Big or small, broad or narrow, fast or slow… there are always pros and cons in choosing to work with various companies. The same is evident when choosing what kind of digital marketing agency you’d like to work with. The most important thing to consider is size, “should I work with a large or small agency?” Again, there are pros and cons to large and small agencies. It’s an important decision that could impact communications, operations and even performance. In this article we are going to explore the differences between large and small agencies and highlight four pros and cons to help you figure out which type of digital marketing agency is the right size and best fit for you.
Adapting Landscapes: In business, changes are inevitable, so it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into with large vs. small agencies. In most cases, large agencies will have more people working on a project, more hierarchy, structure and a longer approval process. Clients who need to make frequent changes or need changes fast may be frustrated by having to navigate all of the moving parts, longer approval times and expense of changes typical of a larger agency. A benefit of a larger agency in this respect is the very structure and approval process that makes changes slower ensures that changes are done correctly and done well, usually the first time. Small agencies are lighter on their feet when it comes to campaign changes. With less people, everyone usually knows what is going on at all times so changes can be made quickly and smoothly without having to fight through red tape. The work will likely be fine in either scenario but if time is an issue and deadlines change, its usually worth a conversation with the account manager to understand the process, time and cost involved in making the changes.
Specialized Work: In most cases, digital marketing agencies say they do anything and everything like SEO, SEM, Social Media Management, Website Development, Email Marketing and more. However, do they have true experts with significant experience on staff for each type of tactic or are they winging half of what they do? Many younger small agencies do not have the breadth or depth of experience of a larger firm but if you do your homework, you can find some very highly experienced small agencies. But if you ask, “what’s your sweet spot” you will usually get an honest answer and find out which areas of digital marketing they’re really good at. And here’s an interesting paradox. Don’t mistake a large agency’s qualifications for individual qualifications. Most large agencies have big, impressive qualifications, awards and badges on their website. But often, these designations are earned by a select few individuals, perhaps even one. They may talk a big game but when it comes to who is actually doing the work, some agencies (not all) use newly minted college grads who learn as they go, taking advice and direction from a senior marketer and in doing so, these agencies are able to serve the account on the cheap. Naturally, the quality and performance will suffer under this scenario. Regardless of what size agency you are working with, look past the impressive badges and find out who is actually going to be doing the work. If you want a full digital marketing campaign across all channels built from the ground up, a larger agency will probably be a better choice. However, if you are testing the waters with few digital marketing tactics a smaller agency may be better. Regardless, know the strengths and weaknesses of the agency you decide to work with and your relationship will be a smoother one.
Culture/Personality: Liking who you work with is always a good thing and having a good relationship is much easier and more natural when there is a good cultural match. There are a couple notable differences in the culture between large and small agencies. Depending on how large the account is, large agencies may assign dedicated account managers to clients. Again, it depends on the agency but larger agencies tend not to meet with clients in person and those who do tend to meet in person less often than a small agency. In some cases, large agencies will assign rotating account managers to clients a definite “con” If signing up with a large agency. Insist on a dedicated account manager and backup and again, make sure their qualifications meet your needs. With smaller agencies, you’re generally going to get the same account manager for the life of your account. They tend to be more accessible for in-person meetings as are their manager/owner. With a more flexible schedule, it’s easier for smaller agencies to dedicate time to individual clients and address their needs. Most of the time, smaller agencies will not have as many clients and therefore those clients simply get better attention and develop a more personal relationship.
Projects: Since most large agencies have more employees and resources, they are generally better at taking on a wider and deeper scope of marketing campaign than a small agency. A large agency will be able to take on and service large marketing projects for large clients but their smaller client accounts may not get the attention or resources they need or deserve. Some smaller agencies can handle pretty large and complex campaigns but they may have trouble balancing workload when needs or problems converge at the same time. Smart small agencies have contracted subject matter experts on the ready for such cases so that work can get done in a timely manner.
There is no evidence that reveals whether large or small digital marketing agencies produce better work, but it’s true that most small agencies tend to work well with small to medium sized businesses and small to medium-sized projects and large agencies tend to work well with larger clients. Whether you go small or large, just make sure you understand who you’ll be working with and confirm that person is qualified and is a good personal match for your company and personal style.
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