If you’re an agency owner who has faced difficulties keeping up with rapid industry changes, it might be time to rethink your business strategy. Agencies that are unbeatable in their niche or industry have a laser focus on one particular goal — thought leadership.

Susan Baier of Audience Audit shares their research into what sets successful agencies apart from others and makes them unbeatable compared to their competition. Their study uncovered three core things that the Thought Leader agencies have dialed in.

  1. They prioritize building their thought leadership reputation:

    This one is obvious but often overlooked. Thought Leaders are deadly serious about continually promoting their expertise through content, speaking, media appearances, you name it. Building that reputation of authority isn’t just nice to have, it’s a focused priority and effort.

  2. They have a strong, differentiated niche:

    Generalist agencies get drowned out in the endless sea of competition. Thought Leaders have doubled down on focusing all their marketing and thought leadership efforts on a specific niche audience. It could be a particular vertical, addressing a distinct customer problem, serving clients in a certain geographic market, or delivering a specialized approach. But they aren’t trying to be all things to all people. They’ve intentionally narrowed their target to become the preeminent experts for that specific audience.

  3. They Overtly Market Their Niche Positioning:

    Thought Leaders aren’t just quietly operating within their niche. They are outspoken about positioning themselves as THE agency to turn to for that particular niche. As the research states, there are lots of agencies who may have an implicit niche in practice, but then get nervous about overtly claiming it through their marketing and positioning. Thought Leaders have zero hesitation claiming their niche loud and proud. They’re actively promoting, “This is exactly who we are, and we are the experts for this audience.” By confidently broadcasting their niche expertise, they ensure their target audience can’t miss or mistake their positioning and authority.

These are the main attributes of successful thought leaders in a particular niche. What’s even more compelling are the downstream results this approach unlocks.

The study found Thought Leader agencies are far less likely to suffer from challenges like:

  • Losing employees to turnover
  • Struggling to find and/or afford top talent
  • Losing clients to competitors
  • Having issues closing new business

They simply don’t have to deal with those struggles at the same level as other agencies because they’ve established a powerful, desirable reputation that attracts employees and clients alike. Think about it — if you were an agency employee or client, wouldn’t you naturally gravitate toward the agency recognized as the leading expert in your specific niche or need?

For agencies still trying to play the generalist game or unwilling to truly pick and own their niche, it’s an uphill battle.

The Thought Leader agencies have cracked the code. By checking those three boxes — prioritizing expertise-building, specializing in a niche, overtly selling that niche — the research shows they overcome so many of the typical agency pitfalls and struggles.

If you want to elevate from being a commodity firm into a magnet for top talent and clients, the blueprint is right there. Study and emulate the Thought Leaders, and prosper.

To dive more into the research and learn more about the importance of thought leadership and niching, check out the most recent episode of the Progressive Agency podcast, where I chat with Susan Baier about their Audience Audit research and what makes a truly unbeatable agency.


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