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What makes digital marketing agencies unique?

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There is a pattern I’ve noticed among digital marketing agencies. Broadly speaking we seem to have an inability to say much to differentiate ourselves from one another. At least at the actual product/service delivery level. A quick survey of taglines and you’ll see “results”, “ROI”, “performance” the same words cropping up time and time again.

Well to be fair, a significant number of us will be using a lot of the same platforms, reporting on a lot of the same metrics, having the same kinds of conversations with our clients. So it begs the question, what is it that makes each agency unique?

Digital Marketing is a blend of art & science

Digital marketing has, throughout its comparatively short life, always been a blend of art and science. The advertiser’s gut instincts married with the data of the measurable online environment. As we surrender more of the science to algorithms we are left with the art. The art of relationships, the art of good creative, and (what I consider the most important) the art of strategy. In short, what makes each agency unique – and what we’re left with – is all very human.

Granted “it’s the people,” is hardly a hot take in finding an answer to the broader question. The distinction here is the fine line between actually empowering people to focus on these disciplines and just letting go of the wheel. If one employee’s view on what constitutes strategy varies wildly to the next, then how can that agency claim any ownable uniqueness in their service? The “art” in performance marketing still needs a defined approach. I’d argue it’s the approach that makes each of our agencies unique.  

Design workflows around “time for thinking”

The most successful performance marketing agencies I’ve seen design their workflows around making the time and the space for thinking. They have their own established and unique approach to strategy. Strategy exists as a universal MO at all levels, not limited to a few seniors. Guiding strategy is passed down, strategic evaluation is passed back up – everyone contributes to honing the approach. Perhaps most significantly, ‘thinking’ is held up as a key part of the service and deliverable – not something that is a ‘nice to have’. If the team is too busy to think, it is not servicing the client properly. 

Indeed Morphio owes its existence to that approach. It grew out of a digital marketing agency looking to create more time to think, so the people there could spend more time doing the things that made the agency unique.

If you work at or run an agency and you’ve read down this far then maybe humour me just a little longer. Pull your senior leaders round a table and ask them to write down what your USP is, then underneath write down what it is about the way you deliver your service that ensures every client gets that USP. Then as a group scrutinise the results. Are you all aligned on what your USP is and how you deliver it? If there is discrepancy then it could be an indicator that something more formal needs to be put in place because as AI continues to take over, those USPs are all we’ll have left.

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