Myth #4: You Can Do It All

By Matt Oatley

In Four Myths That Will Ruin Your Brand

Myth #4: You Can Do It All

When it comes to culture-building, talent acquisition, and customer service – you can do it all!

Umm… no.

A Matter of Bandwidth

Comedian Stephen Wright quipped in his trademark deadpan style, “You can’t have it all. Where would you put it?”

When it comes to essential aspects of your agency—culture-building, talent acquisition, and customer service—you can’t have it all. You really only have the bandwidth to choose one and go full force in that direction. If you try to do all three, you’re in for trouble because you’re never going to be good at all of them. Even top-flight companies that primarily balance quality, cost, and customer support only manage to excel in two of the three categories.

Consider Apple. Which of the three do they prioritize? Quality, for sure. They resolved to put the best components in their products so they would last. Their profit margin wasn’t high, initially, but they reinvested their profits into research and development so they could make better and better products. Everything they make is a feat of engineering, and they still put the best components in what they offer.

What about cost? Clearly, Apple has never been concerned about making their products wallet-friendly. Customer support? They do okay, but they don’t have a reputation for superior customer service.

Another company with a laser-like focus in one particular direction is Amazon, but its direction is customer satisfaction.

Amazon’s goal is to ship anything I could ever want the fastest, cheapest, and most reliably. Plus, when I do have a problem, I’m always right! Amazon always rules in my favor and takes my word for it, regardless of the situation. Every time, Amazon issues a refund immediately.

But Amazon does more than merely correct its wrongs. Once, the carrier mistakenly placed my order in a vacationing neighbor’s mailbox. When I informed Amazon that the order was lost, not only did they send a replacement overnight, but when the original turned up, they told me to keep it. How many other companies would do that? I was dumbfounded. Amazon also occupied more space in my head as a result.

The point is that Amazon, more than any other company I can think of, makes you feel like you’re in control as the customer, and not at their mercy.

Where’s Your Focus?

Do you feel like your agency is stretched between culture-building, talent acquisition, and customer service? You can spin one plate well enough, but adding a second causes the first to wobble. When a third plate joins the party, it’s all you can do to keep them from crashing to the floor.

If Apple and Amazon are only able to excel in one area, you will have to admit to yourself that you’re not likely to do better.

But that’s good news! You don’t have to try to be the best at building a thriving culture, acquiring rockstar talent, and delivering personalized, effective customer service. Pick the area where you can be the most successful and focus there. You’ll carve out a distinct niche for yourself.

Of course, focusing intently on one specific area doesn’t mean you can neglect the other areas. Your culture won’t improve itself; however, if your agency only has 2-3 people and you never want to get much bigger than that, culture-building doesn’t have to be your highest priority. Periodic initiatives to make sure your agency is really living its espoused values might suffice.

So, how do you decide where to plant your flag?

First, reflect on where your agency is already exceeding expectations:

  • Is your agency’s culture such that if you were to suddenly become indisposed for weeks, it could carry on without missing a beat?
  • Do rockstar producers want to come work for you…and are you able to keep them?
  • Do the people in your agency really take care of customers? Do they reliably anticipate needs and follow through in ways that give them legendary status with your customers?

Your answer might be obvious; however, just because you excel in an area right now doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider pivoting to a different one. For instance, your customer service might earn you high praise on your customers’ social media channels, but perhaps adding a couple of heavyweights in the sales department will take your agency to the next level. Without completely sacrificing your personal touch, you might want to devote the majority of your time and energy to recruiting.

Putting It into Action

Many people think they have a shot at winning the lottery. Myriad brands convince themselves they can be excellent at quality, cost, and customer service. In the end, everyone is disappointed. Avoid such wishful thinking and instead:

  • Pick the area where you can be most successful and focus there.
  • Determine where you can carve a niche for yourself.
  • Have the patience and discipline to rock in one area while not completely punting on the other two.

Don’t give yourself the headache of trying to do something some of the biggest brands can’t do themselves. I’m still learning this lesson.

– Matt Oatley