Why Relevant Industry Experience Is Irrelevant

  •   Doug Logan

By Doug Logan

Problem solving sees no specific industry.

One of the most common questions I get when talking with a new client is "Do you have any relevant industry experience?" and while 70% of the time I can say that we do have relevant experience in their industry, 100% of the time I want to respond "No, and it doesn't matter."

So, indulge me for a couple minutes as I explain to you why relevant industry experience is irrelevant.


Why do clients think it's important?

Before I show you what is wrong with this kind of thinking, let's talk about what most clients are trying to achieve with this logic. It boils down to just one underlying statement:

They are looking for relevant experience in their industry as a way to mitigate the risk of hiring the wrong digital agency.

That seems pretty straightforward and even sounds like pretty solid logic. I mean if I had a brain tumor, I wouldn't go to a cardiologist for a prognosis. Right? But choosing the right digital agency isn't anything like choosing the right doctor.


The cookie cutter approach.

If you are looking for someone to give you the exact same approach to your challenges as they have done for someone else, stop reading this article.

We don't provide cookie cutter approaches to our clients, and most good digital agencies don't either. When new clients say things like "We love the work you did for Ferrari. Can you do the exact same thing for us?" we kindly explain that we might not be the right fit for them.

The problem with the cookie cutter approach is that you approach new challenges the same way as old challenges, hoping for different results. While we have achieved really great results for our clients, no two clients (and their challenges) are exactly alike.


A fresh perspective.

Ultimately, the biggest benefit to stop asking this question is getting a fresh perspective on your challenges. While this means that your new agency might have to get up to speed on your industry, I would argue that a fresh perspective outweighs that cost. Let me explain why.

Whenever we start working with a new client, we always start with research. Whenever we are doing a rebrand or launching a new brand, we get a sense for how the market perceives what our client has to offer.

Taking this approach allows us to see our client through the eyes of their target customers.

That perspective is usually different than the perception our client wants. Which is usually why they are talking with us in the first place. We also tell them how their target audience sees them, even if it hurts a little. We then build a strategy to reposition their brand while overcoming their other challenges.


The right question to ask.

It wouldn't be much help for me to just bash on the logic of this question without offering up a suggestion for a better question. So without further delay, here's the question you should be asking:

Do you have experience solving the challenges we are facing?

You are probably wondering why this question is so much better than the previous one. It's simple: it shows you whether the agency you are talking to can actually solve problems. So what if we worked with Ferrari, did we make a difference? Can we show you that difference? Can we measure the difference? Is that difference meaningful to you?

Hopefully the next time you are looking to engage a new digital agency, or any agency for that matter, this article will come in hand. Just don't follow my advice if you are looking for a doctor.