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Exploring Agency Positioning: Analysis, Research, Facts

Like some of you know, I write and self-publish my own comics.  Me and a bunch of other dudes put out a couple of books a year under our own (albeit not real) publisher.  We call it Elevator Pitch Press.  I’ll tell you why.

If you don’t know what an elevator pitch is, it’s this.  Imagine you are a bright eyed young screenwriter.  You are riding in an elevator when all of a sudden the most powerful producer in the whole world gets in with you.  You then have the duration of that elevator ride to pitch him your idea for a movie.  In about 30 seconds, you need to wow this dude to the point where he greenlights your project on the spot.  In comics, we take it a step further and you have to sum your idea in one sentence.  For example, when you are at a con and you pitch your book to someone, you’d be like “Yeah, its ‘Die Hard,’ but on a space shuttle.”  (For those you who care, the one liner for my first story FAR FROM THE TREE was “what happens when doing the right thing is wrong?”)

So for an agency, what’s your elevator pitch?  How can you boil down everything you stand for and pride yourself on and slap it on a letterhead?  Obviously it’s not easy.  But there are ways to say a lot by saying very little.  Lets go back to the Die Hard On A Space Shuttle example.  When you hear “Die Hard,” you automatically think of a Bruce Willis everyman-that-can-kick-your-ass type character.  Meanwhile, “On A Space Shuttle” sets off a couple of other alarms.  Space means aliens, aliens mean rocket ships, rocket ships mean explosions.  So in just a few words you already have a pretty good idea of what that story is about.  When talking about an agency, it’s the same effect.  Say an agency’s positioning (and slogan) is “Small agency feel, big agency results.”  Already the alarms are going off.  “Small agency feel.”  Lets dissect that for a minute.

The first thing I think of is a Dot Commer office from the late 90s, early 2000s.  Beanbag chairs, Xbox in the corner, chilled out folks in jeans (for the record, we here at Conversation wear jeans and its fantastic).  I can make the assumption that the people who actually work at this agency are not a bunch of buttoned up stuff shirts.  They are regular people who would talk to their clients as such.  Now, the “big agency results” part.  That makes me think of those massive agencies that have phonebook thick campaign reports and have entire floors of cubicles for an office (not that there is anything wrong with either of those things).  Here is where things get wonky.  The word “results” is a major red flag.  Are these results guaranteed?  What constitutes a “big agency” result?  It sets up an expectation.  If this agency can’t meet this expectation, then they weren’t positioning themselves correctly.

It’s all about being short, sweet and true.  Instead of making some outrageous claim, just “do you.”  What are you gonna do if you win the business and the client finds out you aren’t really about what you said you were about?  If you are chilled and laid back and offer thought leadership over stats and numbers, then be like that.  If you are all about numbers and the cold hard facts, that’s cool too.  If you are true to yourself about who you are as an agency a client will pick up on that, and respect you more (with their hearts and most likely their budgets) for being a brand of your own.

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