The great debate in the digital marketing world is which is better, niche vs. not niche. Niche digital marketing can mean a lot of things, and the level of niche can vary. For example, there are agencies that are niche in terms of the services they offer, and they only offer those services. On the other hand, you could have a niche digital marketing agency offer those same services, but they do branch out to offer other services as well. Niche can mean an agency specializes in specific programs, channels, strategies, goals, or industries.
One of the more common niches we see are industry specific digital marketing agencies. What we mean by this is the digital marketing agency will promote themselves as an expert in a specific industry. We see if all the time. I’m sure you do to. If you are reading this maybe you are considering an industry specific digital marketing agency vs. a non-industry specific agency. We come across agencies that position themselves as “digital marketing healthcare experts”, “marketing for doctors”, “digital marketing for the financial industry”, and we have even seen it more niche, for example “digital marketing for senior living communities” and “digital marketing for biking manufacturers”. These are just some examples to help set the table for what we are discussing here.
The question is, are industry specific digital marketing agencies better than digital marketing agencies that do not serve a specific industry? Let’s explore that a bit.
The case for niche digital marketing agencies, or industry specific digital marketing agencies
The case for an industry specific digital marketing agency is easy. For the purposes of this post let’s just say you are in the healthcare industry, and you are looking for a digital marketing agency to build a new website and manage marketing programs for you. Assuming all else is equal, if given the option to pick between an agency that specializes in healthcare marketing vs an agency that does not specialize in any specific industry, it’s easy to justify selecting the agency that specializes in healthcare marketing. I mean hey, they know the industry, they have a lot of experience working in the industry, and they should be good at it because it’s what they do.
The case against niche digital marketing agencies, or industry specific digital marketing agencies
When you peal back the curtain, in most of the cases industry specific digital marketing agencies only do it for themselves, and not actually for the benefit of their client base. There are selfish motivations behind it. Wow, I can’t believe we said that out loud, but if we are being honest, it’s what we have seen in our experiences.
Why do we think that? Well, let’s break down a few of the reasons.
- Marketing – When you serve a specific industry, marketing becomes easier. You know your target market, you know how to reach them, target them, and talk to them.This is not a bad thing. It’s in every businesses best interest to know their target market and to go after it. I’m not knocking agencies for this strategy and building their business around it. In fact, this is one of the best reasons an agency should go industry specific. I commend them for that. I am just pointing to the fact that it’s done with the agencies best interest in mind, not their clients.
- Selling – Acquiring new business and selling prospective clients becomes easier. When you “specialize” in a specific industry, you already have a leg up by positioning yourself as an expert in that industry. Prospective clients eat it up, and the agencies lean on it as a main selling point, and it works. I mean we could all use additional incentive to help sell our services. This is an easy one to latch onto.
- Servicing – This is where it gets a bit harry for the clients, and in our opinion the “slimiest” reason an agency will go industry specific. In some cases, agencies will develop cookie cutter websites and cookie cutter strategies that they just reuse repeatedly for all clients that sign on the dotted line. This is where the “selfish motivations” statement we used above comes from. Agencies will do this because it means they rarely have to develop a new website or be challenged to learn your business and develop a unique strategy. It means less work for them, faster output, and higher margins. Unfortunately, this typically means a worse outcome for their clients.For example, we worked with an auto body repair shop. When the auto body repair shop came to Mosaic the owner was very frustrated with a previous agency relationship. He was angry because he hired a website development agency that serves the auto body industry to build a new website, and then later learned why this was a bad idea. After his website was completed, he came to find out that his website looked the same as a bunch of other auto body shop websites. We are talking about the exact same. Same navigation, design, copy, everything. Not only did he realize he got hosed, but it was also a detriment to his organic search engine rankings (SEO) because he had duplicate content as many other websites. Having duplicate content as many other websites is not a good thing.In another example, we worked with a biking manufacturer. Before coming to Mosaic eMarketing, they had two bad experiences with agencies that positioned themselves as experts in their industry. The first agency positioned themselves as “online marketing for outdoor brands”. They were the “outdoor industry experts”. This bike manufacturer latched onto this and they were sold without really understanding what this agency was good at. The manufacturer needed to build their brand. They needed to reach the right audience that would be in their market, doing so on a limited budget. The relationship between this “outdoor marketing” agency and this bike manufacturer crashed and burned because they could not deliver. Simply being an “outdoor brand” industry expert was not enough. They fell short in understanding how this manufacturer was in a unique position, and required a unique strategy.After this failed, they fell into a similar trap. They hired a high-powered agency who literally specializes in working with bicycle brands. They signed on the dotted line, the agency took an “all in” cookie cutter approach and it did not work for this client. What they failed to understand is, this specific client needed to reach an entirely different market and demographic. They needed a unique strategy that fit their budget, their product, and their target market. This agency failed to delivery that unique strategy all while way overspending budget on a strategy that did not work for this client.
So now what … what do we do from here?
We don’t write this to be negative. We write this to inform you of some traps we have seen over the many years of doing this and working with a diverse set of clients. There are solid industry specific digital marketing agencies out there, just like there are solid non industry specific agencies. Our caution would be, don’t fall into the trap of hiring an agency just because they serve your industry. Get to know them, get to know their work, ask the right questions, and make sure they are a fit for your business. For more information on hiring a solid digital marketing agency, check out 6 tips to hire a good digital marketing agency.
Digital marketing, or online marketing, is more about the below over simply being “industry specific”:
- Their ability to understand your business, your audience, your goals, and your budget (just because they are industry specific does not mean they will understand this)
- Their flexibility to adapt and be nimble for your benefit
- Their service offering, or areas of expertise, and how those align with your goals
- Their knowledge of each digital marketing strategy and channel
- Their ability to create a custom strategy and execute it with best practice
- Their management ability to optimize routinely, learn, grow, and produce results that grow in efficiency over time. This should be a given with all digital agencies, but unfortunately, it’s not.
In the end, if the above boxes are checked, industry specific vs. non industry specific doesn’t matter. Digital marketing is digital marketing whether you are selling luxury slippers worldwide or promoting a local power washing business. Know the product or service. Know the audience and reach. Research the best channels and strategies to reach that audience. Build those programs with best practice. Test and tune all relevant aspects routinely. Learn and proactively manage to drive better and better results. Period.
That is our philosophy, and we are proud to say we blow away industry specific benchmarks by a wide margin. We serve a diverse industry list as well. If you are interested in chatting with us, we would love to meet you!