The Case For Agency Transparency

Give Clients More by Doing Less and Make Sure They Know It!

Clients are smart. The more an industry grows, the more experience and understanding they gain. Before long, they understand a lot and they can see through the unbelievable.

The digital marketing industry is no different. For example, a client can look at an agency website and see they can do everything – paid search, social media, SEO, and more!

Then as part of their due diligence, they take a gander at LinkedIn. There they see the agency consists of 7 people who are experts in 15 disciplines.

The client’s experience with digital marketing tells them this simply isn’t believable.

This might seem like a challenge for agencies. It isn’t. If anything, it’s a huge boon.

How can that be?

The more knowledgeable a client, the more an agency can give by doing so much less. To do this however, you must be completely transparent about how you do it. I call this the Case for Transparency.

By being completely transparent, you can explain how the 7 people in your office can offer services in those 15 disciplines.

Here’s how that goes:

You explain that you specialize in a specific area. Then you explain how you’ve partnered with other agencies to fill the gaps in your offering. You explain what you’re great at, and you’re not afraid to say what you suck at!

This approach might seem counter-intuitive, but it works. At BFO, we do it and we and our clients find it exceptionally beneficial. The key, though, is to specialize.

Why Your Agency Should Specialize

You’re probably familiar with the old saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Client’s today recognize the truth in this statement, especially as they’ve come to understand the complexity and nuance of many areas of digital marketing.

There are a number of ways to specialize:

– Choose an industry, ie., hospitality, ecommerce, retail
– Work with clients of a specific company size, ie., small business or enterprise
– By service, ie., search, social, inbound or even traditional

A big advantage of specialization is that it allows executives to focus on what they enjoy most.

It also gives the agency room for employees to grow professionally and even develop new areas of expertise within the agency.

Clients have come to recognize that there are good reasons to work with agencies that specialize. These include:

Bigger isn’t Always Better

A lot of small, specialized agencies “punch” weight above their size. The expertise they offer tops that of bigger firms.

This is especially true as you consider that small agency clients have greater access to senior level talent, such as agency founders.

Small Shops Can Get Things Done

A smaller agency often has greater agility. They can curate an army of top freelancers in any area of expertise. In this way, they can become very big for every client while remaining specialized in what they do well.

This approach also lowers overhead for the agency. It also keeps client costs lower. “I love over-paying for your overhead,” said nobody ever.

There are Very Few Unicorns

Rarely does any agency of any size find an employee that’s great in a lot of different disciplines. It’s hard enough to be an expert in a single field.

Take SEO for example. The skill-set needed to do a stellar job with SEO includes technical onsite SEO, offsite SEO, analytics and content, especially quality SEO content.

Some people are good writers, but few are good SEO writers who can weave together accessible audience-centric copy with the terms and keywords that assert its topical authority for both the audience and search engine algos.

If you do specialize, make sure you are completely transparent about it.

The Case for Transparency

It’s not a cardinal sin to list services you don’t offer on your website.

Let’s say you do SEO and have partnered with a web development firm. There’s nothing wrong in saying you can help clients with their web development needs. The reality is, you can.

All that you need to do is be clear that you provide the service through agency partnerships.

Leveraging partnerships in this way can be a big selling point for clients. It differentiates your agency (and partners) as a complete solution. Even better, the agency client gets experts in each field.

Experts get better results than dabblers. And clients like results, right?

Clients also appreciate this type of honesty from a potential agency partner. They respect your desire to deliver the most expert service in your field.

They also appreciate the service you’ve provided by arranging and vetting partnerships in advance, an effort that saves both them and you time and money.

The Moral of the Story: Do Less to Grow Faster

It might seem paradoxical, but by specializing and being completely honest about it, your agency growth will accelerate.

The key to all this lies in being completely honest and transparent about it with your clients.


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