It’s a question every business must answer: what makes you different? What makes you better? As a marketing consultant I can tell you that it is surprising how many companies have not answered that question. At least not in a disciplined manner and really laid it out for themselves, their employees, and their customers.
And in the agency world, we all will fall on the easy answer: our people. We hire better, smarter people and our combined experience is better than our competitors’ people. There is a large amount of truth to that–that a good team of professionals is a strong competitive advantage. Certainly, Elasticity wouldn’t be able to compete if we had a whole team of non-creative, inexperienced people often times referred to as “not the sharpest crayon in the box.”
But that can only go so far. From flawed processes, to leaders who squash creative ingenuity, internal competition between practice groups to non-motivated employees, there is only so many times you can rely on “we have smarter people.” But also, what if we all have smart people? Right now, there is a glut of fantastic talent, and many agencies have taken advantage of that to bolster their teams. So what happens if we all have smart, talented, experienced people?
The second area that an agency will go to in answering that question is “practice groups,” or “areas of expertise.” For example, we at Elasticity specialize in PR, Word of Mouth, Digital Marketing/Social Media, and Search Marketing. Others specialize in graphic design, video, government relations, internal communications, mobile, email, and so forth. And we all overlap. But that’s not the biggest issue.
Increasingly, areas of expertise are being commoditized such that just having the skill set is not a competitive advantage anymore. And commoditized “products” are no longer a “value-add” to the client justifying increased budget. In fact, taken individually, the marketplace has driven down the price (and often times quality) of each individual skillet or product.
Take our business for instance. PR in and of itself has been driven down to keyword rich automated press releases sent out on the web for search results. Social media is a dime a dozen often handled by interns, Facebook apps can be licensed for less than $50. Web sites are skinned WordPress sites done for a fraction of what large agencies used to price them at, and so forth.
So when it came time to answer “what makes you better” for Elasticity, it was a great opportunity to not fall into the same pattern of other agencies and answer “smarter, more experienced people integrating the right digital skill sets to solve your company’s biggest issues and deliver results.” (or some similar boilerplate regurgitation like that)
No, Elasticity is different, Elasticity is better because we’ve figured out the right combination of skill sets, and how and when to mix them to deliver the results. The basic recipe is our triangulation model. But even then, given the same ingredients (the people) and the same recipe (the areas of expertise), some chefs just make better tasting food. That’s us.
Let me put it another way. Remember the Coke/Mentos video? Dropping a Mentos into the Coke created a surge of carbonated energy that allowed Weepy Bird to do those cool cola fountains. On their own, Mentos are great candy, and Coke is a great drink. Both are commoditized food groups (candy and cola). But put together in a way no one else has done, it created something new that had tremendous energy and explosion. That’s us, too.
We take commoditized skill sets and put them together in a way no one else has to take our client initiatives from a crisp, carbonated beverage to a fountain of energy exploding to create something wonderful, something with viral potential, something that people will want to talk about.
Maybe it’s the new way we approach PR, our storytelling ability, quirky content ideas, a more advanced way to do search beyond keyword tracking, social media that is actually social and engaging, or something else. We’re not telling (at least not here). Call it our special sauce.
Or just call it Elasticity.