Is bigger always better? The pros and cons of small vs large marketing agencies

When considering which agency to choose, you may be tempted to go with a large firm with well-known clients. On the other hand, ‘small’ often signifies niche, attention to detail, and a hands-on and responsive approach.

There are pros and cons to both, but will your chosen agency offer you creative excellence and sound tailor-made solutions, or will they make promises based on their reputation, only to relegate your account to a rookie marketer, three months after initial contact?

Service excellence can be offered by both small or larger agencies. You need to find the right fit for your business. Factors in your decision-making could include agreeing with an agency’s company culture, knowing they are up to date with trends, feeling confident in their abilities, and actually liking the people who will be working on your account. We’ve broken down a few pros and cons that may help you make your choice.

Small is dynamite
Generally, smaller agencies are more suited to working with small-to-medium businesses and start-ups. It’s a size-to-size rationale, but a related factor is that they may be more budget-friendly, with less overheads and staff than their larger counterparts.

Agency leaders (who very often are industry heavy weights with previous experience at larger agencies) may be more hands-on and involved in your account, as they have a stake in the business. And because you’re dealing with a close-knit group of colleagues, there is greater room for creative team collaboration and ideas pooling.

Smaller agencies are lighter on their feet when it comes to implementing frequent changes requested by clients to strategies and campaigns and are also well positioned to outsource specialist services to experienced contractors, for example SEO specialists, when and if the need arises.

There is an accepted notion around smaller agencies that they understand the concept of ‘new marketing’, an offshoot of which is the boutique agency that specialises in a niche service, like food, travel, beauty, a particular sport or discipline. Here you are getting the know-how of a marketer who not only understands content marketing but can apply it to a field they know and love.

Large is steady
The obvious pro standing in the favour of large agencies is that they have the capacity to offer more services as they have more and variously skilled staff. The attraction here is to bigger brands and companies who have the budget to spend on full services such as campaign ideation, branding (and rebranding), market research, and focus groups, among others. Dedicated account managers are appointed to look after you and your brand on an ongoing basis. They are also likely to have access to influencers and media.

On the downside, the resources and staff translate into more overheads, which may result in higher quotes for services, and hierarchical structures inherent in large companies may mean longer approval and/or sign off times.

Ultimately, it’s important to do your research. Don’t be afraid to ask about the agency’s measurable successes, what their methodologies entail and how they measure KPIs. Know who your team will consist of, what their individual strengths are and how much experience they have. You will want transparency and to be involved in the processes. But perhaps, most importantly, do they have a genuine enthusiasm and passion for what they do in the industry as well as what they can do for your company.


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