When we get new business inquiries at Clearpoint Agency we often find the potential client is trying to decide between hiring a large agency or a smaller PR agency. We firmly believe that organizations get the best “bang for the buck” when using a small firm. Here’s why:
1) No Account Team Bait-and-Switch
This is a real pet peeve of mine. My business partner and I once worked together at a larger firm. The process there: land the client with the senior team, hand them off to an account executive after initial meetings, then pass them off to a junior team member to manage and put on auto pilot. We’ve even heard from people that work at larger firms that they are happy when they actually keep a client for more than a year with this churn and burn process. That’s their goal! It works because the senior team is skilled at catching the client and the junior team is inexpensive, all of which works for the agency’s profitability. At a boutique agency, there is no “hand off” – you work with the same dedicated team you met in initial meetings.
2) More Focus on Client Needs Rather Than “Feeding” the Large Agency Team
Here’s the truth: when you sit down with that large team from different departments at the large agency, they are there for a reason – finding ways to grow your account. And the crazy thing is, you probably are paying those agency team members in billable hours to ask you questions or listen in on meetings to find more agency programs to pitch to you.
At a boutique agency, the focus of meetings is to accomplish the agreed upon scope of work. Does the smaller agency want to grow the business over time? Of course. But it’s more of an organic approach to meet client needs rather than a mission to get the monthly fees higher and higher and feed the large agency staff. #truth
3) Small PR Agencies are Agile
If you are looking for an agency team that will respond quickly and creatively to a challenge or an opportunity, go with the smaller team. With larger agencies, clients will experience more layers of communication. Bigger teams typically mean more processes, layers and bottlenecks. This slows down projects, curtails creativity and limits results. We find clients are looking for agency teams that can quickly assess situations, recommend novel approaches and get it done! The flat management structure of smaller PR firms enable them to react quickly and effectively without the typical levels of bureaucracy that slow reaction times at larger agencies.
4) Be a Big Fish in a Small Pond
Boutique firms have fewer clients, which means they have a more concentrated focus on their clients and their clients’ goals. This is of tremendous value to companies that have complicated products and services, and need focused, thoughtful effort. Being one of 10 clients feels much different than being one of several dozen, especially if you are one of the smaller clients on a limited budget. Who do you think gets the A-team at a large agency – the big client or smaller client? At a boutique firm, the entire team is usually the A-team. The smaller agency has fewer clients, making each one very important to them.
5) A True Extension of Your Team
When you hire an agency, it should be an exercise of extending your marketing team’s talents and range of resources, not just hiring a vendor. An experienced smaller firm can provide the strategic counsel you need along with the talent to pitch stories, write content, plan promotions and more. Nothing beats picking up the phone to call your agency contact and hearing “We’re on it!” knowing the work will be done, and more importantly, done well. A smaller firm becomes an extension of your internal team and knows your goals hands-down.
6) Work with People You Like . . . and Trust
Finding the right agency is a little like dating. There’s plenty of chemistry involved. It’s important to ensure there is a good personality fit and that you will enjoy working with the team. A smaller firm gives you the ability to get to know part or most of the team in the pitch phase. Is there a sense of trust? Maybe even a few laughs in the initial meetings? That’s a good sign. And since you’ll most likely be working with the team that is pitching your business, you can gauge if there will be a good working chemistry that will foster a stellar work product. A genuine and favorable working relationship leads to a long lasting and trusting business relationship.
7) Value. Period.
Believe it or not, often the only difference between a large agency charging $15,000 a month and small agency charging $7,000 a month is the $8,000 (I know my friends in PR are nodding their heads after reading this.) Leadership at smaller firms is talented enough to run their own business, often starting their firms after learning the ropes at larger ones. They bring the same tactics, contacts and best practices to their agencies at much lower fees. This means you get experienced, senior talent at lower rates. And who doesn’t want that?
This blog was contributed by Clearpoint Agency President, Bonnie Shaw