Focus, focus, focus

One of the great things about my work meeting lots of great marketing directors and generally accomplished business people. This post is about one of them.

I had an extended conversation with the president of something I’ll identify as a new-era strategic marketing consultancy. Ok, it’s an agency of sorts, but she went to great pains to deny it’s an agency.

I’m not going to ID her or the firm for reasons of confidentiality. Her clients don’t necessarily seek publicity. They seek results against a very specific demographic.

So right away, you know it’s not traditional in the strictest sense. But it does the things that the best agencies have always done: They bring a 360° view of marketing, devise strategies, then manage the execution of the strategies and tactics.

So what’s unusual about them? Their intense focus — not on an industry, or a technology, or a skill, or a discipline — but on a single demographic segment.

Everyone talks about focus, but usually it’s a bunch of what my favorite client calls “happy talk.”  Most agencies do not focus at all. They’re big at rationalizing, but not on focus. I’ve asked agency leaders many times what makes them different or better. It’s always astonishing to find that people in our own industry can’t provide the answer they always demand of their clients. And when they do have an answer, it’s all too often unconvincing.

But the president of this consultancy says this (I’m paraphrasing, but the spirit is true):

There’s extraordinary power in focus. It’s easy to say what you’re going to do. It’s much harder to say what you’re not going to do. If you’re not coming to us for the things that make us exceptional, there are no short cuts for us to help you….

We’ve turned down lots of business from major brands who just want to use our expertise to get access to our demographic. But they’re not willing to do the hard work that marketing requires. They just don’t get it, and we won’t work for them.

This “agency” has invested everything in being the best in the world at one thing. I asked her if it has paid off in steady growth. She had a one-word answer: Exponential.

What’s the real problem that companies have when it comes to marketing? She says that organizations don’t value what marketing really is. They still think that marketing is simply promotion, an add-on that happens after the product has been created. She can’t understand  why so many other businesses only engage in marketing sporadically, when there’s so much demonstrable success from companies that make marketing a core part of their business.

I guess they just don’t have the focus. It’s funny that a lot of agencies don’t understand that.

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