To specialize, or not to specialize? While it’s common to have expertise in an area of digital marketing—just look at our Experts Directory, which is chock-full of SEO savants, automations aficionados, design experts, and more—there’s a trend emerging amongst Mailchimp partners: firms are devoting themselves to servicing particular industries. In this Q&A, we chat with 3 vertical marketing agencies to learn about the ups and downs of a niched existence, and how they became sought-after experts in their respective fields.
Co-owner of White Stone Marketing, a Nevada-headquartered digital marketing and website design agency
What’s your niche? I like to say that we are a niche within a niche because we’re really specialized: White Stone focuses on the 5-to-50-room boutique inn and hotel market.
How’d this end up being your niche? In 1994, we bought a little printed booklet called the Oregon Better Breakfast Directory, which we put online. This was when the internet was brand new, and not many businesses had websites. One of the unexpected results of digitizing the directory was that many inns also asked us to build their first websites. Suddenly, we were digital marketers.
Why do you like running an industry-focused agency? Everyone knows who you are in a small niche. You don't have to explain your reputation to prospective clients, and that's a real boon. I don’t have to cold call, ever.
Is there a downside? The other side of the coin is that because everyone knows who you are in a niche market, you have to safeguard your reputation. It is the holy grail.
Any advice for those deciding between being a generalist and a specialist? If you’re interested in specializing in an area, just do it. You can always branch out later.
Leiv Kristian Steig and Ole Straume Andersen
Co-founders of OWUP, a bi-continental digital marketing agency with offices in Oslo, Norway and Ocean Springs, Mississippi
What’s your niche? Luxury watches and jewelry.
How’d this end up being your niche? When we started our agency, we took any work that came our way. Because of this, we spent a lot of time learning about our clients’ various industries. A year in, we realized you have to dive deep to succeed. So, we decided to focus on luxury jewelry and watches. Leiv has always been a watch geek and saw the potential of specializing in this niche.
Why do you like running an industry-focused agency? It’s a difficult industry to navigate, but we’re passionate about it. Some of our clients have been around for over 300 years, and they’ve been operating the same way for centuries. It can be hard to get them to embrace change, but we have the tools and expertise to address their challenges. In this industry, getting a website up isn’t the hard part—it’s knowing and understanding the brand guidelines for these luxury products. There are very specific rules about how these items can be displayed online. We know all the guidelines and have streamlined the process by creating a comprehensive database.
Is there a downside? Some clients might not like that you work with their competitors. You need to be transparent with all of your clients about who you’re working with. Luckily, this hasn’t been a big issue for us.
Any advice for those deciding between being a generalist and a specialist Being an authority in a field gives you a competitive edge.
Owner of Miss Pengwin, an Orlando, Florida-based email marketing agency
What’s your niche? Health, wellness and fitness.
How’d this end up being your niche? I fell into it. I was working on my personal trainer certification and taught myself about e-commerce and Mailchimp to promote my future business. Many of the trainers I met while getting my license didn’t know much about digital marketing. Suddenly, I was the go-to person if you wanted to grow your audience. In the end, I forgot to start my fitness business and accidentally started a marketing business.
Why do you like running an industry-focused agency? Although some of my clients are brick-and-mortar gyms, a lot of my clients are like me: self-employed moms.They appreciate that I know the industry and am efficient, which saves them money. I really love working with moms—they get me, and I get them.
Is there a downside? Not that I can think of.
Any advice for those deciding between being a generalist and a specialist? I love the health-and-fitness community. They’re great people, and that makes my work fun and low stress. I would say, if you’re going to specialize, make sure it’s an industry you like.