Small agencies can offer better service, value and results as compared to large agencies especially on project work jobs
One of the usual shortcomings of working with a large agency is bureaucracy. To get anything done, there are usually several layers of management and legal red-tape to get through before actual workers get to work on anything. By the time the work is done and ready for review, it may be many moons. It may be several solstices if the client decides to change direction anytime within a project.
Having many layers of people in a project mainly due to a large business structure does add to the cost of a project. Any form of rework or strategy changes are cumbersome to implement. This is a reality often observed while working at large agencies.
Since large agencies conduct business with their clients often for several millions of dollars at time, there is the inevitability of having a legal department whet all contracts. So, the time from decision (of a client to pursue a project) to action (where an agency starts working on such project) is quite substantial.
For smaller project work do brands need large agencies? For a quick turnaround where time is a major constraint, a small agency can almost always execute faster. Many small agencies don’t even ask for a payment upfront and can purely begin work based on business relationships.
Put another way, if you know you need a Phillips-Head screwdriver to finish a task, do you need to purchase an entire mechanic’s tool set?
Let’s discuss the benefits of working with small agencies further.
Small agencies know how long something is going to take and what it will cost because the skill sets contained within a small agency is well-defined and finite. In addition, information and feedback from previous projects is disseminated within a small agency quite quickly because most usually operate in a flat structure. In most cases, when a client asks how long a project will take and whether it is event possible to accomplish, a ball park time and cost estimate is available in a few hours.
For example: Need to get a website for a merger and acquisition announcement up on Monday and today is a Thursday or a Friday? It’s probably possible with a small agency. Sometimes brands want to work with small agencies to cope with the frustrations of working through their own red-tape. The only thing worse than red-tape at your organization and management by consensus is red-tape at the agency you must work with.
Access to Talent
Whether you are getting top talent at a small agency becomes obvious with the finished product. With a large agency, you often don’t know who is working on your project. You may have a super-star talent attending client meetings but who may not work on your project even a wee bit. In a small agency, it is usually the case that a client has direct access to all participants on a project. They may choose to channel all communications via a project manager but the access is present.
Lack of Constraints
Small agencies tend to be not locked onto any business model. Therefore, they can focus on client-needs and achieving objectives rather than focusing on the profitability and enforcing their own business model which may not be aligned with the success of a project. For example, a small agency will usually not object if a client decides to involve some external resources such as a copywriter on a project. Simply because there is no internal policy (for example) to maintain a 90% internal resource usage rate on all projects. A small agency will offer you a fixed cost price on a project and will protect you on price. A large agency will force you to pay for their infrastructure and their British accented receptionist (no offense to British accents) and you will get a bill with countless hours at $300+ per hour with each partial hour rounded up to the next hour.
A Large Agency Cannot Guarantee Success
No agency guarantees success – obviously. But small agencies can commit to some metrics provided they understand their business well and especially in the digital universe. For example, after a preliminary study of a company’s website, looking at historical data, a digital agency who knows what they are doing can give guarantees towards improvements in various data points keeping the same budget. There are many tasks that fall under the ‘digital services’ umbrella where agency experience can be a good predictor of success. And these predictions can be quantified to some extent after some analysis. Only a small agency will put their reputation on the line in a performance guarantee statement.
Small agencies are not burdened with the product they deliver. Large agencies usually have lines of revenue such as advertisements for TV, radio spots, large format printing etc. They usually try to produce deliverables that belong to one of these business lines. Small agencies will usually happily work on projects that fall in-between one or more lines of businesses and focus on the needs of the client more than securing work that aligns with a certain line of business.
Ability to Cope with Slashed Budgets and Smaller Budgets
Making do with less is not easy and many decision makers are tasked with slashing budgets and making do with less. In these situations, working with a small agency may be the only choice. Often small agencies are the only operators who are willing to work on fixed-cost projects where the project price has been slashed by double digits as compared to similar projects from previous years. Many companies have tiny budgets and are sometimes unfortunate enough to exist as the smallest player in an industry dominated by one of more other larger players. In this situation when you cannot match the marketing budget of a larger competitor, maximizing budgets using highly strategic tactics is possibly the only way to get any market traction. In these situations, it would be best to seek out boutique agencies with specific experience that can be leveraged. More importantly, competent agencies because there may be only one chance with a budget to ensure success.
Boutique Agencies are Usually Specialized
Many specialist professionals at large agencies often start their own boutique agencies focusing on their area of specialization. Hiring such boutique agencies for well-defined projects in areas, for example: statistical analysis, market research or web services often makes financial sense. The end-products here can be equal to or better than the same delivered by large agencies. Plus, the client often gets to speak with the CEO who could also be a subject matter expert. The ability to speak directly with a subject matter expert (the professional), at least a few times, is always preferable to speaking always via an account director or project manager because it gives you added insight onto the competency of the ‘brains behind the job’. In large agencies, you are usually speaking with a person who acts as a conduit for information and who has little value outside the agency ecosystem.
Large agencies have a permanent place in the spectrum of agency services because they simply cannot be matched in global reach and range of services. However, for project based tasks, small agencies can provide better value and sometimes are the only option with shrinking or small budgets.