Some years back, a large-scale insurance company hired a similarly large-scale marketing agency to promote a new auto insurance product. It was to be released just before the holidays, when auto accidents are at their highest. But by July of the following year, when the trees were in full bloom and snow and ice were nowhere in sight, the public was not yet aware of the product, much less able to purchase it.
Why? Because those responsible for the marketing campaign were mired in large company red tape and way too many cooks in the kitchen.
In a surprising twist in paradigm, the company decided to hire a small, independent agency, free from the constraints of big-business bureaucracy. Within a few months, the product was re-conceived, re-marketed, and released for public consumption…well before the first frost.
“Big brands with big vision are looking for agencies that can match their perspective, not their size,” said Ruth Bernstein, co-founder and chief strategic officer at YARD, a New York-based creative agency. Bernstein isn’t alone in her thinking; clients and marketing executives everywhere are extoling the virtues of smaller agencies.
Perhaps one, Nail Communications Creative Partner Alec Beckett, says it best: “…A tight-knit group of employees with small egos and huge hearts…means collaborative relationships with clients where their successes and failures ring and sting as our own.” Small egos and huge hearts? Are we talking about profit-based business here?
In addition to magnanimity, there are other benefits to working with a small marketing agency:
• Speed – Because small agencies involve fewer levels of hierarchy and a flatter organizational structure, work can be produced and delivered nimbly and quickly. Large agencies swamped in several levels of internal approval and pressure from external shareholders and stock analysts experience longer turnover times and inhibited productivity. Associates in a small agency can all collaborate together, eliminating the time suck of people working in silos and stalled in multiple layers of personnel.
• Innovation – Ever wonder why the five-person startup companies seem to be the most innovative, thus capturing the lion’s share of audience attention? People who choose to work for smaller, independent companies are typically uninhibited, free-thinking types who are not afraid to take risks. They seek out work cultures and environments that encourage creativity and truly “out of the box” thinking. They are unaffected by holding company rules, outside agendas, and the need to receive permission from multiple players in the process. The result is fresh, original work that can keep up with changing trends and stands out in the eyes of clients and consumers.
• Client-agency relationships – Just as smaller agency associates can collaborate equally with team members, so can their clients. According to Abby Lee, vice president of marketing at RE/MAX: “Smaller agencies tend to become part of your marketing team – they get ingrained in your company’s DNA. They are more interested in your business and helping it evolve and grow than…in using it as a vessel for awards and accolades.” Indeed, the boutique culture of smaller agencies is closer, friendlier, more readily available to chew over ideas with each other and with clients. No one is more important than another, and there really is no “I” in their “TEAM.” Over the years, a small agency can become like family, invested personally and emotionally in clients’ success.
• More bang for the buck – Because small agencies typically hire all senior level people, bypassing the junior level staff that large agencies often employ, clients get the most for their money in terms of talent and experience. “Big agencies reel in new accounts with a list of prestigious names that will be working on the project, but once you’re on board it’s usually lower-level staff that will actually be doing the work,” notes growth marketer AJ Agrawal. What’s more, pricing can be more competitive because it takes a smaller, less layered agency less time to produce quality work. Less time often equates to less cost.
• Flexibility – Small agencies are bound by little but the limits of their imagination. Decisions can be made spontaneously, and boundless permutations of an idea can blossom over the course of a day – heck, an hour! Think it, write it, design it, present it. Client has other ideas? No problem; back to the drawing board, and boom! Another collective brainchild is conceived. No project is too small, few deadlines are too tight, and big projects are met with excitement, unhindered by a tangle of corporate red tape and a snail’s inertia.
• Specialization – Smaller agencies are often specialists in a certain service, audience or vertical. This is particularly appealing to marketers who don’t wish to spend time educating partners on their industry, especially for smaller projects, or gaining physical proximity to manage progress. Specialized professionals have years of insight into certain industries, and businesses of any size value their expertise and ability to go deep.
Let our boutique marketing experts show you the big advantages of a smaller agency.
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