Redefining skill sets, core competence, competitive advantage, and proposition.
This industry has changed so much since the 90’s, every aspect of digital production is now so advanced they require specialist skill sets to deliver them at a decent calibre. This ranges from technical scoping and management, UI/UX planning, creative, frontend and backend development, QA, testing etc… to application specific such as, HubSpot, Magento, Google Analytics, PPC, etc…. the list is endless.
The days of single ‘full-stack’ developers are long gone. To offer development to an industry standard level you need a team of specialist producers. The same applies for pretty much every aspect of digital marketing, just different set of skills.
Knowing and acknowledging this is, in my opinion, one of the biggest challenges many agencies need to accept, as it impacts on absolutely everything.
It defines the agencies capabilities and skill sets, and therefore their strategy, market positioning, competitive advantage, value proposition, culture, environment, and ultimately the work successfully converted and delivered.
‘Full-service’ proposition is a dying, unsustainable concept. Clients of a certain calibre with ‘fit for purpose’ budgets, also retain an adequate level of understanding, and are completely aware they need a team of specialist skill sets to guarantee delivery to a certain level.
Clients without this knowledge of requirements, typically have low critical projects, and therefore appropriate budgets.
To succeed in converting substantial projects you need to confidently demonstrate senior capabilities, the greater the requirement, the more advanced knowledge and proof of concept you need to demonstrate.
I constantly see agencies spreading their knowledgebase across numerous disciplines, in the thought process that it generates multiple revenue streams — where in fact it simply divides efforts and dilutes capabilities — 10 services getting 10% effort achieves very little, let alone 20 services, and so on.
Look at it this way — there are many unemployed Handymen, but very few unemployed specialist Engineers. Or more specifically, plenty of Account Executives looking for an opportunity, but no experienced Technical Directors, DevOps, or specialist Magento Developers.
Exactly the same concept applies to the overall agency positioning — if you’re a proven specialist agency then work will find you. However, if you’re a ‘generalist’ then typically it’s a struggle to pitch yourself against already proven agencies, and ultimately you end up converting the lower hanging fruit, clients that don’t have the requirement or budget to dictate otherwise.