Big Brand, Small Agency: Why It’s Time To Shine For The Specialists

Big Brand, Small Agency: Why It’s Time To Shine For The Specialists
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In this guest piece, Anthony Halprin (pictured below), managing director at Sense Event Group, provides some advice for those specialist agencies out there that are looking to attract the big clients.

Anthony Halprin

Media and marketing is changing rapidly, and part of that change is how brand works with agencies. The three big stables – creative, buying and public relations – have been joined by events, social, experiential, digital, influencer and more. This has given rapid rise to some great, small, independent agencies. Unsurprisingly, these agencies are starting to pull in some big brands as clients.

The Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2016-2017 is good news for any agency. Marketing budgets continue to increase and will reach 13 per cent of a large company’s entire budget. That is the third consecutive year of growth and a very large share of the pie when you consider how many items of expenditure a large business like a Google, Nike or Sony has.

It means that large companies are doing one of two things: they are either spending more with their agency/s or building their own in-house marketing department. If you’re a small specialist agency, either of those situations is fantastic for you. Large agencies tend to bring specialists into the fold to seal gaps in their own offerings, while in-house marketing teams look to specialists directly when they are trying to execute a plan that makes no sense hiring specialist employees.

It’s not all roses and sunshine, though. The fact is that with a large number of specialist agencies, there is still plenty of competition around for the big fish. Big brands are generally more clued up on what they want out of an agency as well. I run an events business, Sense, which is privileged to work directly with Sony Interactive Entertainment, Google and YouTube. We have a track record of working with big clients despite the fact we are a small, specialist agency.

While there are a number of qualities a big brand could be looking for when approaching a specialist or small agency, the reasons why are often relatively similar. Understanding them will help you pitch your business better and secure the business of a brand that could help propel you to the next level.

They want specialists

You may be small, but you have a tight focus on a speciality area. That is exactly what big brands want and why they have approached you. The biggest mistake you can make is trying to appear bigger than you are and offering services you are not capable of providing or don’t already provide. It is your core service the brand is after. Be clear about that and conscious of what you can offer them to a very high standard.

They want speed

Quality doesn’t come quickly, but it can come quicker from a smaller agency. There are less lines of command, minimal politics and fewer approval processes. Use this to your advantage. Make sure you are realistic about time frames, but don’t make the mistake of thinking a big brand will not be conscious of quick turnaround opportunities. Often, a big brand will approach a specialist because they have realised a gap that needs to be plugged quickly.

They want ingenuity

An agency with a set method of doing things and a set command process will often stay within a certain confine when producing work. Smaller specialists can think more freely and take bigger risks to achieve the end goal. Don’t forget to think big and come forward with some crazy ideas that could be a bit of a risk. At the very least, they show creative thinking and a lust for the work. They might even be executed.

They want the big name

Not the big agency name, but the big individual name. One of the most common and tiresome traditions in agency land is bringing in the big guns for the pitch – the first and last time the brand will see them working on their account. It is then pushed off to the middle-management team to do the actual work. Small specialists, especially those that are founded by someone with big agency experience and a track record of great ideas, are valued highly because the top brass still get stuck into client work.

They want better value

It is so tempting to jack up your prices because the big brand with big cash has come knocking on the door. Before you do that, consider this simple idea: marketing managers at big brands aren’t stupid. They have a budget, they will stick to it, and they know when they are being price gouged. That isn’t to say drop your pants – by no means do that – but charge what you would normally charge in relation to the work you will be doing. Nothing more, nothing less.

This worked for Sense and myself. As a bonus, also consider that a small project with a big brand is worth more than it seems. They have the money and requirement to be repeat clients.

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