Just a few short years ago when search engine marketing was still very young; a prospective client looking for help with search marketing sought an agency with expertise in search. Once the client selected a search capable agency, they did not want “their” agency working with other companies in their industry or vertical market. Clients viewed their search agency as a “secret marketing weapon” and wanted to be sure that none of their competitors shared the same secret or an interest in competing for the same keywords. There was fear that there would be conflicts of interest.
Fast forward just a few short years, add a lot more sophistication, millions of dollars in search engine advertising, and the equation changes. Just yesterday, iCrossing announced a reorganization that will align their client service teams by industry expertise. The iCrossing verticals include: automotive, energy, financial services, life & wellness, retail & consumer packaged goods, telecommunications & technology, and travel & hospitality.
This is a model similar to the one used by large consulting firms such as Accenture with its 170,000 employees. Using a vertical industry organization allows team members to leverage their expertise across clients and for clients to gain from the team's deep knowledge of the market and its demands. It is also a model that is familiar to C-level executives who look for vertical bench strength in consulting teams and expect that team member resumes will reflect experience in their specific market.
Is this the iCrossing reorganization a sign of the times? Is search really growing up? Are agencies now achieving the mass where they can establish entire teams dedicated and experienced in industry verticals (iCrossing now has 550 employees in 13 offices)? Looks like it to me.