My business partner and I run a small marketing and advertising ‘shop’ with an office on Madison Avenue. Yes we’re Mad Men. Ok that’s out of the way. We’re successful and have been growing our business over the past few years. Through no direct effort we are mostly a healthcare marketing agency. One assignment with a client led to another and we’ve begun to receive referrals and attract interest from companies we’ve not been in contact with before.
I am (as are we all) asked what makes our company different and the answer for me is pretty simple. We like to get in the weeds and get dirty with research, data, and first hand experience with as many aspects of our clients’ business as possible. In the case of healthcare marketing it means talking and meeting with nurses, surgeons, hospital and practice administrators, keeping close tabs on health insurance trends and coverage. There’s a tremendous amount of information that keeps getting us deeper and deeper.
Maybe it’s a reaction to walking off a red-eye flight from the west coast back into NYC, as being at one’s desk at 6AM in the morning in midtown Manhattan no doubt affects you in odd ways, but as I tried to sleep on the plane, I kept rolling around the idea of ‘Should we go all in and CALL ourselves a Healthcare marketing agency?” There are plenty of good reasons to say yes. A robust market is out there and in case you hadn’t noticed big pharma and healthcare in general are not afraid to spend money on marketing and advertising.
Yet we don’t ONLY work in Healthcare. We have and have had several financial industry clients, restaurants, and consumer products. I think I can speak for my partner and all the members of our team that the variety of work is refreshing and in my opinion makes us better marketers. Needing to take different approaches for different vertical markets and products keeps us in a constant learning mode and forestalls any chance for us to get lazy and complacent in our approaches.
However there’s the real concern that non-specializing robs our company of the opportunity to be ‘known’ for something and build a reputation as a proven resource in healthcare marketing. In a sense it’s innately riskier NOT to specialize – as long as you’re really good in your chosen specialty.
That risk is more than balanced (at least this is where I am now), by what I see as my and our company’s continued enthusiasm to get dirty and do great work that most importantly delivers tangible results for our varied clients
One of my early jobs in the 1980’s was being an advertising photographer’s representative. I really liked the photographer and while he had long career he was not one of the ‘known’ photographers who had work to shoot each and every day. This photographer did not have work to shoot every day. I felt it was in part due to his desire NOT to specialize. He was adept at doing portrait photography, location photography and tabletop. Then (as likely now) art directors preferred to hire a ‘specialist’ – and they did. However I did take note that the photographer was very happy doing what he was doing, and he continued to work well into his seventies. I like to think it had something to do with the varied and interesting professional challenges that came around over the years.
So for now, the moral of the story may be, it’s better to specialize but it’s far less interesting and a lot less fun. At least that’s the way I see it.