Why size (of an agency) really doesn’t matter
At a Drum Agency Acceleration Day a couple of years ago, the subject of running a small or big agency came up. On stage, they had CEO of a 100+ staff agency, and a 10-20 manned agency plus a start-up agency with only a couple of employees.
When questioned about how being large helped win business, the large agency CEO proceeded to explain that they purposefully create small pitch teams within their agency to allow themselves to be flexible and nimble. They said that when pitching they used to go in with their full might, and the feedback they got from prospects would be that the clients felt overwhelmed and were also left wondering if they would be paying for all those people if they picked them – a big cost, and also apparently unsure who from the agency would look after them, if picked.
So they had made the decision to cut themselves into small pitch and delivery teams.
“A large agency masquerading as a small one? That seemed contrary to what I thought they’d say.”
The smaller agency CEO’s then proceeded to explain that they always felt they had to mask the size of their agency, they felt they wouldn’t win against the “big boys” and if they said they were small, it would leave the client feeling at risk… what happens if people go on holiday, are sick or similar.
They felt that clients would always go with the bigger team because it posed less risk and so really tried hard to make themselves look more established and bigger than they were at their HQ (e.g including using freelancers in their headcount etc).
It was a strange Q&A to witness. It strangely felt like both agency owners were jealous of the other size, a sort of “grass is greener” attitude. Almost as though they wish they could trade places.
Our advice to agencies is to play to strengths and to not be jealous of the competition. The newer saying is…. lean into it.
The most successful sports teams, understand and take seriously the opponent – they do not underestimate them, but then they truly focus on their own strengths and their own conviction of winning.
No matter the size, resource or talent at play. They create tactics to win with what they have.
In any competition, there are going to be other teams bigger, or smaller than you, (unless you are a one-man band of course). Understand your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, but focus on your strengths.
Advice for when you are the smaller sized or lesser experienced agency:
- • You are agile and fleet of foot
- • You have a cost advantage (up to you whether to use or not)
- • You are unlikely to burdened by red tape/policy and how things are “normally” done
- • Tell the client they will have your undivided attention should you win
- • Make the clients business mean A LOT to you – be picky, make it personal
- • If quizzed oversize, and it is portrayed as a risk by the client, explain the fact that larger agencies split themselves into smaller teams, so the same “knowledge silo” problem exists (aka man under a bus)
- Explain how you mitigate for holiday and sickness (often smaller teams take less time off, and throw themselves into work even more)
Advice for when you are the larger agency:
- • Demonstrate your wide-ranging services and abilities
- • Demonstrate your diversity and breadth of ideas/resource
- • Show off your ability to get all sized problems solved
- • Make the client feel that you are large for good reason, you are stable
Wildish & Co. are a brand & creative agency with studios in London and Wiltshire. We re-invigorate emerging brands, future-proof the world’s most trusted businesses and helping startups catch their big break. For more, visit wildishandco.co.uk