One of the most difficult aspects of differentiating your creative agency is how to present your capabilities.

ad agency new business menu

A you expecting prospects to order something?

Have you ever ordered some takeout Chinese food from one of those little local restaurants? You know the type, where the menu is filled, column after column, with typical American Chinese fare. Chop suey, egg rolls, crab Rangoon, egg foo young, and selection after selection fill the page. Everyone has been to one of these local Chinese restaurants, and almost all of them serve the same general Americanized food. Most of us don’t even have to look at the menu. We just order our favorites and expect they’ll have something close. Personally, I’m a Kung Pao chicken guy – C7 from the menu.

What does this have to do with differentiating your agency with your capabilities?

Almost every day, I discover a new creative agency, and of course I check out their website. Most of the sites are okay, some are great, and a few really suck. But almost all of them offer the same tired range of services. You know the deal. The agency offers something under a heading of “services” or “capabilities” where they usually state, “We offer a full range of services, including: advertising, public relations, social media marketing, interactive design and development, media planning and buying, creative design and production, market research and strategic planning, and mobile marketing.” Ugh. It looks like a generic Chinese takeout menu. These agencies seem to expect clients to wander by and ask for two orders of direct, one large website, and a side of public relations. To go.

Some agencies try to be creative in how they list out their services. A few agencies show some fancy graphics or illustrations with little icons. Some drive you to a landing page where you learn more about generic agency functions: advertising, marketing, PR, direct, digital, etc… all of which are in the end, just more marketing-buzz words. This is confusing and frustrating to prospects.

What Are Your Prospects Really Seeking?

don't be a generic ad agency

Can we help you?

Put yourself in the prospect’s shoes. If you’re a prospect out there on the web doing a search for “advertising agency,” you already know what you need. And you already think you need an advertising agency. What you’re really looking for is someone who can help solve your “unique” set of issues.

You see, the prospect has a problem, a serious need, and is searching for a solution. Sales are down, marketing is off, their brand is weak or confusing, and they’re hoping a new ad agency can help them.

The best way to highlight your capabilities effectively is to connect the typical agency services to benefits. Link specific services you have performed to the benefits you have delivered: business building ideas, better sales, more traffic, removing the complexity out of media, guaranteed faster results, and more. It should be part of your brand.

Present Your Capabilities:

  1. Be targeted: Make your capabilities relevant to a specific set of prospects. The most common mistake is in listing out services that are too generic. Every agency seems to list out the same tired capabilities with the hope that something, anything, will appeal to a prospect.
  2. Draw a line: Create a connection between your capabilities and benefits. Simply listing the generic list of capabilities doesn’t help the prospect solve any problem. Inform your prospects what they will get by using your agency versus your competitors.
  3. Keep it simple: Prospects are far too busy to read long elaborate case studies or diatribes on the value of advertising. When introducing your capabilities, clearly and simply present your specific abilities and how those help your clients achieve their goals.
  4. Make it real: No pie-in-the-sky dreams about how in this changing world you offer the only solution. Or the best in the world anything. There are always alternatives. Recognize this and be realistic.
  5. Bring it to life: It’s not enough to list out your agencies capabilities. Bring them to life with real stories, short vignettes, or simple graphics that vividly highlight what it is you do. Make the tangible benefits of working with your agency really stand out.

The question for you is do you want to be just another generic takeout restaurant, where prospects may wander in and order a C7 off the menu? Nothing wrong with that, I love some good Kung Pao once in awhile. Or would you rather be that specialty gourmet restaurant that focuses on something really great? The choice is yours.

How you show your range of services is not just an opportunity to stand out and be something different in the market, but it is also a way to sell your key (brand) benefits to prospects.


Rice Photo by photographybanzai and used under creative commons.