Why it makes sense to hire small agencies

I can still remember one of the first times I sold enterprise software to an enterprise client. They were a very large and well-known financial organization and I was sitting in a meeting with their senior technical staff. I was young and nervous at the meeting until I asked a question and heard the answer.

“What's the process, and how long does it take, to go from an initial concept to a launched product?”

I expected the answer to be impressive. I expected the answer to be illuminating. I expected the answer to be interesting.

What I hadn't expected was an explicit answer. 18-24 months. That's what it would take for a feature (not a new product or application) to go from concept to deployment.

We're not talking about a massive amount of code. Instead, I'm simply talking about a feature that might take 2 weeks to code. But it could take 40 times that to see the light of day.

Because of who this company was, the focus was more on protection and prevention (of negative consequences) than on production.

Big companies are like that. They move carefully. They move slowly. And as a result, they don't necessarily innovate a lot.

Three reasons why you should hire small agencies

Those large companies, however, still need to hire agencies. You, too, will be faced with making a similar decision. But your decision criteria may be different.

When large companies make their decisions on hiring an agency, some do it like they manage the rest of their days—so they hire to mitigate risk. They look for companies with large enough staff teams and tons of systems and processes to protect their interests.

Other, however,r make decisions differently. And they make them like you might make yours.

They're looking for a company who can innovate, who can do something new, different and something that may challenge the status quo.

This is what I recommend for you as well.

Small agencies offer three things that you may not find when you're talking with a company that has more than 20-30 staff.

  1. There are less miscommunication misunderstandings.
    In companies where there are more than 30 people, you'll likely talk with a person who will then talk with someone else about your project. You remember the telephone game. It can sometimes be like that. With a small agency, the key folks are often present at your meetings and will hear from you directly.
  2. Less overhead means less cookie-cutter work.
    The nature of a larger agency (think 100-200 people) is that you need more staff to manage everything—from production staff, to finances, to project management, to sales and marketing. The result of non-billable staff is that everyone else has to be highly productive. This drive for efficiencies can lead to agencies picking up more and more work that looks like their recent projects. And while that's great for their productivity, it may not be the innovation you're looking for.
  3. Small agencies try harder.
    You remember the old Avis campaign, right? Maybe the best ad campaign ever, “We try harder.” Small agencies rely on word of mouth and repeat business like everyone else, and to that end, work very hard to delight their clients. With less staff, however, they can't afford to have to re-do work. As a result, you may find they're working harder to earn your dollar.

Five small agencies to consider

The reality is that there are a ton of agencies out there that could help you. But because people are consistently asking me for recommendations, I thought I would give you five (in alphabetical order):

  1. Bourn Creative – This team knows how to combine branding, design and development to create brilliant WordPress websites for you.
  2. Range – This team has worked on a number of high-profile publishing projects and understands editing workflows well!
  3. Reaktiv – This team can help you build (on WordPress) what you thought was previously impossible.
  4. Zao – This team knows eCommerce incredibly well and can help your site's performance.
  5. Zeek – This team can do incredible work with WordPress, its API, and mobile applications.

Are there others? Sure. And there are other agencies who are neither small (<10) nor large (50+). And they're great too.

But I think you may find, like many large brands have, that when you hire small agencies you get a lot of bang for your buck.