The Pros and Cons of a Boutique Marketing Agency Partner
What is a Boutique Digital Agency?
Boutique digital marketing agencies are small and digital-savvy. They focus primarily on online marketing strategies. Typically, boutique agencies understand digital marketing fully and produce results efficiently, keeping a client’s budget top of mind.
Boutique advertising agencies emerged as a response to the big, often global, agencies that have dominated marketing for so long. Larger agencies are bulky, slow to adapt, and foster less of a personalized client experience.
There are pros and cons to both large and small agencies, and the right fit for your brand will largely depend on its business goals.
Benefits of Working with a Boutique Agency
Whereas large agencies may have 50+ clients to tend to, boutique agencies often keep their client base smaller by design. With fewer clients, small digital agencies can take the time to get to know their clients, their brand stories, target audiences, and business goals.
Having more resources available to understand the ins and outs of your brand means you’ll be provided with a more individualized strategy. And with a boutique marketing agency, you’re more likely to receive an email response in a few hours rather than a few days.
Clients are the backbone of any marketing agency, but they are especially valued at boutique agencies. For this reason, your partnership with a boutique agency should feel familiar and collaborative, regardless of your marketing budget.
More Internal Cohesion
Boutique agencies generally have fewer than 20 people on staff, which means all-hands meetings can function more conversationally than large corporate gatherings. When each voice has the opportunity to be heard, client needs have less opportunity to fall through the cracks.
A more cohesive internal structure usually keeps employees happier. And when agency employees are happy (i.e. not jaded by a cold corporate culture), they are better able to serve their clients – you!
Access to the company’s leaders
The point of contact at corporate agencies is usually a project manager who has a caseload of up to 20 other clients to maintain communication with. At a boutique agency, the CEO or Founder of the agency will likely be joining your weekly meetings (just like ours).
Having access to the mastermind behind the agency is highly valuable. When a company’s leader is accessible to the client, it usually means they’re also accessible to other agency employees. That means boutique agency leaders likely have visibility and provide input on all client happenings behind the scenes.
Less Red Tape
Big agencies usually have a pile of SOPs, protocols, and red tape set up to protect themselves from unhappy clients. Simply put, they don’t have the time or desire to put out fires, so it takes a lot of effort to get anything locked in.
Alternatively, boutique agencies view a client’s ambitious goals and ideas as ways to foster innovation. Without strict SOPs, employees are more empowered to optimize marketing channels in real-time, adjusting and adapting as campaigns run.
Often these optimizations are assigned to entry-level campaign managers at large agencies. In a smaller marketing setting, campaign optimizations are done by the client team, likely with input from agency leadership and other members of the agency.
The world of digital marketing moves fast, and agencies have to work quickly to keep up with trends and best practices. Red tape will set your brand back from optimizations that could bring you more business.
Cons of Boutique Digital Agencies
Large agencies usually have access to a global network of advertising opportunities, which boutique marketing agencies simply do not. Global firms’ services could include advertising efforts such as national TV commercials, and Times Square digital billboards – both of which require budgets that most boutique agencies don’t see.
Boutique agencies generally stick to the smaller realm of digital marketing channels, without large-scale creative production and associated costs. For brands that want to make a more global impact with digital activations, this limited scope isn’t ideal.
Services are Too Specialized
Some boutique agencies only partner with brands that fall into a specific industry or niche that may not align with your brand. They may also only focus on one area of digital marketing. For example, some digital agencies only offer content marketing services, PPC campaign management, or social media management, leaving you the task of finding additional teams to fill in the gaps.
Instead, look for a boutique agency that provides all the marketing services your brand needs, at the scale that fits your goals. It may benefit your brand to partner with either an industry-specific agency or one that has a more diverse client base. Take a look at the agency’s client list, case studies, and services offered. Their niche may be blatantly obvious (i.e. clients are all healthcare brands) or difficult to distinguish. In initial conversations with the agency, ask what industries they work best with to see if your brand aligns with their services.
Benefits of Working with a Large Agency
Big Agencies are a One-Stop Shop
In an effort to have all marketing strategies covered by agencies, some companies partner with as many as 6 different ones. Alternatively, large full-service agencies usually offer public relations, digital marketing, and traditional advertising services, oftentimes creative production, and/or web development as well.
For larger brands, it may be nothing more than an annoyance to have multiple agency partners, but smaller businesses usually are better off with one full-service agency partner.
Global Network Access
When an agency has multiple offices located in different parts of the US or even the world, they have a wider range of access to advertising services. This global network access is a clear benefit of working with a large agency, and something smaller boutique agencies would not be able to offer.
Commercial Production Capabilities
There is a lot that goes into the production of a commercial. Agency staff would include project managers, creative directors, directors of photography, writers, and full film crews.
Global agencies may have a green room located in their office or access to a film studio. They should have resources for staffing film shoots and the ability to garner ad placements on prominent television channels.
All of these are traditional benefits of choosing a large marketing firm over a smaller one. Boutique marketing agencies generally stay away from commercial production, opting for more digestible TikTok video ads and YouTube vlogs.
Depending on the scope of your business goals, the video production abilities of a smaller agency might be all you need.
Cons of Large-Scale Global Agencies
Less Service Customization
More employees and clients mean more standardization. This means service packages are less likely to be customized to the solutions your brand needs. Service packages could include traditional advertising and all forms of digital advertising, without the option to pick and choose individual options.
Some of the largest advertising agencies charge $15,000 a month for retainers. Smaller agencies usually charge less than $5k a month, and it depends on the services and hours included in the retainer fee.
For small businesses or nonprofit organizations, spending that much to partner with a large agency is usually not an option.
Inexperienced Team Members
While boutique agencies usually hire highly skilled team members to fill their smaller-sized roster, global agencies have a hierarchical structure that starts with (often unpaid) interns and junior-level marketers. Often upper management attention is reserved for high-profile clients resulting in more inexperienced people working on the day-to-day account strategy and optimizations.
Less Attention For Their Clients
With rosters of 50+ clients, your brand’s needs are likely to fall somewhere on a thick list of other tasks. Despite the benefits of partnering with a large agency, you would have a hard time having your voice heard and having issues that arise addressed promptly.
And if you choose to partner with an agency with high-profile clients, good luck feeling valued at all. Sadly, if your brand is on the same roster as luxury brands like Range Rover or American Express, your emails will likely be given a lower-priority response.
The Crimson Park Digital Agency Experience
So, where do we fit in? We like to consider ourselves as boutique in size and client attentiveness, but large in skill and drive. We are innovative and solutions-forward; we’re passionate about developing strategies that are unique to our clients’ brand stories and goals.
Partnering with our team of marketing professionals will guarantee that you feel like you are our only client. Take it from this testimonial…
They’re so committed to our account that it feels like we’re their only client. That’s reflected in the quality of their work. They take feedback well and demonstrate confidence in the industry that puts us at ease. We’re operating on a three-hour time zone difference, but I often forget that because I’ve never seen a team jump on impromptu requests as they do. When our tasks are urgent, they always find a way to manage them on our timeline. – Steve Schonberg, Target ALS
The best way to see if our boutique digital agency is the right match for your marketing needs is to meet the team. Schedule a consultation with our founder to see if we’re a good fit.
What is the difference between a boutique agency and a large ad agency?
Boutique agencies have smaller client loads and fewer hurdles to jump through for campaign optimization. Larger agencies may offer more services than boutique agencies, such as commercial production and billboard advertising.
Can small businesses partner with boutique marketing agencies?
Small businesses should partner with boutique marketing agencies because they are more likely to meet campaign goals at the scale of your ideal budget.
Why should you partner with a digital marketing agency?
You should partner with a digital marketing agency if you want an individualized approach to marketing solutions.