Rak Rants

Bigger Doesn’t Mean Better


With all the “debate” lately about the size of one’s hands, I just couldn’t resist jumping in. But before you think I’m going to talk about certain, um, body parts, guess again. I’ll leave that to the politicians (wait, did I really just say that out loud?).

I’m going to talk about the size of your marketing firm.

It goes without saying that bigger isn’t better, unless of course, you think more expensive is better, and who thinks that?! I’ve been running into the “big agency vs. small agency” conversation lately and think it is a topic well worth blogging about.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes there may be a need to use a bigger agency like if an account requires a large number of resources to get the job done. But unless you’re McDonalds or Target, it’s important to keep in mind that, although many people think that the larger the agency, the better the service will be, or the more creative it will be, I can assuredly say this isn’t always the case. The bigger the machine, the more it takes to keep it running.

Working with both smaller and larger agencies have pros and cons, but speaking as the owner of a boutique marketing firm, there are definitely benefits to working with an agency like mine.

  1. Size Does Matter – A boutique agency is more nimble and streamlined, which means it is better positioned to be responsive and strategic. They are skillful enough to move in all directions to serve clients over and above what is expected in real-time.
  2. Big Agency Expertise – It might surprise you to learn that a significant percentage of people working at boutique agencies actually came from the big ones! They bring their experience with them, so often clients are getting the big agency experience even though they are working with a smaller agency. Bonus!
  3. No Project Is Too Small – On the subject of size, smaller agencies love those projects that might not have a million-dollar budget, but allow them to show a million dollars worth of creativity. Boutique agencies rarely have the “minimum spend” requirement to sign on an account that the bigger guys do. Hey, lots of layers cost lots of money.
  4. Need for Speed? – Somewhat related to size, boutique agencies are also able to be much quicker on the draw than even their largest competitors. And with no bureaucracies to wade through, efficiency never suffers. And the focus is where it should be: on the client.
  5. Creative Risk = Creative Reward – To stand out, risk is almost always required. Boutique agencies are less risk-averse when it comes to presenting out-of-the-box ideas because they don’t have a large holding company to answer to for their creative efforts. They are better positioned to take a concept and run with it.
  6. Less Cash, More Efficient – Boutique agencies obviously have much lower overhead, so they’re able to charge less for the same service delivered by a larger agency. And who isn’t trying to save money these days?
  7. No Bait and Switch – Boutique agencies don’t trot out the big guns for the first meeting then throw the contract over the wall to an entry-level account manager once the deal is signed. You get access to the leader from the start and they don’t go away. Ever.
  8. Flexibility – Boutique agencies are used to being flexible and bringing in resources when necessary. Rather than being forced to deal with whatever a larger agency has available, the boutique agency can cherry-pick the best from their reserves.

When it comes right down to it, agency size doesn’t matter at all. It’s really about the brains of the people and the leadership behind the agency. When working on any project, the client/agency relationship becomes very close. This makes it critical that not only is the agency able to help you meet your marketing goals, but that they are also the type of people you want to work with.

Rather than looking at the size of the agency, look deeper. Ask how the agency has measurably impacted the bottom line of its clients. And listen carefully. The answer shouldn’t be, “We just threw a great big marketing staff at the challenge.”

So next time you’re looking for an agency to give you a “hand” with your marketing, don’t disregard the smaller ones out there. You just might be very pleasantly surprised with what you get! Or as Donald Trump would say, “There’s no problem, I guarantee it.”