Defining What You Are, And Are Not - Social Media Explorer
Defining What You Are, And Are Not
Defining What You Are, And Are Not

The Achille’s Heel of agencies is they often don’t know how to say, “no.” Clients ask them if they can launch a website. Yes! Can they write a speech? Yes! Can they manage a text campaign? Yes! Can they wrap a tour bus? Yes!

The problem is that more often than not, the correct answer an agency should give is, “no.” While there’s nothing wrong with finding a suitable vendor or third party to help the client, most agencies fear appearing incapable of anything, so they say, “yes!” and figure out how later.

Look around your own market in the digital marketing and communications space. Who is the best SEO shop? What about online PR? Who manages social media content best? Anyone stand out in the mobile space?

Certainly every digital shop in town, and a dozen or so other independent consultants, will claim to be best-in-class or at least town in all those categories. The simple truth is that no one shop usually is. And this contradiction in and of itself is killing the agency business in the minds of brands who use them.

In defining who I am, I’ve landed on the notion I’m more a thinker than a doer. Put me in charge of Facebook and Tweets and writing copy for ads and press releases — all tasks I am capable of completing — and both you and I will be less than thrilled in the long run. But if left to determine the strategic direction of said communications, we’ll both be mightily pleased.

Social Media Explorer’s agency division, SME Digital, has done a lot of defining of itself lately. Are we an agency or a consultancy? And there is a difference. I’ll leave it up to Nichole to discuss that in more depth down the line, but the important thing is that we’re sticking to the principle I used to found the company in 2009, which was this:

I want to be the person that tells clients what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear.

That means many will fire me/us. That means we’ll have to learn to say, “no.” But it also means that we’ll provide what we’re good at and not what we’re not. We’d much rather deliver results and work that you can all but guarantee will be good, rather than random deliverables that may or may not fall apart.

It’s important for you, whether an independent practitioner, agency staff person or even brand-side marketer, to understand four critical pieces of information in order to be successful in the communications game:

  1. Know what you do best
  2. Know what you can do well
  3. Know what you can’t do well
  4. Know who can

Once you define that, you can define you and reap the benefits of knowing.

About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at
  • David

    What a great blog post. I feel I always try to do what I can do well and not try and do things that I personally know aren’t what highlight my skill sets. I think that this puts me in position to choose the work that I am best suited to do so that the company can do its best.

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  • nice article nice tips to keep in mind and i recommend it as a Online Marketer

  • Excellent blog post! Too many are trying to do everything and failing miserably in their attempt. I just love your statement and it should be everyone’s motto: “I want to be the person that tells clients what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear.”

  • heatherwhaling

    I love this. I try to be very clear about what we do and what we don’t do. I’m sure that means we’re leaving money on the table, but I’d rather know what we do well and do that, instead of trying to cobble services together that may or may not live up to the high standard we try to achieve for all our clients.

    I think this even extends beyond services though. I’ve learned there are types of clients that we’re better suited to work with. Just as we’re not a fit for all clients, not all clients are a good fit for us either. It took me a little while to learn that, but now I try to be very careful about the type of work we take on AND the types of clients we choose to work with. It’s a balancing act, but one that (when I stick to this approach) let’s us do better.

  • Steve Woodruff

    How many exclamation points of agreement am I allowed in one comment?