Hiring A Digital Agency? Bigger Is Not Always Better

Pete Schauer

Marketing Director

Plenty of things are better when they’re bigger. The car you drive. The home you live in. The bed you sleep in. Your paycheck. But not everything is better. Many customers choose to purchase products from smaller companies because they prefer the one-on-one interaction. Some students opt for smaller colleges or universities because they want to be known as a person rather than a number. And some brands select smaller advertising agencies because they enjoy the passion and flexibility.

If you’re a big business looking to hire an agency for your digital advertising needs, it’s tempting to go with one of the big guys. Big agencies get a lot of attention and tend to work with more widely-known clients. They are also confident in their time-tested project management methodologies and refer back to their favorable reputation. Yet there are a few things that big agencies lack.

The Trouble with Big Advertising Agencies

Big agencies are essentially big bureaucracies, and both deal with issues surrounding flexibility, efficiency and originality. Though many big agencies have had success with their methodologies, the world is not time tested. Instead, it continues to grow and evolve, and agencies of every size need to keep up with these trends. The media landscape is especially no exception, as this area requires innovation, creativity and out-of-box thinking. A reputation alone - particularly one based on old methodologies - is not going to keep clients satisfied for long.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to hiring a big agency is that they are deeply rooted in their practices and find them to be the “best” and “only” ways to handle projects. Big agencies are busy, have a large staff and lots of overhead, so they try to give all clients consistent yet limited attention. All project management methodologies are adapted to fit each client or project with little room for innovation or growth.

It’s common for big agencies to miss out on new and upcoming trends because they are so focused on practicing what has worked well. Interestingly, it’s usually the larger companies that are latest to employ new concepts and ideas.

If big agencies aren’t the idealistic ones to lend your business to, then who is?

What are Boutique Advertising Agencies?

Boutique agencies are specialized advertising agencies. In other words, they’re smaller, creative groups that aren’t afraid to try new aspects of marketing and advertising. The staff is smaller and the overhead lower, allowing these agencies to deliver highly personalized experiences for clients.

Some brands choose to work with smaller agencies after they’ve worked with larger ones and failed to see the results they were hoping for. Brands will also choose smaller agencies when they’re focused on highly creative and personalized marketing materials or want to stand apart from their competition with forward-thinking, innovative ad campaigns. Unfortunately, some brands aren’t even aware that such agencies exist.

Let’s take a look at the benefits to hiring a small, specialized agency for your advertising needs, and how this move can be the ultimate game changer for your marketing strategy.

Smaller Agencies Drive Innovation and Creativity

Boutique agencies are trendsetters. They don’t need to follow a specific set of rules to make a profit. In fact, that would be too boring for a small agency. Their specialized team members are constantly researching the latest marketing trends, and they aren’t afraid to put their own spin on them. People get so focused on what’s right and wrong in the digital advertising world, they ignore their intuition and never let their imagination grow. Yet this is what marketing is all about: ingenuity, talent and originality that is cohesive, consistent and engaging. Boutique agencies aren’t afraid to go there.

Flexibility and Innovation

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To expand on what we’ve been talking about, imagine working with a big advertising agency that employs hundreds or thousands of people. To keep things organized, each person has their own specific task, and they’re not equipped to cross over into any other territory. Heck, they may not even know the person sitting in the next cubicle. If you ever want to discuss what Bill in web design talked to you about, good luck. Each team member has their specific role, and the road stops there.

Switch on over to a boutique agency and this won’t be the case. You might have 20 people employed, and all of them know each other. Maybe a little too well. You can chat with anyone on the phone about your project, and each team member will have some degree of familiarity with its status. And if they're not sure, all they have to do is shout over, “Hey Bill! How are the watermarks coming along on Best Client Ever’s images?”

When people focus on their role and nothing more, there is little room for flexibility. This is how big businesses become deep rooted in their practices and ways of thinking, and it becomes very difficult for them to adapt to new concepts. For a big agency to change, all hundreds or thousands of employees must come together and agree. Small agencies are constantly refining their practices, sharing ideas and exploring new trends, and when something new comes along, they aren’t afraid to entertain it.

One-on-One Interaction

Your marketing strategies have an enormous impact on your brand. A good marketing strategy will get your brand noticed, generate new business, drive sales and increase ROI. Not all marketing tactics will be the winning solutions you hoped for, but you hope that more are than not. Luckily, marketing is no longer the create-and-launch setup that it once was. Today, you can easily keep track of your efforts and refine them along the way to meet the needs of your audience. But, to make this work, your agency must have a good understanding of who you are.

Big agencies have a tendency to define your brand before you do. That’s because their main intention is to apply their practices to your company whether you sell shoes or engineering software. It really doesn’t matter to them. A smaller agency, on the other hand, will take the time to get to know your business, your audience, your short- and long-term goals and what you like to have for lunch. So don’t ever be afraid by lots of questions in the beginning. This is just the agency getting a feel for who you are.

Passionate, Fearless Leaders

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Remember when we said that big agencies have lots of employees, each with their own role? Rarely do these people cross over into other job roles. They stick to their own and conform to what that niche is. Over time, this causes people to lose their ability to think creatively. They become comfortable with the big agency model, and they know how to deliver under those circumstances only.

Fearless leaders who like to defy the odds are typically drawn to smaller agencies. They are excited and eager to share their ideas, which are usually only embraced  by the smaller guys that are continually growing their reputation. Big agencies may be scared away by new ways of thinking or feel that it doesn’t “fit” within the boundaries of their methodologies, but boutique agencies thrive on fresh thinking. What you get is an agency with a handful of highly creative and skilled leaders who aren’t afraid to take risks.

What drives these leaders even further is their diehard passion. They don’t want to be stripped of their creativity and ingenuity, which is why they choose not to work for big businesses. They instead enjoy the challenge and are always looking to apply fresh perspectives to their clients’ needs so that each one is distinct from the next. As it’s been said, “Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks.”

If you’re still clinging to the big agency model, we hope that we have encouraged you to think in a new manner. Boutique agencies are energetic, excited and on the cusp of newness. If you’re tired of churning out the same standard marketing techniques with the same results, it’s time to try something different. A boutique agency will breathe new life into your strategy and give you results to get excited about.

About the Author: Pete Schauer

Born and raised at the Jersey Shore, Pete Schauer is the Marketing Director at SEMGeeks. He holds a M.A. in Digital Communications from William Paterson University and has 8+ years in the digital space with companies such as Bleacher Report and Social Media Today in addition to SEMGeeks. His background includes creative and professional writing as well as strategic digital marketing communications and management.

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