Why Niching Down Isn’t Enough and 4 Tips to Build Client Trust

By Jason Swenk on September 25, 2022

Are you searching for ways to stand out from your competition? Niching down is one way to do it, but that alone might not necessarily cut it when it comes to getting noticed. One school of thought drilling down even more in a technology or service vertical. And don’t underestimate how far genuine honesty and asking the right questions will take you when it comes to earning authority and trust.

Adam Pearce and Peter Gardner are the CVO and CEO of Blend Commerce, an e-commerce customer experience agency for Shopify businesses. Adam and Peter believe that Customer Experience (CX) is the cornerstone of both customer acquisition and long-term customer retention. They focus obsessively on improving clients’ CX pre-, during-, and post-purchase. They’ve been through some rocky years as they grew their agency but the real change began once they learned to see each others’ strengths and built a community of agency owners willing to help each other.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Figuring out your agency’s direction and niche.
  • Developing strategic partners and allies instead of competing.
  • 4 tips to build client trust and stand out from the competition.


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Tough Lessons About Working with an Agency Business Partner

Neither Adam nor Peter were working in e-commerce when they first met through their wives. They both had the idea of starting their own businesses and found the right vehicle when they learned about something called Shopify. Adam was a bit skeptical at first, but he joined Peter and they started their agency journey with Peter in charge of development while Adam handled marketing. Seven years later, they have grown from a team of three to 20 people.

They’ve seen some rocky times in their agency, of course. One thing they wish they would’ve learned sooner was understanding each other better. Failing to do so sooner was the root of most of their problems. They’d always been clear about what they wanted to achieve with the agency but they both had very different ideas about how to get there.

Adam is a very structured thinker and planner while Peter is more of an idea man. They were pretty much opposites in that sense, which is why they clashed. The light bulb moment came once they realized rather than getting upset at each other for doing things differently, they could just work on different parts of the business while aiming for the same goal.

Is Choosing a Niche Enough to Help You Stand Out?

The answer is: not necessarily.

Picking a niche is an important part of your digital agency growth. Many agencies start doing a little bit of everything and eventually specialize in something they’re great at. Picking a vertical like WordPress or Shopify usually depends on getting an early start. For instance, just picking Shopify as a niche won’t cut it nowadays because the market is saturated. When Adam and Peter first started they were one of maybe two agencies in that niche. Now there are many and as a result, they’ve had to niche down further.

They niched down in the service offering by moving more into the retention side. Now they see themselves as a customer experience agency and focus more on the long-term value of a customer for their clients. They were smart in realizing the necessity to be laser focused, not just in the Shopify space but in picking a service vertical as well.

They think they have missed out on work due to a lack of experience in a particular service vertical. However on the other hand, they also win a lot of projects because there are not many agencies that specialize in lifetime value before, during, and after the sale.

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Why Other Agencies Are Potential Allies Instead of Just Competitors

If you feel you have to destroy your competition, you may be missing out on valuable strategic alliances. Adam and Peter have always treated other agencies like friends and partners. It’s something we promote and encourage with our Digital Agency Elite Mastermind members as well.

Early on and not knowing how to get more clients, they decided to approach bigger more established agencies. They presented themselves as a trustworthy referral partner and asked them to send any leads they didn’t want their way. Before long, they actually did start receiving referrals from these bigger agencies.

Of course, they also found agencies that were less than willing to engage with them. They even got some competitors trying to stop their progress. Luckily, they had already built good relationships with many agencies so these attempts not only didn’t work, but backfired.

It’s a mentality they still practice now that they are a bigger agency as they try to help smaller start-up agencies. Ultimately, there is enough business for everyone and they don’t see a need for a “destroy the competition” mentality.

Furthermore, you can learn from other agency owners. If we were all more willing to have honest conversations with other agency owners, we would realize we’ve all had many of the problems and even offer useful tips to each other.

4 Tips To Build Trust and Makes You Stand Out From the Competition

  1. Be honest even when it’s hard: Honesty set you apart from the competition. If the client has unreasonable goals or expectations, just be honest and tell them. Maybe they’ll decide you’re not the right agency for them, but maybe they’ll hear you out and listen to your ideas.
  2. Don’t try to sell everything at once: You probably want to sell a client X, Y, and Z but you know what they really need at the moment is just X. Sell them X, do a great job and build trust. Then, once they trust you, upsell Y and Z. Moreover, not everyone can afford everything at one time. Doing it progressively is the best way to consider the client while still increasing your sales.
  3. Ask the right questions: Many clients come in with an idea of what they need, like a redesign of their website store. However, once you start asking the right questions and get them to think about the problems they’re experiencing you realize that’s not the solution at all. Being willing to challenge them on the real problem will help you establish trust.
  4. Be willing to educate them. Saying “just trust me” doesn’t cut it. Really explain where they’re at and the plan on how to get where they want to be. Explain it almost to the point where they could just do it themselves. They won’t, that’s why they’re looking for someone to do it for them. Plus if they really understand, then you successfully showed them they can trust you instead of just asking them to trust.

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