.

  3. You know someone’s uncovered or articulated a truth when it makes you cringe. Your bullet point list about agency differentiation did that to me. Ouch!

    We do ALL those things and sometimes, seemingly, clients ask for them. Or at least evidence of their truth. Would you say that these benefits (e.g. Integrated marketing approach, Results oriented) are okay in and of themselves but just need to be re-phrased to be more client facing (e.g. Consistent/targeted brand messaging, Demonstrated ROI)?

    Otherwise, what kind of differentiators do you think work best?

  4. Liked the points on differentiation: lots of people write well, have clever ideas and pretty design. Big deal, it’s not all about you. “Always lead with client benefits rather than agency capabilities.” It’s about the customer. Good stuff, thanks for sharing.

  5. edward04 says:

    Great list of “non-differentiators”. But isn’t there a danger by simply concentrtating on areas where there is a true advantage, this is such a niche area that the business potential is limited. After all, truly differentiated services or products are extremely rare and get copied within weeks or months. But great post.

  6. Another great lesson in being customer focused, rather than agency focused. I’ve seen many agency folks talk right past what a client wants and launch into what the agency does. In a f2f meeting, we can talk all meeting and walk out saying, “I think they liked us. (But they sure didn’t talk much).”

    The great part about blogs- and the hard part- is that we can say our piece, but then we have to shut up and let others judge us. and if they judge us to be experts and thought leaders, we’ve done our job well.

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