Don’t let the words responsive, nimble and lean fool you when it comes to describing digital agencies. They are often misnomers for reactive, stretched and limited, which is often the reality for many smaller digital marketing firms.
When it comes to selecting a digital agency, size really does matter.
Remember our CMO friend? The one who came to us after frittering away a year on a project with a smaller agency? That agency had less than 15 on staff. In fact, most clients who come to us after projects fail report that the previous agency had less than 10 full-time staff.
In the beginning, the boutique agency may woo you and promise the moon when it comes to giving your account all the attention it deserves and more, but many journeys that begin well ultimately take bad turns.
“Because we operate lean and mean, we can focus on you without distraction, your project will be our biggest priority,” they say.
But what happens when suddenly, in the middle of your critical project, a client who the agency perceives as more important appears? Now who gets the attention?
The fact is smaller agencies struggle to balance workload, especially when a big client demands the attention, a new client enters the mix or the entire team is engulfed by an extensive pitch for new business.
Smaller agencies also grapple with the needs of new clients versus those of existing ones and with simultaneously handling multiple projects of various scopes. More often than not, they will throw all their resources at the new client or at the biggest project and struggle with how to handle the rest of the agency’s work.
Where does that leave you? Since the agency that does not have adequate staff and resources in place to handle growing client needs and project prioritization, your project may be in jeopardy.
So how do you avoid the potential pitfalls of engaging with a smaller firm?
When considering a new agency, match their staff and expertise to your needs. If your project requires strategy, creative and technology (which is of critical importance to any digital initiative and will be addressed separately in our next post) have a clear understanding of how the agency plans to handle each phase and how their resources will be allocated.
If your digital initiatives require extensive content generation, search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM), social media planning and execution, insights and analytics, remember to match those needs to the firm’s capabilities as well.
Also be sure to have a clear understanding of which components of your project will be outsourced and how that will impact your project.
It also bears keeping in mind that outsourced work – whether it be technology, content generation, SEO/SEM, IA or UX – may be substandard, and because the agency is small to begin with, they may lack proper oversight of third party vendor work product.
When you have complex digital initiatives that are tied to the bottom line success of your organization, hiring a shop with a partner who doubles as the ECD, a CD who doubles as a “developer” and an account manager who doubles as everything else, is just begging for trouble.
We aren’t saying you have to hire a corporate behemoth, or even Imaginuity, but what we are saying is that it is important to find the right size agency to handle your specific digital needs.