We’ve all heard the phrase “bigger is better.” We tend to like big ideas, and if you’re me, a large diet Coke’s at Mickey D’s is pure pleasure (why does it always taste better at McDonald’s?!?!?). While this phrase is true in many cases, i.e. bigger bank account, it’s not always a universally true aphorism. When it comes to our credit card bills and our waistlines, smaller is usually the goal. The same can be said for agencies.
After spending years at a couple of the largest media companies in the country, bigger can sometimes be better. Nowadays, however, my work has centered around small teams of people making herculean moves, just like the larger agencies. More than once, I have seen astonishing benefits for clients who have chosen to work with more boutique agencies.
There are some obvious reasons that we can likely think of (your dollars can carry more value, less red tape, more flexibility, etc.). However, hearing from clients that have transitioned from bigger to smaller, some of the true benefits they’ve seen were much more defined, if not surprising. In thinking about some of these benefits, I’m reminded of some inspiring folks (and likely my favorite TV character of all time) that have wise words for us marketing folks.
1. “The Enemy Of Great Is Not Bad, The Enemy Is Good”
I’ll bet a lot of folks recognize this quote. If not, I highly recommend Jim Collins’ book, Good To Great, as your next Audible download. A benefit of a larger agency is that they can offer a full suite of services clients. From PR to traditional ad buys to website design, it can be convenient to partner with an agency that is good at all facets of marketing and promotion…and there are many agencies out there that are good at all of these things.
As business goals and strategies become more focused, there is a need for agency partners to be GREAT, not just good. Most smaller or boutique agencies focus on one or a few offerings and become GREAT at delivering unique and tailored solutions to their clients. This is how smaller agencies survive and flourish among the big fish.
Most CMOs or marketing leaders strive for more sales, more leads, and more awareness on a daily basis. When they are staring at a specific deficiency in results, many times, what was once considered ‘good’ is likely not doing the trick anymore. A focused partner specializing in that area of deficiency can likely be the key from taking good to GREAT. Smaller agencies can be well-equipped to be that highly focused, expert partner.
2. “If I’m Shinin’, Everybody Gonna Shine”
Yes, we’re going from Jim Collins to Lizzo. I love this line from "Juice" in respect to business. We all know that there’s no “I” in team. However, when you’re an important member of a smaller team, your work has a much more profound effect on the end result than performing on a larger team.
A widely-known benefit to working with a smaller agency is that the client doesn’t feel like “just another client”, but that agency is an “extension of their team.” There’s likely truth to that statement. However, another side to that is the culture of the agency’s team.
In smaller agencies, you typically have a small number of teammates owning the agency’s expertise in certain areas. In most cases, the people that have directly received the training from Google or attended the SEO trends conference are directly working on your engagement. For lack of a better way to say this, there’s nowhere to hide in a smaller agency. There is a need to be at the top of your game all the time to retain clients and grow the business.
Also consistent in smaller agencies is the line of communication. In many cases, the client is speaking directly to the folks doing the work. There’s no weird game of telephone between the client, account manager, and fulfillment team. The work of one typically reflects on the entire team in a smaller agency.
This structure can make workflows much more streamlined and flexible than working with larger agencies. When it comes to communication, the truth hurts for larger agencies and boutique teams can make a client feel good as hell. (Sorry...had to do it.)
3. “Picture it…Sicily…1922”
If you don’t recognize this quote, I urge you to take a break from reading this blog immediately, get to Hulu, and binge-watch the Golden Girls. Some of the most profound moments of the show came from Dorothy’s old-world, Italian mother, Sophia. Picture it…Sicily…(insert year here) is how she started every story as she regaled her past. Usually, each story had a certain relevance to a present-day problem one of the girls was facing. So picture it…New York…1982.
Client engagements would often have teams of 10-20 people (or more) working on a single engagement with one or just a few folks being the “face” of the engagement. Why? Because it was necessary. Intricate engagements often took an assembly-line approach to complete the work.
Today, technology has allowed for less manual labor and more strategy, creativity and implementation. Of course, larger and smaller agencies have access to the same technologies. This isn’t necessarily a win for a larger or smaller agency. This is a win for the client!
Technology has offered more freedom of choice. It’s helped alleviate the concern that size actually matters. Technology has helped the smaller agency to compete with the big guys. The result of this is that the client can focus on the right solution set, expertise and culture fit for their engagement.
Finding an agency that will act as a true partner can be a daunting task. There are many factors that can weigh into that decision. The good news for marketing leaders is that size truly doesn’t matter in today’s environment.
Fit, culture, and experience of the folks who actually do the work are much more important. Small agencies can have big benefits for clients with specific needs and requirements. Some of these benefits could be game-changing for your agency or organization. Today, marketing leaders have more viable choices...and that’s the best news of all!
We hope you enjoyed this post. Check back soon for our first of a series of SAQ’s (Should Ask Questions) when looking for an agency partner. And! Don't forget to read other articles from the Perfect Search team on our blog!