‘If you think you can be too small to make an impact, try sleeping with a mosquito.’ – Dalai Lama
Does size matter when it comes to working with a branding or marketing agency?
My answer – it depends.
Go Big or Go Home
It’s a common phrase, but do you really need to “go big” when hiring an agency? Common perception would say that a large agency is the size it is for a reason, usually indicating a success metric that can’t be ignored. Having that large staff will give many clients some sort of assurance that as they grow, the agency will be able to handle all of their requests without taxing their resources. And while this is entirely accurate, there is a caveat to hiring any large agency. Just because you select the large agency does not actually guarantee you more experience on your project. I’ve heard multiple stories of account work getting assigned to junior staff members before being approved by seasoned executives. As a client once told me about his past agency experience, “I was paying Don Draper prices for a junior designer to work on my project. That’s not what I signed on for.” #TrueStory
Now don’t get me wrong, there are many benefits to hiring a large agency. I’m a big advocate for large agencies when the need arises. You’ll usually get a plethora of resources at your disposal whenever you need it, and they’ll have your back when you need them to churn and burn work quickly. But they aren’t for every company.
When it comes to smaller agencies, one of the most perceived notions is how much money you will save. And while that may be true, it’s not because the hourly wage is necessarily less. It’s because you’ll likely get a seasoned professional working on your project that will eliminate the layers of bureaucracy (aka…the hours spent climbing up the corporate ladder) without sacrificing the quality of work – thus, saving you money. With a small agency, you’ll have the option of hiring out for projects as the need arises, which means you don’t have to commit to a full campaign or monthly retainer. You’ll also likely be talking to the owner of the agency directly, which means that they will know you personally, your project, and will personally take care of any issues when and if the need arises.
Many smaller agencies also have specialties that will set their company apart from the larger agencies. These are the type of agencies that will take one area, a niche, and focus on that as their point of differentiation.
Small Agencies Love Innovation
If you’re a company looking to think outside of the box or create a new category or market within your industry, smaller agencies can provide you with the level of innovation that you will need to stand out. Unlike the larger agencies that are focused on creating more traditional campaigns, smaller agencies will generally have a better grasp of new marketing. That’s not because they are more “in the know,” it’s because they have the ability to make decisions quickly, take bigger risks, and leverage new technology and processes to support these innovative ideas.
Big or Small – it doesn’t matter – the end goal is still the same.
Focusing on the size of the agency is not helpful or productive. Instead, you need to ask better questions and focus on the desired outcome for your project.
By asking questions like: “How long have you been in business?” or “Have you handled other projects of this size before?“ or “Do have you the bandwidth for a project scope of this size?” are far more relevant questions to ask than “How many people are at your firm?”
If you are a company looking for branding or marketing help, my suggestion is that you figure out what you need and then pick the best team for the job. Don’t focus on size. Instead, choose the agency or partner who understands your brand, the audience, and can propose the right solution for your needs.