When deciding on a branding agency, are you considering a boutique creative agency? If not, you should reconsider. There are many factors a brand has to consider when choosing a branding agency or any partner.
First, ask yourself, what are the agency's specialties, location, and approach to working with other brands. Beyond those basics, it's also worth weighing an agency's size versus your needs.
While at first glance, it seems like working with a big agency would be the best option of the 3, more and more people realize that a boutique agency may be the right move.
But what is a boutique branding agency?
People tend to think of a small clothing store that sells exclusive items, though a boutique describes a business that serves a specialized or sophisticated niche. A boutique branding agency is a focused branding business. It operates with a small group of professionals and focuses on dedicated work for a limited client list.
The most significant limitation of a boutique branding agency is its size - usually no worldwide locations, huge teams, or portfolios profiling household brands like Nike or Levi's (though these brands do outsource smaller campaigns to boutique firms.) This limitation affects their reputation as not being well-known. Although boutique agencies may not have a strong reputation, the quality you receive from them exceeds expectations as they specialize in the experience for their customers.
Brands typically hire big creative agencies because they're "safe" - they have the infrastructure, resources, and pedigree, which give business owners the warm and fuzzies. But boutique agencies offer the same skills as larger firms but have distinct advantages as they can work more closely with you to achieve your specific goals – at a fraction of the price.
Let's look at five benefits of working with boutique creative agencies:
When you think about hiring any creative firm, the first thing that comes to mind is your budget. There's a common belief that the more you spend on a marketing or branding campaign, the bigger the outcome. Back in the Mad Men marketing and advertising days, that was more likely. They were the only agencies with research and fancy tools like computers that are now available to all of us.
Yet, large agencies still require higher overhead and agency fees. They have to pay salaries for more management, support staff, higher utility costs, and large, swanky offices. These things are all hallmarks of a large agency, but they don't come cheap. The price goes somewhere (hint: their client's invoice), which also means less money spent on your actual campaign. In other words, your dollar doesn't go very far with a large firm.
Overhead costs are less of an issue when a company chooses to make use of a boutique firm, which is excellent news for smaller who don't have huge budgets for marketing, web design, or social media strategy.
The best boutique creative agencies have a vast network of resources to tap into when they need additional expertise needed for a particular project - web developers, writers, or strategists – and that means that you pay for only the people used on your job.
Another benefit of choosing a boutique firm is control over services used and paid for. With a large company, clients have to choose between predetermined packages offered and end up paying for items they don't need or sacrificing things they do to save money. Boutique creative agencies provide more flexibility in the selection of services that suit your needs. Due to lower overhead and fees, boutique firms offer a distinct advantage if you're trying to get the most bang for your creative buck.
Boutique firms are pegged as small and, therefore, unfit to support significant campaigns. This thinking may have been correct when the world moved at a slower pace. In today's world, businesses need to adapt and move fast. Boutique agencies have a distinct advantage in terms of speed and adaptability. For instance, imagine how much faster it'd be to approve and ship out a social media campaign to a client when the marketing team is four people instead of 20. Bigger means more processes, more approvals, more signatures needed, more levels of authority, and more roadblocks. The boost in speed that comes with working with boutique agencies means campaigns can begin quickly and see results faster.
When businesses look for potential agencies to partner with, it means they have a campaign in mind that they want to get out to market as quickly as possible. They want a nimble company that can respond promptly to their needs while maintaining creativity and flexibility. They don't want a partner filled with their internal bureaucracy and red tape.
The boost in speed that comes with working with boutique agencies means campaigns can begin quickly and see results faster.
One reason many business owners state they choose to go with a big agency is that they have the necessary resources to assist them. In reality, these companies are often plagued by inflexibility and inefficiency. When a problem arises, a client may not know who their contact is because so many people play a role in developing a campaign. Also, receiving an answer to a question or concern can take longer when working with a large agency, as they are dealing with multiple clients simultaneously. The sheer volume of accounts handled by individuals in the firm can lead to delays, which should be of concern to any business owner.
Boutique firms, in contrast, are recognized for their quick turnaround. When fewer people work on any campaign, it's easier to know whom to contact with a question or concern, and campaigns are usually launched in less time, as there aren't as many individuals working on the campaign. If you're trying to steer the Titanic from hitting an iceberg, then you'd want a speedboat, not a cruise liner, to guide you.
Specialization is key. If you wish to find specialized skills, then picking a boutique firm will lead to better results. Small agencies offer specialization and focus that larger agencies often lack. Large companies work with a variety of clients, and, as a result, they tend to have less expertise in working with targeted markets. This type of approach leads to large firm solutions to be more cookie-cutter. The cookie-cutter approach can be the most detrimental to your outcome than a lack of specific industry experience because they never truly get to know you as a business or team.
But imagine working with a company that, from Day 1, take the time to understand your unique situation. This focus on understanding is what you get with a great boutique branding agency because they have the flexibility to dig deeper than a larger team. For instance, when it comes to web design, you can seek out a big agency that handles all kinds of web design, or you could look for a boutique firm that specializes in the particular type of design you need for your business and target audience.
If you want specialized skills and approaches, then picking a boutique firm will lead to better results.
It's not the size of the agency that matters most, but how well they understand the needs, objectives, and struggles of your business and market and develop solutions to solve them. Larger firms tend to use similar, if not identical, methods with each client they take on because they rely on strict internal procedures. This approach is an excellent way to scale their agency but not great for their customers. Furthermore, large firms tend to become set in their ways and refuse to try new tactics. The moment a problem arrives, there's only so many ways to get around it. (See speed issue above.)Boutique creative agencies don't offer a one-size-fits-all approach. While clients often find they have to adapt to the methodology of large agencies, smaller organizations are more likely to adjust to their clients.
When it comes to successful creative campaigns, creativity, and innovation is the name of the game. And neither of those is limited to agencies with a large staff and a bloated budget. Smaller firms not only are more willing to try new things, but it is also often their bread and butter. Boutique agencies are free to explore the next best way to build your business and aren't afraid to do things differently. As you build a relationship with your boutique agency, you'll both work together to develop a personalized creative campaign that best suits your business and grows as your company does.
"Smaller agencies not only are more willing to try new things, but it is also often their bread and butter."
Think of a boutique agency as a custom suit tailor. If you want any off-the-rack suit, a boutique firm isn't the right choice for you. But if you want a tailored suit that fits you and only you, then suit up with a boutique agency. This custom, out-of-the-box creativity can be of great importance when it comes to catching the eye of your consumer and better connecting your brand with them. Big agencies build brands on a broad assembly line because they have to. Considering your brand is likely very different from another brand in an agency's portfolio, why would you ever place your brand on an assembly line?
Smaller firms tend to be made up of a team of people who are tenacious, cross-discipline, and fearless. For your brand, this means a group of folks who are naturally more collaborative, lend fresh perspectives, and are "do or die" when it comes to achieving goals. If your business wants to blaze a trail and a bespoke creative experience, then a boutique branding agency will deliver the very best for your brand.
It's more direct to work with a small agency. Boutiques bring a level of personalization that could mean the difference between calling and reaching a secretary versus reaching the CEO on the first try. When you work with a boutique agency, you get a more personal experience. You'll have the opportunity to develop a healthy working relationship with your creative team, and you'll also experience better communication since you're in direct contact with the specialists working throughout the entirety of your project. These things lead to an overall feeling that you're not just an invoice – you're a valued client.
Your business is your baby. Like any parent, you know what's best, so your input and your opinion are essential. Big agencies have a sea of faceless people involved at different stages in your project (account handlers, executives, analysts, creatives, and directors) that change with each meeting you have. Instead of having your voice lost in a sea of faces, you'll only speak to the people who work on your project when you work with a boutique agency. Rather than third-hand interpretations, your boutique team will hear your voice and your opinions to translate your vision into words, images, and experiences.
You're not just an invoice – you are a valued client.
Large firms may brag about their big-name clients, but this leads them to neglect their smaller accounts while at boutique firms - every client counts. If you want the best results, work with an agency that's as invested in your results as you are.
In your search for the perfect agency, be sure to consider boutique agencies. When looking for the ideal firm to represent your business, a large organization could be the right move. After all, conventional wisdom says that with a big agency, you'd have access to more resources, but what you may not realize, however, is that smaller agencies are just as resourceful as larger organizations. And may even better suit your needs. Bigger is not always better.
A boutique branding agency is going to be more nimble, more adaptable, more creative, more cost-effective, and faster at what they do – improve their client's brand experience. So why not go small?
Boutique creative agencies do not stand on reputation but rather an ongoing process of building a reputation. Going to a boutique firm means working with people who adapt to fit the needs of their clients.
It means working with people who work hard to stay ahead of innovation, maximize resources, and prioritize your needs versus selling you their methodologies.
Every brand is unique, every creative campaign must distinguish you from the crowd. A boutique branding agency is going to be more nimble, more adaptable, more innovative, and more cost-effective. So why not go small? Working with boutique creative agencies allows you to grow together. A boutique agency does not exclusively work with small companies either. They are for everybody. Try looking beyond the perceived prestige of a large company and realize that boutique agencies are for everybody. Weigh the flexibility and economic savings of a boutique branding agency. Consider their expertise and creativity. Consider the relationships you'll build as you both grow together.
If you're looking for a cutting-edge creative and branding campaign, using a boutique agency can provide you with a strategy that will separate you from your competitors. So next time you're looking to get big results with your creative projects, think small - you'll see a big difference!