We are a small agency, we pride ourselves on the size of our agency and we want to shout it from the rooftops that bigger isn’t better. Ok, that might be going overboard however, it is true that at Idea, we work in an open industrial style office, we all like working here and we are all committed and dedicated to our work. We are a team of eight and due in part to our size, we pump out some pretty stellar work.

Recently, we lost a pitch with the reason cited as “your team is too small.” Learning is a constant process, so we sat down to discuss as a team. Yes, we could have handled and excelled at that job. No, we don’t want to be bigger. We are an extraordinarily talented and creative team and collectively we believe that the small size of our agency very much contributes to our success.

If you are engaging in outside marketing resources for the first time, congratulations on making the investment in your company’s future! If you are a veteran at choosing an agency, maybe this article will assist you in finding a long term partner.

Each agency will put their best foot forward for the pitch and your team is tasked to choose an agency that is the best fit, the most creative, strategic and goal-driven; the agency that best represents your brand or product and the one that will help bring your company to the next level. It’s a big decision and one that will, if chosen correctly, give you a huge bump in brand awareness and revenue generation.

There is a lot of criteria to use in choosing an agency, but agency size should not be one of your decision factors. Remember that bigger isn’t always better and here’s why:

1. Individualized Attention

Your project will receive a great deal of individualized attention at a small agency. At larger agencies, it’s common for employees to be responsible for dozens of clients which could result in them displaying little or no personal interest in the client or its marketing efforts, causing staff to complete the bare minimum amount of required work and then move onto the next project. If employees have too much work on their plate, it prevents them from fully immersing themselves into each of their client’s projects because they are splitting their time between multiple clients competing for their attention.

It is common for smaller agencies to provide each client with personalized attention from every employee because they have fewer clients allowing each employee to become fully focused on every aspect of their client’s needs. You’ll also be in direct contact with the creative directors, designers and the owners themselves instead of an account executive that then communicates with the creative team.

The small agency depends on it’s clients for it’s own success, therefore the small firm is highly invested in pleasing it’s clients. Their investment in your campaign is essential to not just your success, but theirs.

2. Talent

Individuals who work with small agencies tend to be younger, appreciate the ability to express their own creativity, want to grow with the agency and also appreciate not being beholden to the way-that-its-always-been-done mentality.  At small agencies individuals want to make a difference, want to create a stunning result for a client, and have the support of their entire agency to back them up.

This has certainly been true for Idea, we attract more experienced and creative people and we hire for talent rather than numbers. We would rather wait for the perfect candidate than choose a subpar one.

In a larger firm, office politics and hierarchy can sometimes convolute the end goal or cause. I’m not saying everyone in a large firm is just working for a paycheck, but you might notice more people working low level jobs at big agencies for the agency name on their resume, the chance to move up with seniority rather than talent, or the company perks that a big company may offer.

3. Flexibility

Small agencies thrive on creativity. Staff of smaller agencies are expected to be experts at their jobs as well as grow in other directions to benefit each particular account. With less corporate hierarchy, job definition is blurred as each individual staff is encouraged to reach client based goals rather than focus on defined job role goals.

In contrast, larger agencies tend to have corporate hierarchy, specific job descriptions, ways of doing things, and profit margins goals stemming from a legacy system. Even though all agencies are tasked with finding ways to develop and execute creative ideas, the big firms might face the constraint of a legacy system steeped in quantifying a specific type of deliverable.

4. Culture/Personality

Above I talked about talent, and that flows right into culture. In a small agency you have a dedicated team of people that want your success as much as you do.

An agency is about the people that work there, the team that is on your project. You are paying them for their time, talent and creativity. Do they represent you? Do you know them? Chances are you will meet 25-50% of the team in a small agency pitch, whereas you might meet only 1% of the big agency team at their pitch.

Choosing the right agency is kind of like hiring a team of people all at once. If you like the people that came to the pitch, you can be sure they represent the people that will be working on your account if you are going with a small agency. The culture and personality of a small agency can match or mirror your own company, but it’s harder to figure out if that is the case when considering a larger agency.  

A larger agency might be a better choice if you are looking for an ordinary or standard-issue campaign or your account requires a ton of research and resources. Yes, larger agencies have more resources and are competitive in the fields that they are most familiar with. But, the smaller agency culture creates a place where where risk-taking is part of the equation, where things come to life and where creativity is king.

5. Quick Turnaround

Despite the resources that a large agency may have, small agencies will do anything to make sure their clients are satisfied, even if it means going the extra mile. Larger agencies sometime have a whole process to get in the work queue, so quick turnarounds are not always feasible.

6. Price/Budget

The more people that work for a company, the bigger the overhead ultimately resulting in higher project quotes than those from the small marketing firm. And in tandem with my notes on flexibility and individual attention, smaller agencies provide a better bang for your buck.

If you are looking for a standard marketing execution and normal distribution channels, you might be best choosing any agency that can offer you the price you desire.

If you are looking for a fresh look in your industry, want to stand out from the rest, and risk breaking the norm, consider giving a chance to the smaller firm. The best agency for you is the one that gets you, the one that wants to see you succeed. Don’t be afraid to take a risk on creativity, it is your chance to be legendary.