Should I engage an agency who also works for my competitor? - Showtime Digital

Should I engage an agency who also works for my competitor?

23 January 2019 Read 1492 times

Should I engage an agency who also works for my competitor?

If you’re looking for a digital agency, do you pick one who works with your competitors or do you pick one with no prior knowledge in your category?

It’s a subject worth discussing because it’s common in the sales process to be asked, ‘do you work for any of our competitors’?

Let’s look at this in another way. If your goal was to win an Olympic medal would you want to be coached under the guidance of the national swimming team, or would you see greater advantage in working with a rank outsider?

If you bought a brand-new car, would you prefer the car to be serviced at the dealership or would you take it to Doug’s Autos down the road?

The digital space moves fast

The argument for not working with the agency who also works for your competitor is, from our perspective, very outdated.

specialist agency mirror

There was a perception there was a limited amount of keyword searches in any category, that the first ranked Google Ad was the only spot of value. It also held to the belief that all competitors were competing for the same client and that what worked last year will work again this year and the next. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When our marketing becomes all about us, our world becomes inward focused. If our offer isn’t selling, we ask ourselves ‘what’s wrong with us’ and our perspective becomes increasingly myopic. The fact is, there may be nothing wrong, you may simply have missed the most important aspect of the equation…the buyer. 


The mirror you once held now becomes the window to view the buyer’s perspective. You see what’s important to them and their reason behind the purchase. 


If an agency knows your category intimately and they’re nailing results for your competitor there’s a possibility they’ve gone through this exercise already.

So let’s look at what you will see by going through the process of identifying your buyers.

What can a specialist in your category offer?

specialist agency-category

Let’s say your product is colour swatches. Several buyers from a diverse range of industries could use your product. The fashion industry, graphic designers, interior decorators and industrial designers. 

If an agency has previously worked in the category, they would have lots of data to help you succeed. Let’s investigate a couple of these buyers and see how they differ and what they may want to see from you.



The buyers 

Meet Charlie 

Charlie reszied

She always upholds a standard of quality while seeking inspiration.Charlie is a fashion designer. She has an eye for design which flows through everything she does in life and business. She is continually challenging and pushing the envelope to see what new possibilities can become a reality.

Charlie stands out in a crowd. She is the first to be in on a trend before it has hit. Her friends are desperately waiting to see what she comes up with next.

She always upholds a standard of quality while seeking inspiration.


Meet Terry


Terry is an industrial designer. Growing up Terry loved visiting his dad at work in the factory. He would go home and try to recreate the things he had seen at the factory with Meccano.

Terry is an analytical thinker. He keeps to himself unless he has evolved an idea enough to share it and considers colour as the last step of his process. 




Charlie is creative, very particular, has a clear vision and is a perfectionist.

Terry is precise, considered, tactical, innovative, intelligent and resolved.

The buyer goals

Charlie’s goals are to build her start up, to see her designs brought to life with authenticity and to realise her dreams.

Terry’s goal is to think creatively about the materials he’s using and to wow his clients.

The frustrations

Charlie is annoyed by poor dye matches, colour inconsistency and poor-quality garments which don’t reflect the brands vision.

Terry is frustrated by the inability to get consistency across different materials, especially the colour inconsistency for items online vs in reality.


Use industry specialists

Here we’ve gone into a little detail on only 2 of the 6-8 potential buyers who use colour swatches. Each buyer has different needs, they see these needs in different ways and are influenced over different channels. So, approaching each buyer involves a different strategy.

An agency who has previously been tasked with placing your competitor’s brand in front of these buyers would know how to plug you into the buyer almost immediately, without the head scratching and long learning curve.

As an agency we are no different to you, we must stand for something as well. I’d even go so far to recommend you find an agency who has gone through the exercise of defining their own market by securing a niche in the industry. After all, if they haven’t toiled in defining their market standing how can they advise you?

Nothings more boring than an agency who specialises in everything.

There are agencies who specialise in certain verticals, so if you’re a dentist, find an agency who knows how to promote dentists. If you’re a financial institution find an agency who has the runs on the board in finance.

Other agencies may focus on transparency, education or data analysis as their point of difference.


That’s the key takeaway here. Be a brand which stands for something, put a stake in the ground and develop it. And when you look for an agency, find one who also stands for something, one who knows your category and can connect you to your buyer on a deeper level.

Build your buyer persona today!

Steve Palmer

Steve Palmer is the Joint Founder and CEO of Showtime Digital. Steve has been in B2B sales since 1997 but influencing people and behavioural science has been a long-term passion.

The magic he brings to his clients is in knowing how to engage their audience. His goal is to help businesses understand the deeper reasons of why consumers convert online with them.