Small agencies are bigger than ever.
Adweek’s “Agency of the Year” program has now expanded to include Small U.S. agencies, not to mention the number of small agencies that made their “Fastest Growing Agencies 2022,” list – out of 20 agencies, 14 have 50 or fewer employees.
While the past three years have been packed with challenges: the pandemic, inflation, the changing world of work, and now even a looming recession, small agencies will thrive through it.
In talking to hundreds of agency leaders over the past few years, small agencies are confident they’re set up for success, no matter what 2023 brings. The fact that the global pandemic alone brought about a “new wave of small agencies” and major brands making the move from large established agencies too much smaller ones, is a testament to their strength.
Here are a few reasons why this year small agencies are poised to win big:
This is the superpower of many small agencies that helped them rise to the occasion during the pandemic. They know how to do more with less and can pivot on a dime, too. Take for instance a small public relations or advertising agency. They often don’t have huge budgets to blow on big paid media campaigns or huge teams to execute. They are resourceful and are often used to making magic happen with small teams, smaller budgets, and earned tactics.
Even if a client has to suddenly scale back and work with a smaller budget, small agencies won’t blink at having to scale back, while still being able to deliver results. Consider them up for the challenge.
Small agencies often focus on project work versus large retainers and they have far less overhead to work with—like office space and staff salaries alone—so they can offer competitive pricing, too. Plus, they can more easily change tactics, and more importantly, adopt them a whole lot faster than navigating all the red tape that larger agencies can be known for.
Anyone who has worked in a small agency knows you get close with your clients, often on a personal level. You become deeply invested in their success. This of course comes a lot more naturally when you are working with five clients, instead of say, 15–or more! In your weekly or bi-weekly calls, the client is typically speaking directly to the people on the account delivering the work, versus an account lead which simply shares the information with the rest of the team.
One of the biggest concerns, when times are tough, is clients leaving or putting off projects. Clients are more likely to make it work with a small agency they have a personal relationship with and who can easily pivot and scale back to meet their needs. Even more, when the pressure is on for brands to deliver results in hard times, being able to lean on a smaller agency team that is more accessible will make them a major asset.
Tapped-in to technology
Small agencies simply can’t afford not to be their most efficient, organized selves compared to their larger counterparts. More often than not, they have the systems and processes in place to make sure of that, too. This will give them a leg up, especially in a year filled with economic uncertainty. Small agencies are often still laying the foundation for success, so their main priority is delivering client work on time and on a budget to establish their reputation.
The most successful small agencies use project management software to help them run as smoothly as possible and set themselves up for growth. The level of service and experience they offer with the right software helps them stand out from the “big guys,” and more importantly, builds confidence with clients in uncertain times. This is especially the case when using software that allows clients to access projects and tasks. There’s more communication and transparency, and tools like built-in time tracking and budgeting ensure all hours are accounted for and no money is left on the table.
There’s no doubt there are benefits to working with a large agency that is a “one-stop shop,” offering any and every service. However, when budgets are potentially tightened for clients, goals and strategies have to become more focused. This is when it can be more beneficial to work with an agency that specializes in one, or a few things, and has mastered them.
Ask anyone who has worked in a small agency and they will tell you—if you aren’t at the top of your game, you can’t hide the same way you would if you were in a big agency. When you have a more streamlined approach backed by a small team of experts, you are more likely to reach your goals and not burn through a whole lot of budget in the process. Not to mention, small agencies are hungry to ensure you reach your goals because you are one of the few key clients they are servicing.
Whether you are considering working with a small agency for the first time, or are concerned about sticking with your current larger agency, don’t be quick to overlook boutique agencies and the advantages they can provide, especially when there is economic uncertainty ahead. From their ability to adapt quickly to their highly personal service, efficient tech-driven processes, and specialized expertise, there’s no shortage of what they can offer brands.
No matter what, know the goal shouldn’t be to look for ways to cut costs, but where to spend responsibly, and what types of activities to prioritize to get the best ROI.
This year, don’t be afraid to tap into a smart, savvy small agency to help deliver big results.