As the rise of digital-only advertising accelerates and the online consumer journey becomes ever more interconnected and complex, staying current with marketing best practices and technologies could well be a full-time job. The good news for your organization is that, for a few of us, it already is.

Why Work With Small Agencies?

The ascendance of digital marketing has rapidly done away with the need for large offices and vast teams to achieve significant, measurable results for major brands. While projects of a certain scale may well require the help of additional teams, the majority of digital’s core offerings – content, email, paid advertising, and search engine marketing, to name a few – can all be achieved with little more than a laptop and a wireless connection. 

That’s not to say that the team of professionals is a thing of the past – far from it. Expert knowledge and familiarity with key platforms will always offer the greatest advantage for brands looking to maximize their visibility and other returns from marketing. But with new technologies emerging each day, relevance requires careful attention and forward vision – attributes found most abundantly in the modern digital agency, where agility and efficiency are the keys to success.

The Benefits of “Agile” Digital Agencies

Here are the eight key advantages of working with a small team of specialists over the large ad agency model:

  1. Direct access to your team. Less painful communication (email dropoffs, message distortion, etc.). We all love the idea of a “project manager” – someone with complete responsibility for the planning and execution of a project from start to end. And yet the introduction of a project manager as a liaison between client and agency can be one of the single biggest obstacles to efficient production. Some research has shown as much as 90 percent of time spent on a project is communication by the project manager – a figure sure to induce nausea in any organization’s leadership. When you work directly with a smaller team, there may be a single person tasked with managing the project’s logistics, keeping track of key goals, and delegating responsibilities, but they are also the person in charge of every aspect of the project – deeply understanding the work involved and performing a lot of it themselves. So when questions arise about ongoing tasks, or you want to seek recommendations from the experts in charge of your marketing strategy, you go to the same person every time – bypassing the lengthy email exchanges, cc’ing and un-cc’ing, and unnecessary re-explanations that often accompany any attempt to communicate with a large, segmented team at a bigger organization.
  2. Stronger sense of team unity and identity. When it comes down to it, people matter. Like most everything in life, it’s the personalities and individual merits of the people you work with that determine both the quality of the resulting work and the pleasantness (or lack thereof) of your experience. The standardized, de-personalized, robotic exchanges typical of work with a more corporate ad agency, necessary as they may be to ensure consistency of service, do not make the experience of working any more appealing – and that can make all the difference in the success of a campaign. You need to know you can trust and rely on the people tasked with helping your organization grow, and there’s no substitute for the human connection, especially when you have built a relationship that reflects a history of reliability, shared expertise, and mutual trust. At the end of the day, no one may understand your organization as well as you. Still, the next best thing is a trusted partner whose work and professionalism speak for themselves and on whom you can rely to help you build a mutually beneficial future.
  3. Agility in addressing complex, fast-moving issues. As we near the third decade of the 21st century, it goes without saying that speed is the name of the game. No longer can professionals rely on the longevity of their industry as job security – entire verticals now come and go within the span of several years, and it requires an unprecedented degree of adeptness, flexibility, attention to detail, and agility to keep up. That becomes difficult to maintain across a large corporate organization, especially in marketing. The inevitable red tape and bureaucratic requirements that come with big business can impede organizational change in a way that can kill future viability faster than any one competitor. “Sink or swim” has never been a more apt phrase for the present and future of marketing – so there’s not much room for dead weight.
  4. “Safe” doesn’t cut it anymore. Understandably, serious brands will want to work with an agency whose record of work demonstrates consistent service over many years. And while experience will always speak for itself, it can nonetheless be dangerous to assume that an organization with decades of success in the broad field of marketing stands as good a chance in today’s digital economy. When considering an investment in marketing, it’s more important than ever to consider the costs that come from choosing the “safe” option rather than the extraordinary one.
  5. Specialists will better craft messaging for others. Part of the reason it makes sense to hire outside specialists is that they approach your brand with fresh eyes and ears. When you live and breathe your work and industry, you may not be able to communicate about it the way that others – and in particular, your customers – find most accessible. An agency’s job is to apply the same skill set and understanding of modern marketing tactics to each and every brand they work with – familiarizing themselves with the nuances of your identity but bridging the gap between technical knowledge and customer understanding.
  6. Freedom to focus on your strengths. It goes without saying that one of the main benefits of working with an outside team is the liberation you experience when you don’t have to constantly take on new responsibilities that distract from your core focus. Specialization is a cornerstone of modern industry for a reason. It just works.
  7. Faster improvement through iteration. Success in the modern age is all about the iterative process. Small, agile teams can learn quickly from mistakes and respond to feedback immediately- incorporating new insights and practices overnight. This is your best defense against an ever-changing environment. Insights themselves are meaningless without the capacity to implement them rapidly.
  8. The incentive to move quickly. Though it may not be a universal rule, smaller teams tend to be “hungrier,” more motivated to accomplish goals quickly and take on the next big thing. Large organizations may guarantee security, but with security can come complacency. This is another luxury that organizations who are driven to grow can’t always afford in a fast-paced world. Find the team that wants it the most, and is willing to lay it on the line to deliver you the best possible service.

At the end of the day, the old agency model may work for brands that are large enough that market dominance is no longer their primary challenge. These brands can afford to run their projects through teams and complex approval processes and ensure everyone signs off. For everyone else, though, that’s no longer affordable. Excellence in the current age of marketing requires lean, precise marketing done by an individually selected team of experts who are natively fluent in the web’s language, behaviors, and protocols.