5 Ways Agencies Can Message Their Way to a Win

How to tell potential clients the story of you

Some of the very best agencies struggle to tell their story. 

It's not for lack of proof. The agencies we've worked with have incredible track records, piles of accolades and rosters full of iconic brands. And yet, when it comes time to telling clients what sets them apart, it can feel impossible to do so in a way that feels authentic, relevant and on-brief. Across the industry, countless hours have been spent reworking creds decks to position agencies as the partner they think clients want—but ultimately they've forgotten who they are. 

At the same time, it's never been more important to lead with what makes you different—in purpose, method, talent and capabilities. Agencies must ensure marketing doesn't become another commodity and help clients understand that agencies aren't always interchangeable.

Messaging is one way to do that. Think of your agency's messaging as a set of talking points that captures everything that makes you unique. It's how you answer questions like "What types of problems do you solve?"—or even the basic "What do you do?" without panicking. And defining a messaging strategy starts by understanding (and loving) who you are.

Getting to the honest-to-goodness truth

Agencies need to rethink new business, finding the right briefs, delivering work that spotlights the agency and attracting talent that just *gets* us. The secret ingredient: tight messaging that sets the right expectation.

1. Know thyself

Step one: Get real. Take a 360 degree look at your agency. Go deep with your team, your wins, your competitors and clients. This helps you collectively understand what you're working with—and what's not working. It's like sculpting: Start with a big block of capabilities and slowly carve away at what makes your agency unique in fine detail. In our experience, when you define yourself against a broader understanding of the agency and not just through the eyes of leadership, you arrive at something a lot more nuanced, and honestly, a lot more compelling than any one person can craft. 

2. Position against problems

When you know yourself, you also know what you can offer the world. But it's important to think about your story not in terms of where you've been, but where you've taken your clients. What keeps your clients up at night? What challenges do marketers face? What forces in the world are making business more difficult for the brands you work with? Position yourself as a problem-solver and save clients the extra work of deciding whether or not your agency aligns with their needs.

3. Put it down on paper

And now: We write. Very old-school, no? In all seriousness, getting your agency story down on paper means everything. Frame up messaging against a set of simple questions or core differentiators. Getting an organization to consistently describe what they do is a deceptively hard ask, so think of this messaging as a simple translation of your DNA into digestible, quick-hit talking points—the kind of thing you can spout off at a party (or more importantly, during a qualifying call). 

4. Sing from the same songbook 

Get your talking points to everyone in the organization. To your partners. To your clients. To your PR. To HR. Everyone. Clear messaging is an agreement that team members make to each other—this is what we stand for, and this is how we present ourselves to the world—and it's so important to have the entire crew speaking from the same playbook.

5. Commit, commit, commit

They say repetition is reputation. It's also the only way to attract the attention of clients who fit your brand. The fact is, there's a pull between agencies, clients and partners who see the world in similar ways, but it's only through the consistent drumbeat of a distinct POV that they can find each other. Make it easy for people to distinguish you by committing to consistent, compelling messaging.

The bottom line

A strong brand foundation supported by great agency storytelling helps clients self-identify with your particular type of magic (and keeps the industry from confusing you for someone you're not). It also takes what's already great about you—your history, your ambitions, your methodology and work—and lets potential clients imagine what your partnership might mean for their business. Specific, clear and special messaging makes that easy.

Profile picture for user Rachel Segall and Simone Oppenheimer
Rachel Segall and Simone Oppenheimer
Rachel Segall and Simone Oppenheimer are co-founders of NBZ Partner.

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