This article, by Echo-Factory CEO Mike Schaffer, originally appeared in the April of C-Suite Quarterly.

When I was younger, my mother was fond of looking at me crossways, sighing deeply, and saying, “Well I suppose there’s a lid for every pot.” Today, after more than 20 years of marriage, I have to admit that she may have been right. 

If you’re a CMO or marketing director, you don’t need a marketing agency that’s in love with your brand. But you do need one that understands your market and has the right shape to fit your industry, your customers, and your goals. 

And if you haven’t found that yet, as your mother might say: “You can do better.” 

How We Became a Specialized Marketing Agency

Over the last 15 years, the marketing agency I founded has evolved into a truly specialized agency. 

We’ve always answered the question “What do you do?” with “We use marketing to help our clients grow.” And we’ve always answered the question “Who do you work for?” with “Companies looking to achieve rapid growth.” 

That is still true. 

But what’s become increasingly true over time is that most of our clients fit into about six somewhat niche industries where we have a wealth of experience.

Early on, our clients were in aerospace, manufacturing, and cleantech. We added a few health care clients, helped several brands through M&A events, and spent a lot of time with manufacturers and B2B clients. 

Before long, we had an easier time connecting and getting up to speed with clients in those six industries. And many of our employees became experts in those industries. 

When we get a new aerospace client, we know what trade shows its reps likely want to attend and how to best support them when they’re there. When we get a new health care client, we know exactly how to make its digital marketing HIPAA compliant, while still making sure they connect with its potential patient population. And when we get a new industrial manufacturing client, we know how to turn its technical CAD drawings into stunning renderings that will grab the attention of even the most cynical engineer. 

The truth is, I believe in my team, and I believe that they could do a good job for any brand in any industry. But they have a level of efficiency, insight, and knowledge that lets them consistently knock it out of the park in the areas where we’re specialized. 

Most C-suite marketing execs I know like hiring an agency that can consistently knock it out of the park in their industry. 

Do You Need a Specialized Marketing Agency? 

Maybe. Maybe not. 

“Specialized” can mean many different things. 

Some agencies, like mine, specialize in specific industries. Others specialize in specific services (video production, social media, app development, branding, etc). 

And some that wouldn’t call themselves specialized marketing or advertising agencies actually are. It’s just that “advertising agency” is often used as shorthand for “consumer goods advertising agency.” 

If you’re a big consumer brand selling potato chips, sedans, sneakers, beer, or car insurance to the general public, you’re probably going to be very well-served by one of the big names on Madison Avenue. 

Don’t think I’m being dismissive of the potato chips and soda agencies. Those are crowded spaces, and standing out from the crowd and connecting with consumers in crowded spaces requires tremendous talent and expertise. Some of the big agency names have become big agency names because they know how to do that. 

On the other hand, there are two scenarios where you might benefit from working with a specialized agency. 

The first is if you have a large, capable in-house marketing team, and need to do something very specific that’s outside of your team’s area of expertise. You might benefit from working a service-specialized marketing agency that are experts in the service you need. 

The second scenario? If your products or sales cycle take more than about 10 seconds to describe to the average person on the street, you might need to go looking for an industry-specialized agency that understands what’s unique about your industry, customers, and competitors.

It’s Not for Everyone

As our agency has become more specialized, we’ve learned that it’s not for everyone. 

Just like “ad agency” has become short for “consumer goods ad agency,” “agency creative” has become shorthand for “people who like working on big, public, consumer-goods-focused campaigns.” 

Most talented ad creatives are used to dealing with challenges that revolve around “How do you take a product everyone understands and make it relevant and appealing?” 

But that’s a very different problem from “How do you engage a very niche audience with a complex product?“

I’ve learned that if you’re an agency that specializes in those types of clients, you need a certain type of creative. One that enjoys complexity. One that’s proud to see their work drive results, not just engage eyeballs. 

I’ve built my agency to attract those types of creatives, so that we can do good work in the areas we specialize in. 

It’s not for everyone, but it seems to be a pretty good fit for the clients we work with. 

Finding the Perfect Match

How close of a match is your marketing agency to your brand? 

If you feel like you haven’t found the lid that fits you, it might be because you need something a little more specialized, that’s exactly you shaped. 

Go out and find it. 

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