I’m going to be perfectly honest with you. I’ve been struggling with this whole “specialization” topic for the last year. I hear and read all of these marketing consultants talking about how we need to “specialize” in a particular industry. We need to become “experts” in (fill in the blank). Ugh.
I get it. I can see how it works for some agencies. I do. But, for the past 25 years, Multiple has NOT specialized in any particular industry. We “specialize” in delivering quality brand and marketing programs driven by thorough research, solid messaging, smart design, and comprehensive reporting. I have a really hard time when I read crap like this from our amazing and wonderful partners at HubSpot when trying to make the point that you shouldn’t try to specialize in multiple services (Note: we are a certified HubSpot partner, so we actually really do love them):
“When’s the last time you heard someone ask, 'Do you know of any great massage therapists who can also cut my hair?'
Or 'I just wish my physician could fill this cavity after we’re done with my yearly physical?'
Most people don’t trust people who claim to be experts in multiple services or skills.”
First of all, don’t start out your argument with a weak example. In the example above, the writer is talking about someone trained in a particular job and performing services outside of that job. I am in no way going to offer a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy (which we are trained in because we are designers and marketers) and also remodel my client’s break room (which we are not trained in).
What I think Mrs. HubSpot Writer was trying to say throughout the article is pick an industry and skill, and stick with it. Pick a skill? Ok. Pick an industry? For some, I know that works. For others, it’s too confining.
It’s About Problem Solving
- massages (service, or what they do)
- help reduce pain and discomfort (the problem they solve)
- make day to day living more comfortable (why the do it)
A great massage therapist doesn’t only do massages (service) for people in the healthcare industry. They understand a particular problem (shoulder pain, neck pain, etc.) and help to solve that problem to make day to day living for that person more comfortable. Does it help if that massage therapist “specializes” in working with people in the dental industry? Possibly. But why would they do that? Dental hygienists are going to have relatively the same issues as everyone else in the world. The problem is the same. The cause of the problem may be different.
Our clients generally have the same problems. The causes of those problems are what may be unique.
We are like the massage therapist. We provide a particular service, that solves a problem, to bring some kind of benefit to you. We have a process as well as tools we use (just like a massage therapist uses charts or their hands) to help solve your marketing pain. We don’t care if you’re in the healthcare, finance, education, or any other industry. What we do, how we do it, and why we do it doesn’t change.
Mrs. HubSpot Writer goes on to say:
“We want to choose a provider of services based on their qualifications and expertise to solve our specific problem. We want to have a strong reason for going with this provider over that.”
Exactly! We want our clients to base their decisions on our qualifications and expertise to solve their specific problems. NOT their specific industry. We don’t claim to be experts in any one industry, and we feel that makes us a lot more valuable to you as a marketing partner. (You can read more about it in a post I wrote here.) When it comes to branding and digital marketing, we have the qualifications, and we for damn sure have the expertise. Plus, people like us. And that always sweetens the deal that much more.
Yes, I’m venting a little. I’ve been sitting on the fence for a bit trying to weigh the pros and cons of “specializing”. This article made me think that much more about it, and has convinced me (for now anyway) that “specializing” in a particular industry is for medical device companies and manufacturers of car steering wheels, not for us. We “specialize” in solving brand and marketing problems for our clients. Not break room remodels.
Take a peek at our non-industry specific client list to see what I mean.
American Bar Association
American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons
American Marketing Association
American Planning Association
Amica Mature Lifestyles
The Atlantic Philanthropies
BC Cancer Agency
BC Children’s Hospital Foundation
Bernice Wahler Landscape
Black Blanket Farms
Bobby Dodd Institute
Bright Hope International
British Columbia Real Estate Association
Cambridge Integrated Services Group
Career Education Corporation
Center for Public Integrity
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
CEOs for Cities
Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago
Chicago Community Trust
Chicago Loop Alliance
Children’s Home + Aid
Chicago Public Education Fund
The Children’s School
The Coca-Cola Company
Columbia College Chicago
Come & Dish
Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Discovery Charter School
Fox River Paper
Fresenius Kabi USA
Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation
Georgia Institute of Technology
Great Lakes Protection Fund
Greater Chicago Food Depository
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Illinois Works for the Future
Indiana University–Purdue University
Insurance Corporation of British Columbia
JP Morgan Chase
Klein and Hoffman
Meinhardt Fine Foods
The Nantucket Project
The Nature Conservancy
The Ounce of Prevention Fund
Oxbow Social Media Monitoring
Paragon Pharmaceutical Capital
Perkins + Will
Public Broadcasting Atlanta
Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver
Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago
The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
Ringling College of Art + Design
Robert Bosch Tool Corporation
Royal Caribbean Cruises
RR Donnelly & Sons
Sedgwick Claims Management Services
Security Point Media
Silver Standard Resources
Society of Graphic Designers of Canada
Society of Thoracic Surgeons
Success by Six – United Way
Swiss Army Brands
Take a Hike Youth at Risk Foundation
ULTA Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance
Urban Juice & Soda
University of Chicago
University of Illinois at Chicago
Vancouver Art Gallery
World Business Chicago
Want to learn more about creating a solid marketing strategy that will give you more overall structure and piece of mind? You can read The 5 Step Process For a More Structured Marketing Strategy eBook for a more in-depth discussion of these concepts and how you can begin to implement them.
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