Why our 'one-stop shop' model is right for small businesses

I’m going to start this post with a warning. There’s going to a few clichéd phrases in it, but instead of editing them out, I decided that they make perfect sense and I make no apologies for using them, so let’s start with this one: The customer is king.
The Urban Dictionary defines it well:

The customer is king: A corporate cliche meaning that the direction of a business is ultimately determined by its customers. The business is compelled to sell products and services that customers want/need, at a price they are willing to pay, and provide an acceptable level of service, otherwise customers will look elsewhere and they will not make money.

Scotland border
There should be no boundaries between marketing disciplines.

Ever since Canary Dwarf was founded in 2005, our customers have been quite clear about one thing they don’t want to be shoved from pillar to post to get what they need.
And that’s understandable, who does? It could be said that the web business has woolly boundaries.
Customers don’t always know where the line is drawn between design and development, usability and analytics, or where copywriting becomes PR, or even search engine optimisation.
And that’s not their fault, because it’s not the boundaries that are woolly, it’s because bounding these things is counterproductive. It’s vital that every aspect of digital marketing has no boundaries.
In fact, it should be so devoid of boundaries that it also bleeds into offline marketing and even customer relationship management.
Think about it. Should a small business really treat online and offline marketing separately?

A culture of specialists

But all this has come about because of the culture of ‘specialising’. There are SEO specialists, Adwords specialists, usability specialists, copywriting specialists, I could go on. And for years, all the ‘thought leaders’ have said that if you work in ‘digital’ you should be specialising.
At Canary Dwarf, we have adamantly stood our ground against this culture to remain generalists not specialists, and for one reason.
We believe it’s not what the customer needs or wants. And we don’t just think that, we know it. They’ve told us. “We just want everything in one place,” they say.
And that leads me onto the second cliché — The One-stop Shop.
Wikipedia defines it as:

One-stop shop:  a business or office where multiple services are offered; i.e., customers can get all they need in just ‘one stop’. The term originated in the United States in the late 1920s or early 1930s to describe a business model offering customers the convenience of having multiple needs met in one location, instead of having to “drive all over town” to attain related services at different stores.

Canary Dwarf, Forres
Our one-stop shop is actually a shop where you can stop and get advice on your online and offline marketing.

We are a one-stop shop. We provide a full range of of marketing services that spans web, mobile and media. But there is a vital aspect to being able to offer a one-stop shop, and that’s the ability to meet those ‘multiple needs’. It would be wrong to offer a ‘full service’ if we had little or no experience.
Check out our team page if you want to find out more about our backgrounds. We’ve lost count of the number of people who come to us because they’ve been given advice that simply doesn’t fit their business, because it’s been given by a specialist in another area.
Whether it’s putting far too much resource into social media, or saying “WordPress isn’t right for your type of business”, or “your customers probably don’t use mobiles”.  These are all things we’ve heard.
We’ll demonstrate, explain and even guarantee everything we advise. If we don’t know it, we don’t bluff it.
I’m not saying that specialising is wrong. Purely the fact that there is a culture of specialising shows there is a demand, and indeed when we need a specialist, we don’t fool ourselves that we know everything, and we use them when we need them.

The customer who asked for SEO didn’t get SEO

A case in point is where a customer who recently came to us specifically asking for SEO.
We could have priced and delivered a programme of SEO, but it would have been ignoring key factors on his site that SEO would not have addressed. It would ultimately have cost him a lot more to use SEO to override the problems he didn’t know he had.
He’s now happily sitting at the top of the search engines with little more than basic SEO on his site, because we took a ‘big picture’ view and saw that the key problems lay elsewhere. What’s most rewarding about this study is that the customer is getting more enquiries and more orders as a result of the work we did.

Everybody’s doing it

And although we are adamant that our model is right for our customer, it’s only right that we should ask oursleves ‘”is it still right?” And while we have occasionally stroked our chin and looked out of the window wondering if we should have specialised, it appears an increasing number of marketing agencies are increasingly becoming ‘full service’, that the posh way to say one-stop shop.
In a report, over half (52%) now offer a ‘full range of digital marketing services’, an increase from 45% in 2012 and 42% in 2011. (See http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/63136-52-of-agencies-now-offer-a-full-range-of-digital-marketing-services)
But with all this comes another, and thankfully our last, cliché: Are we being a ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’? Respected web strategist and blogger Paul Boag addressed this on his blog ‘Should we be more multi-disciplinary, ie, know UI, layout, graphics, copy, HTML, etc?, and I have written twice on the subject myself:

What is important, as the case study above shows, is that customers’ needs are properly identified and addressed.
If that doesn’t require specialist help, and in most cases it doesn’t, then they get good value from a one-stop shop or a full-service agency, whatever you decide to call it.