Small vs. Large Digital Marketing Agencies: Which Is Right For Your Small Business?

Small vs. Large Digital Marketing Agencies: Which Is Right For Your Small Business?

June 1, 2021
(Reading time: 4 - 8 minutes)

Which is better, a small digital marketing agency or a large one? The short answer is it depends on your needs. Don’t you love the vagueness there! Before we dive into this topic, let’s first examine what the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) says is a small business based on their table of standards.

If you are a Wireless Telecommunications Carrier (except Satellite), you are considered a small business if you employ 1,500 or fewer. Motor Vehicle Parts (Used) Merchant Wholesalers or, the junkyard, is 100 or less. Now you might think that they would base the size on the number of people employed. Well, you would be wrong. Supermarkets and Other Grocery (except Convenience) Stores need to have $35 million dollars in total income to qualify. So that means if your local, regional grocery store chain is $35 million in size, then they would be considered a small business. 

Take Cube Creative as an example, we consider ourselves to be a digital marketing agency. The SBA doesn’t have a classification for that. Therefore, I looked at what might be closest, which varied from $16.5 million to $30 million.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t consider an agency with $16.5 million a small business. Therefore, for this post’s purpose, I want to reference Dunbar's Number and look at it as in the number of clients an agency actively manages. You may be asking what is Dunbar’s Number is and what does it have to do with a small agency versus a large agency.

Dunbar's number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships.

Wikipedia

 

Ideally, it is somewhere around 150 people. This includes your work colleagues, clients, family, and friends, or any other interpersonal relationships you might have. Therefore an agency that has around 100-150 active monthly clients is a good starting number as this is most likely spread across a handful of people.

Let’s look at a small agency versus a large agency.

Small Agencies

A quick reminder, we are considering a small agency that has somewhere around 100-150 active monthly clients. When I say active, I mean they are contacting them either by email, phone, or text monthly. They are posting content such as blogs, landing pages, or geographical landing pages. They may be doing social media, review and reputation management, or advertising online. Regardless of what they are doing, they are speaking with the business they are working with often.

Smaller agencies are more attentive

Hands down, a smaller company will typically provide you with a better level of customer service than a large agency. Working with a larger company, you may interact with one person for the sale then be handed off to an account manager to handle the rest. Therefore the relationship you built with the salesperson is gone, and you might not ever hear from them until it’s time to renew or they have some new offering they want to pitch you on. 

Now think about that account manager. They may be working with 30, 40, or maybe 75 other accounts similar to yours. Will they be able to keep track of your needs? Will they remember that your child hit a home run or scored a goal last month. Chances are slim to none that they will. 

An account manager at a smaller firm may be your salesperson and the account manager. With this model, it makes sense for them to spend more time with you and get to know you and your business inside and out. Therefore if you value attentiveness, responsiveness, and a personal relationship then a small digital marketing company might be the right choice.

Smaller agencies are flexible

It’s 3:00 PM on the day before you are about to announce a new service or product line at 8:00 AM. You have worked for months to get this out and the entire campaign pivots on the landing page. You realize you missed something, it might be a typo or you need to change a photo. A small agency should be able to jump in and help you make the change quickly. With a larger company, you might have to wait a week before you can get the change made simply because it has to go through all the channels and approvals. 

Smaller agencies will often value each client due to the personal relationship they have with them. They are often willing to shorten deadlines or make last-minute changes. 

The bottom line is, it amounts to flexibility. If you are a smaller business then a smaller digital marketing agency might be a better fit.

Smaller agencies have a different culture

The bigger the agency the more likely it will have a corporate culture to match, whereas a smaller agency may have a more laid back and flexible culture. Take us as an example, from our inception in 2005 we set up to allow people to work remotely.

I know that not everyone works best between 8:00 and 5:00. You were hired to do a job, if you want to do it at 3:00 AM, 10:00 AM, or 2:00 PM it doesn’t matter as long as the job is done and the client is happy.

Adam Bennett, Cube Creative Design Founder

A smaller agency that has a culture conducive to creativity and innovation may be just what your small business needs.

Furthermore, if a content marketing agency has a reputation for having a good business culture, skilled staff will be attracted to apply. In a 2014 Gallup survey, they found that only 68.5% of employees are either disengaged or actively disengaged. Josh Bersin in his article, Culture: Why It's The Hottest Topic In Business Today said that 95% of employees say that culture is more important than compensation. As we approach a post-Covid world I care to bet that this will continue to be important.

Therefore if you are looking for an inbound marketing agency that can think outside the box and figure out ways to seek ways to set your small business apart from the competition then trust a small inbound marketing agency.

Small agencies think about their clients constantly

A large agency might win awards, but their people go to work do what they do, and leave. They don’t think about ways to help you improve your marketing efforts while they are walking the dog or taking a shower. (Admit it, some of the best ideas come to you there). Would you rather have a business that only thinks about you when it’s time to work on your next campaign or would you rather have a business that calls you up with an idea that might help differentiate you from the competition!

Small agencies may be cheaper

Since a smaller agency does not have nearly as many expenses as a larger agency, they are often able to deliver cheaper rates to their clients than their competitors. It is simply an economy of scale. If you have less people and less overhead you don’t need to charge as much. Whereas if you have a huge office taking up an entire floor or more, hundreds of employees then you naturally have to charge more.

Large Agencies

Going back to our definition of sizes, a larger agency would have somewhere around 150+ active monthly clients.

Larger agencies have more resources

The bigger the agency, the larger their sales stream, which means they may have more resources to meet your needs. For example instead of one person wearing many hats they may have one person whose only job is to handle the technical SEO, another may only deal with Google Ads, another may only write content around a single subject matter. In other words, they are experts in that particular silo.

Larger agencies may have been there, done that

Larger agencies may have more experience with a range of various different digital marketing techniques. This may imply that they have knowledge of what works and what doesn't, because they won't spend time or resources on strategies they know are ineffective based on previous experience.

This is not to suggest that smaller agencies lack expertise. More often than not, people will leave to either go to work or start their own agency. If you choose to partner with a smaller agency, do your homework to ensure that the smaller agency you want has a solid portfolio, testimonials, and references.

Recap

Ultimately, the decision to go with a small or large agency is going to be up to you. It may very well come down to who you feel can best serve your needs for the amount you are paying. I will say this, as both Forbes and AdAge have argued in favor of smaller agencies for many of the same reasons as mentioned above. While the appeal of working with a larger agency may be hard to resist, choosing a smaller agency may be the best for your small business.

If you are looking for a small agency to help with your small business whose goal is to see your business grow, then reach out to us for a free consultation.

Chad Treadway

Written by:  |  June 1, 2021

Chad is our business development manager. He will help you survey your business needs, ensuring you are educated on your options before suggesting any solution. Chad also has several certifications through HubSpot to better assist you with your internet and inbound marketing.

See Chad Treadway's' bio: cubecreative.design/about/chad-treadway