Face it, your business is not that unique

It’s a fact that most agencies spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to find a truly ‘U’ USP and the reality is that you aren’t unique. If you can accept that, you may be starting the journey towards enlightenment – and ultimately towards becoming more valuable to your clients and as a business.

I work hard with my clients to find a proposition that addresses their customers’ needs. That goes directly to address the challenges (and opportunities) that keep their customers awake at night. Being a solution to a client problem is a pretty good place to be as an agency. Being unique however is probably a dream.

I’m not saying that a compelling proposition isn’t important. Of course it is and it warrants considerable attention. I rail against the generic and the anodyne such as:

  • Digital experts for the digital age
  • SEO specialists for ambitious brands
  • The PR agency for everybody from SMEs to Blue Chips

And don’t get me started on “honest” agencies – surely a prerequisite?

I recently attended a presentation about writing website copy, run by Roland at Treacle Copy. It was really useful for me and around 20 agency leaders all agreed that it was a fantastic presentation. Well, no shit! It was a presentation from a business that specializes in writing website copy for agencies attended by 20 agency people who are looking at their web copy right now.

So what do we learn from that reaction?

I think we learn that a small engaged audience is far, far more valuable than a larger ambivalent one. Most agencies I know would kill for two or three decent new clients a year (to address churn and growth ambitions). So why do they so often build websites that aim to appeal to hundreds of people, with dozens of different titles (ie problems) in handfuls of different verticals? They can’t be surprised that their website drives so few qualified enquiries.

And in the Treacle presentation, we have the solution to creating a really compelling proposition. Be an awesome fit for a smaller group of potential customers who you totally understand, who see a solution to their needs in your site. Be utterly unignorable for a few dozen people. Get to know them – and they you. Be useful and valuable and relevant. Easy!

Covid has accelerated the death of the bland, service-led proposition. It isn’t good enough now to do what you always did – it feels crass to much of your audience. Empathy has bubbled to the surface. As has the need to be very clear about your point of difference.

You could go for something like “Awesome SEO for ambitious brands”. After all, it says what you do and it says who you do it for (sort of). That client focused isn’t it? But you know this is weak if you test it by reversing the adjectives. “Feeble SEO for unambitious brands” tells you that this is not a stand out proposition.

Solving specific problems immediately makes you stand out and appear relevant to your audience. Look what Treacle say

“Strategic messaging for agencies – clarity & copy that wins your agency clients”.
Boom! That’s a pretty specific outcome for a very targeted audience. What comes first here. How comes later.

Bonus idea: one of the attendees mentioned this handy little app for checking how hard your copy is working – http://www.hemingwayapp.com/ . It’s fascinating.


P.S – if you’re a business leader who enjoys reading and watching interesting things (business and otherwise) – please sign up to my newsletter, Rambling On – I think you would rather enjoy it.


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