Horizontal vs Vertical Growth

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Should agency leaders be thinking about growing horizontally or vertically? Horizontal growth means that you are providing services to people regardless of industry or size. You are really good at a service or a thing, and you have the confidence that you can apply it to multiple circumstances. Vertical growth is much more like, “I really understand e-commerce, therefore, I’m going to keep on selling to e-commerce folks.” Is there one that is better than another? No, with some caveats.

Once your agency is established and your processes and team are pretty good, you can start working across multiple opportunities. Put people who understand a particular vertical really well on those opportunities, and have somebody else working on different opportunities. You’ve got a little bit of scale, so you can create different marketing messages for those different parts of your audience.

Horizontal is really hard when you’re starting out. The reason why people hire an agency isn’t because they know the technology stuff. It’s not because they know Facebook Business Manager or Google Ads Manager or DoubleClick. That’s not why they get hired. They get hired because they have a sense of how to do something that the client doesn’t know how to do. If you can focus on a smaller slice of the world, you’re going to be able to master those things faster, your team is gonna create better processes, and you’re going to be able to spot problems that clients are likely to have more quickly. 

Focus on growing vertically in the beginning. It makes your world smaller, so you can learn faster, take on more clients and provide better service. When you have a little bit of scale, you can start to spread out.

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