When you're selecting a marketing agency, your instinct might be to hire the biggest or most well-known creative agency your budget can afford. Although big firms might have name recognition, impressive-sounding awards, and long client lists, there are some very clear benefits to working with a small agency.
The Rise of the Small Marketing Agency
About a decade ago, chief marketing officers (CMOs) started moving away from the traditional agency-of-record model — in which an agency is authorized to purchase advertising time or space on behalf of the company with which they have an agency contract.
The Great Recession meant brands not only had less money to spend, but the surge of digital media and the on-demand economy meant they also had an increasing array of needs around email marketing, social media marketing, content marketing/inbound marketing, and digital advertising.
According to a recent survey, CMOs found large, conventional agencies less agile and less adept at handling the demands of generating high-quality, creative content for day-to-day social and digital platforms in an efficient and cost-effective way.
“I intentionally kept our agency small,” says Michelle Nessman, who founded digital-savvy Elite in 2014. “Smaller teams don't have the rigid limitations larger agencies do. I can hire individuals who are talented in more than one area and let them shine. They don't have to pick a lane and be stuck there."
Benefits of a Small Agency
From personalized service to greater creativity to more specialized knowledge, here’s a look at four reasons why small agencies are better capable of keeping up with the many faceted and escalating demands of today’s complex digital and social marketing space.
1. Personalized Service
When you work with a large, conventional agency, you will likely have a point person — an account assistant or manager. At a small boutique agency, you’ll often have direct access to the principal, the decision-makers, and the creative team.
“It’s not a numbers game where you don't know your partners or are constantly working with a new team every time you want to expand or explore other marketing tactics,” Nessman says.
Smaller agencies are more selective about the clients they will (and won't) take on. "That leads to close relationships with our clients, and a team that is as invested in your results as you are," she says.
2. Niche Expertise
Large agencies have so many clients, which means they might be a jack of all trades and an expert at none. Smaller agencies have made it their prerogative to become experts within specific niches.
Elite is one example of a small digital marketing agency that has developed a specialty in a very specific niche: senior living and related health care marketing.
This specialization often leads to new levels of creativity. From experimenting with different marketing-related technologies to developing new business models ahead of the curve, small agencies are pushing the boundaries of marketing.
"My team isn't stuck deploying the same campaigns or marketing strategies year after year simply because it's what we've always done," Nessman says. "I'm constantly pushing my team to try something new. People are so overwhelmed with marketing messaging all day long that you have to constantly find new ways to reach them. Whether it's a text marketing campaign, trying something new with email marketing, or using retargeting, the team hasn't settled for the status quo and it's really paid off."
3. Fresh, Creative Ideas
Smaller agencies can be more flexible than larger agencies because each team member must not only be an expert at their job but also focused on your goals, not necessarily their defined role. "Smaller agencies have more to lose if a client decides to part ways with you," Nessman says. "I'd like to think that being selective about our size and the clients we bring on means that client satisfaction is always the priority."
Smaller agencies are more likely to take risks, to come up with the level of innovation you'll need to stand out, to have a better understanding of new marketing, and to adapt.
Unlike large agencies that have cumbersome procedures and overhead, small-size agencies can focus more on their creativity, devoting their resources to producing the best ideas. Plus, if you need to tweak campaigns on the fly, smaller agencies are more agile and can adjust more quickly.
4. Less Time and for Less Money
Is your senior living community racing the clock to meet a fill schedule for a new property? Or are you dealing with an occupancy-challenged community that needs more leads now? Small agencies can often develop and execute campaigns quicker than a large agency and spend more time communicating with their clients.
With a smaller agency, you're not paying for a big expensive name — you're paying for results.