At the moment businesses big or small are looking at ways to keep sales going and minimise costs. COVID -19 has resulted in a challenging time for our economy and we all need to be thinking differently about how best to promote ourselves and stay connected to our customers and clients. There’s been a widespread suspension of many creative projects, and it’s not just the smaller businesses and sole traders that are freezing initiatives, even the larger organisations and corporations are looking to cut budgets. I believe no company big or small should be pulling their design and marketing initiatives at this time. Instead businesses should be looking at the smaller players in the design industry to allow them to continue their marketing efforts and to connect their brand with their customer and clients. Now is not the time to stop marketing and branding efforts.
It’s no secret that I’ve been an advocate for smaller agencies over the years, touting their benefits over using the bigger and more well-known agencies in the industry. This advice is so much more relevant now when we are all looking at minimizing our costs and getting more bang for our advertising buck. As well as being more cost efficient a smaller agency will give you the same level of experience and expertise and a whole lot more personalised service and passion then the larger agencies.
So how is it that a small agency can out- perform a large agency on a multitude of factors when it comes to working with clients? I believe this is mainly due to small studio culture. The culture of a small agency breeds creative innovation, and designers tend to take ownership of projects in a way that big agencies can’t or don’t. In a small agency collaboration is key in pooling skill sets to get the best outcome, in larger agencies often a creative designer may never speak directly to a client or to the account team. I know this because I’ve worked for large agencies and by contrast have been the owner of a small boutique creative agency for over 20 years.
The most obvious difference and benefit is that smaller agencies have lower overheads so their design fees can be a lot more competitive, and that means costs savings for you. In the end your fees aren’t paying for the Director’s BMW and fancy high profile city office, just great ideas and fantastic service. Smaller agencies can do a lot more for much less and because their success is completely dependent on innovative, creative ideas you can bet the owner will be ensuring only the best ideas reach you the client.
Then there’s the flexibility and understanding that’s often missing from the larger agencies. You can be assured that the owner of a boutique agency is totally across your project in a way that can’t be matched by an employee hired in a similar role. In a small agency there are no small cogs in a big machine, just nimble and agile creatives working within a supportive, non-hierarchal team. It’s innovation and taking creative risks that give smaller agencies their edge and ensures survival, by both attracting the best staff and keeping clients returning for more. Churn and burn projects are the domain of the larger agencies who need to cover their much larger overheads with “safe” projects. As mentioned, success for a smaller agency has mostly come from having to take creative risks and being innovative. Cookie cutter solutions would be detrimental to a studio whose success is based entirely on their creativity and service. In saying that smaller agencies are just as happy and skilled in dealing with organisations who need strict corporate style guides to be followed and protocols to be adhered to. The challenge for the designer in this instance is in how to take guidelines that others would see as restrictive and push them creatively within the limits.
Then there’s the fact that smaller agencies usually come from humble beginnings where the survival instinct is strong and creative passions are even stronger. Smaller agencies tend to maintain their hands on, personalised service and as mentioned staff aren’t pigeon- holed into mono roles and isolated from clients and each other like in the bigger agencies. Collaboration and communication are paramount, and it’s not unusual for a client to deal directly with the owner of the company or with the designer working on their project. This ensures nothing is lost in translation and much more agility within the project. With smaller agencies the owners are hands on in all facets of the business, working with the passion and focus that created and drives the business. Keeping clients happy is a matter of survival.
Smaller agencies often have the need to employ more senior staff. As there is a smaller team on board, resources available need to be experienced and expert. The creative team have usually cut their teeth in the larger agencies and are now looking to work in a more creative, personalised environment where they can take more ownership over their projects. They are well equipped to work on large accounts and with larger corporations because their senior years has given them a depth and breadth of experience across many industry sectors and sizes. Designers also need to have more diversity in their skill sets, it’s not possible just to be a digital designer or a print designer, there needs to be a wide range of skills and abilities which creates flexibility and resourcefulness. In the end you are still getting big agency expertise and resources, but at smaller boutique fees.
I hope this article has given a fresh perspective to the companies out in the marketplace who usually bypass the smaller agency thinking that bigger equals a better outcome. As you can see this is just not true. From the above its pretty clear that using a smaller agency has many benefits and advantages, especially as a way to minimise design and advertising costs and getting more from your advertising dollar without compromising on creative outcomes. In saying that do your research, not all small agencies are alike. Choose a company that has been around for the long haul, this generally means they have the creativity and resourcefulness that has ensured their survival in a very competitive industry. This creative resourcefulness will be applied to your unique design challenges and the creative team will be able to bring their combined years of experience to the table.
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