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The small boutique design agency: why David is better than Goliath

Be honest, when you think of a design agency, what do you think of?

Is it a big London agency with a pool table, a bar for Friday drinks, and a bike rack outside to house all the sleek road bikes ridden by cultured young people wearing tight jeans and funky trainers, fresh from some degree somewhere, right?

You probably imagine some really cool space with plants and glass and fake grass for carpets.

Don’t get us wrong, that all sounds great and they have their place in the world. There are just a few things that they can’t offer. We can’t all do everything!

We’re a small design agency in Staffordshire and this isn’t a ‘bash the southerners’ blog post. We like them, we follow their stuff, and we connect with many of them on LinkedIn.

No, this definitely isn’t about that. This post is purely to show you why you might just be better with a smaller agency like ours. (Other smaller agencies are available, but they’re just not as pink or as good!)



Big flashy reports, no substance

Firstly, one thing these big agencies do get very right is their collateral. They have some amazing brochures and onboarding material. They’ll also have some great reports and documents that they’ll send to you when you’re working with them.

That’s all great, but…

When what you really need is bespoke feedback, advice for you that’s not going to fit their template, and some thinking that isn’t 50% automated; sexy reports won’t cut it. A small agency like ours won’t rely solely on a large system with set processes that can (and will) drive the comms between you and them. We understand why they have them; we just don’t feel they suit everyone.



Their way, not your highway

Big agencies will have a proven process and set of hoops to go through to onboard you. They’ll continue this slick process when they’re working with you. It’s not a box ticking exercise, but it does follow their agency ‘way’ and you’ll have to fit in with their procedures.

That’s all great, but…

What if you’re not the norm? What if your project really is ‘out of the box’ and requires more than some copy and pasted‘blue sky thinking’? (Honestly, this phrase makes us shudder as soon as it’s uttered!)

If your project is really pushing the boundaries, or it’s something that’s not been seen before, or a project that requires some gentle, regular tinkering and conversation, you may well find that the Goliath ‘one size fits all’ approach to client management is all wrong for you.



Small means flexible

Big agencies have done well for themselves. They’ve attracted the awards and the big clients and now they must maintain a certain way of working that suits them. That’s what – to a point – their clients buy into. They can’t always change that easily, or quickly. It’s harder for employed staff to be flexible.

That’s great, but…

What if you’re more of a hands-on and break the rules kinda person? What if what you need is more fluid than ‘set-it and forget it’? What if you need to try it for a little while, test it, and then review the whole idea and change it? What if you’re working in a space that can change overnight?

A small agency will work more closely with you and can (and will move) with you. The flexibility is what a smaller agency can provide more happily than a large one.



You mean more to smaller agencies

A large agency has a huge portfolio of clients and due to their size and profitable set-up and strong marketing and sales team, they can afford to lose clients and deal with a high client ‘churn’.

That’s great, but…

You’re not just a number! You’re not a notch on their bedpost or something they call ‘churn’ when you move on. You’re a special little buttercup, and you matter. You do.

A smaller agency is more appreciative of you and your business matters more. You’ll be a larger percentage of their turnover that month or year and you’ll develop a working relationship that means that little bit more to them.



Smaller agencies have one small team

Large design agencies have done well over the years and grown their team to a great size. They now have people to manage people and their office Christmas party needs the local hotel to accommodate them. (Handily, there are also more pool tables there, too!)

That’s great, but…

When they’re working on your project, your design and other collateral is moved from department to department and even the client manager doesn’t always know where they’re at with it all.

Call up a smaller agency and even the boss will know what’s going on. They’re probably working on or overseeing some of it, too! A smaller agency means smaller team. That can mean a more joined-up way of working and less things ‘lost in communication’ as the Chinese whispered email to project manager and then designer and then client manager gets misunderstood or delayed.



Davids can still work with many Goliaths (and other Davids)!

Large agencies know that it’s best to niche and work with a section of the market that they can specialise in and work with. A large agency then becomes the ‘go to’ agency for X or Y or Z.

That’s great, but…

What if you need your design and marketing to be truly different and to draw from many different projects from different sectors? What if you wanted to gain experience from more than just your sector? Smaller agencies tend to move from one style of project to another and the pool of expertise and skills this requires can be vast… and very useful for you!



David beats Goliath (sometimes)

We’re proud to be a smaller agency and we’re certain that there are times when working with us (or a similar smaller outfit) is better than the typical large, London agency.

We’re also certain that large agencies suit other companies, and that the people choosing them like to play pool and go for lunch at an overpriced fancy bar with the MD after.

It’s just a matter of choosing the right agency for you.

If you think it might suit you better to have a smaller team who care about you, your project, and its outcome, and you might like to work with an eclectic team with knowledge from many sectors – then say hello!