Well here we are, nearing the end of 2009. Let’s not beat around the bush; it’s been a pretty hard year for the vast majority of businesses. Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably telling a porky!
2009 has led many people to reflect long and hard on the direction their businesses are taking, Leapfrogg included. We’d like to share with you a few of the lessons we have learnt over the last few months. Why? Well, two reasons really. Firstly, because it sets the tone for one or two announcements about a change in direction for Leapfrogg. Secondly; because our experiences are relevant to your business and the likelihood of you succeeding, particularly when it comes to your digital marketing efforts.
What has become abundantly clear for Leapfrogg, and for many of our clients, is that to survive, and indeed prosper, you need to be different, perhaps even utterly unique. Or you need to find a specific niche to tailor your product to. In our case, the market for digital marketing services is becoming more and more crowded with new companies popping up all the time; some of them good, many of them not so. Added to that, the lines are becoming more and more blurred between agencies who previously operated across different markets; web developers are doing search, search marketers doing social media and so on.
This increasingly competitive and complex market place makes it more and more difficult to differentiate. To demonstrate this I did a bit of research this afternoon taking a look at a number of the top agencies in the hope of discovering what it is that actually makes them different to one another. The same buzzwords came up over and over…
…‘best practice’, ‘established’, ’ experienced’, ‘professional’ (I love that one, as if you’d claim to be anything but!), ‘the biggest’, ‘flexible’, ‘award winning’, ‘operate globally’, plain speaking’, ‘bespoke software’, etc, etc…
Trying to put anything aside I already knew about the agencies in question, I could find very little to separate one from another. This is because the list of words you see above do not represent unique selling points, they are just features. Now I’m a ‘long in the tooth’, seasoned professional aware of what to look for in an agency. If I couldn’t find any major points of differentiation, goodness knows how difficult it must be for a prospect when searching for SEO, Paid Search or any other related service!
This fact, combined with a whole load of research, analysis, brainstorming, head scratching and the odd ‘eureka’ moment, has led us to believe that demand will increase for boutique style agencies who are specialists in a particular niche; who understand this niche inside out; who can offer a solution so well tailored to that niche it makes it impossible for a company operating in that niche to want to work with anyone else but that boutique agency.
So that’s where we are heading in 2010. Now we are not going to tell you what the niche is right now; we are still in the planning stages. But what we can say, from our experience, is that by selecting a niche it provides highly refined focus on strategy, sales, marketing, product development, recruitment, training and so on; direction that is nigh on impossible when you are too broad or do not understand what it is that makes you different to everyone else.
For Leapfrogg, what this does mean is the closure of our lovely little office in Southampton. Our new strategy does not demand regional offices because by being exceptional in your niche location no longer matters. We are by no means abandoning Southampton; far from it. We have made some great contacts there. It is just not necessary with a new strategy in place to have an actual office space in the city.
So we’ve learnt a lot in 2009 but what can you take away from our experiences?
Well, if you’re just starting out, reviewing your plans for 2010 or about to invest your marketing budget online STOP before you do anything and think really hard…
WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES YOUR PROPOSITION COMPLETELY UNIQUE?
I mean utterly different to everyone out there. If you don’t know, do as I did this afternoon. Look at your competitors; look at yourself; ask your staff; analyse your products and so on. Work out your unique selling point and build your strategy around it.
Because all the signs are 2010 could be as tough as 2009. And with increasing competition online you will need to work harder than ever to turn prospects into customers. If your proposition is the same as everyone else it will always come down to price. And not everyone can be the cheapest. So to prosper you will need to find your point of differentiation and build your strategy around it.
Unfortunately, too many business owners to this day believe that by simply having a website or throwing money at Google they will make their millions. Wrong! Digital marketing cannot operate in isolation. It will only be successful as part of a well thought out business strategy where your goals are crystal clear. Absolutely integral to this is knowing what it is that makes you different and using this to establish direction and, crucially, competitive advantage.
That’s what we’ve done and we feel great for it. We know where we are heading and the niche we want to target. The team are excited and focused so we can’t wait for 2010. So with that, we’d like to thank Southampton for our short term stay. We’ll still be spending plenty of time in that part of the world, just not with the luxury of our own office.
Until the next time…