Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Is having a niche your agency’s superpower?

By Vicky Stoakes, Communications Director, Red Setter

Every agency wants a superpower these days. We’re not talking about being able to fly or an invisibility cloak, although both would be handy. We’re talking about something that makes your agency stand out and get noticed for something special.

Working as a PR partner to design and branding agencies, we’ve often been asked to help them recognise what makes them stand out. What we’ve experienced over the years is this: when we find an agency that’s a powerhouse in a particular sector, we know it’s too compelling a card not to play.

Some agencies are, and always will be, jacks-of-all-trades. There’s nothing wrong with that – just look at some of the mightiest agencies globally. But for agencies that aren’t the global mega-houses working with the world’s biggest brands, focusing on a niche or specialised sector is a great way to grow and scale.

Over the years, as a specialist agency ourselves, we’ve realised it’s more than just a business opportunity. Of course, new business will come if you are doing it right, as the best niche agencies will always get healthy referrals, but we’ve noticed a whole lot more about the power of being an agency with a clear focus.

If your agency is struggling to decide on whether to focus on a niche, or still saying yes to clients that don’t really feel right for you, here’s why having a niche really could be your superpower.

Partner not provider

The worst place for an agency to sit is at the table as a provider. When agencies tell us about their best work, it’s always when they worked as a true partner to their client with mutual respect for each other’s talent and time.

By focusing on our niche of PR for design and branding agencies, we can sit at the table alongside our clients and understand every step of the journey they go through, from pitching, to strategy, to creative process, to launch. Being part of their journey to build a brand is as exciting for us as it is for them.

We’ve seen that by having two feet fully in their industry, clients trust us. Our niche gives us insider knowledge and contacts that are unparalleled. This means we don’t just add value within our PR expertise, we bring a uniquely reliable perspective to aid our design agency clients toward success in the long-term.

Passion not puff

Choosing a sector that is flourishing and with plenty of new business opportunities also makes sense. But the real key to succeeding as a niche agency is by working in a sector the founder is genuinely passionate about. When that passion is shared top down, it can’t help but attract the right kind of clientele.

Having worked in generalist agencies in the past, where profit was put before passion, it was truly rare for me to find a client that people were genuinely invested in. With design as our agency niche, it’s pure passion for the team and definitely no puff. It means prospective clients pick up on that, and know we genuinely want to be part of their success story.

Saying no

When an agency is growing and looking for all the revenue it can, it’s rare for them to say no to new business, even if it puts profit over purpose. What happens next is you have a team -working on some less-than-exciting accounts, or worse, accounts that are in conflict with the team’s ethics and values.

When you know exactly the type of client you want, and even with a niche, you can tie it down even tighter to specifics like size, location, etc. You then have a lot of power to say no. It’s not always easy to say no, and sometimes these choices need to be debated. But my MD has never regretted saying no to an agency that didn’t feel right for whatever reason, including fit, chemistry and communication from the word go. As a result, she’s got huge respect from the team knowing we’ll only work with agencies that are truly the right fit. 

Happy endings

Working in a specialist sector doesn’t mean you’ll keep clients forever, but in the whole from our experience, you’re likely to have longer than average relationships with them.

Our agency has friends and partners across the design sector as we’ve taken time to continually listen and learn about the sector. Whether that’s being at events or training courses that our clients are at, or being a supporter of major industry initiatives that are focused on the value and future of the design industry.

By investing in our niche, we realise our biggest superpower has helped us attract both a team of experts in the field of design and brand, and ultimately the agencies that are transforming the world around us positively through the power of design.