Sorry, You Are Too Big for Me!

Sorry, You Are Too Big for Me!
September 4, 2015 Graham White

Big or small size shouldn’t really matter. As the saying goes “it’s what you do with it” that matters.

So, why is it when an organisation is selecting an agency some still get fixated on size?

But unlike ‘the you know what’, in this case being big seems to be a disadvantage with potential clients having a preference for something smaller.

For transparency, I am the managing director of Howorth, a specialist technology and B2B PR firm of 35 people. We’re also part of Ogilvy PR Australia, which is home to five other specialist agencies and together we have more than 100 practitioners.

So, through the eyes of a potential client, then Howorth and Ogilvy PR could both be considered big. Fair call. But big doesn’t mean we’re not a good fit. On the contrary, I think our size represents growth, success and capability.

When both  our size and credentials are known from the outset, it’s tough to hear after a pitch that you came second because you were considered to be too big, especially when the rest of the feedback is “the ideas were great and we really liked the people, but…..”

When you probe a little deeper to see what being too big really means you get some interesting answers. So, here’s my top five myths on why size shouldn’t matter when you’re selecting a PR agency – or any agency within the marketing services industry:

Myth #1 – We think you’re too big – agencies are often  big because they’re successful at what they do, and it’s that expertise and value you should focus on rather than an agency’s size and how many people it has. Growth is a positive and in my book is an assurance for the potential client.

Myth #2 – You will be too expensive – first, you haven’t worked with us so how do you know? Second, like all good businesses, we benchmark our rate cards with agencies of all sizes to ensure we’re competitive. In fact, when you work with bigger agencies you will get other economies of scale and benefits such as group discounts on third party services, access to events, intellectual property and not to mention access to a range of other marketing experts within the agency’s walls, or any partner agencies it might have.

Myth #3 – We’re worried we won’t get the attention we deserve – that fact is that any agency – big or small – wouldn’t pitch for your business if they didn’t want it. Also, if successful, you will get a dedicated account team regardless of how much money you are spending. Your business is important to any agency willing to take the time and resources to pitch for your account.

Myth #4 – We think a smaller agency will be a better cultural fit – this one always foxes me because cultural fit is about people and chemistry. As a potential client, it might surprise you to hear that when we meet both sides are evaluating whether we can work together – culture is not about size; it’s always about the people. I am a firm believer that having more people brings more cultural dimensions into a relationship that will benefit you.

Myth #5 – We won’t have enough money for you – agencies like ours work with budgets of all sizes. Don’t worry about how much you have to spend; rather, what you want to spend it on. A good agency’s job is to advise you on what’s possible and suggest programs of work suitable to your budget – this could be about spending less just as much as spending more.

For the record, Howorth has clients of all sizes. In fact, we have a great track record with start-ups, who are the most budget conscious of all. But these entrepreneurs don’t let size get in the way of a good decision. They shortlist agencies based on recommendations and word of mouth and will hire on proven results and reputation – which is how it should be. We live and breathe by the old adage that small acorns grow into big trees.

If you’re in the process of hiring a PR firm – or any other type of marketing or advertising agency – please don’t concern yourself with size.  Instead, look at what they have done, who they work with, whether you could work with the people, the results they get and of course the campaign ideas presented to you.

With the amount of time and effort that goes into pitches, when any agency decides to participate that is the signal they want your business and are serious about working with you.

But if you start asking questions about size and show any concern that big is a disadvantage, the date may end right there.

Written by Graham White – Managing Director, Howorth Communications