With some smart strategic thinking any small agency can win over one of the big agencies. 

small can win

Never give in to the big guys.

Many smaller firms we’ve worked with over the past few years have won going up against some of the giants in our industry. Even more now consider themselves to be in competition with larger agencies. And sometimes the giants like JWT, Y&R, or just the large regional down the street feel the need to reach down and pick up a smaller account forcing you to compete with them.

So how do you compete against a larger agency? Do you pack your bags and go home, lie about your actual size, or disparage the behemoth? No.

Fortunately, there are more positive alternatives. You just need to explain why smaller is better. What follows are some points/arguments you can make to convince a prospect not only that size doesn’t matter when it comes to capability, but that large size can actually be a disadvantage in meeting his or her needs.

How to Compete With the Big Agency:

  • The client is always dealing with the principal when he or she is dealing with your firm. You are the relationship manager. There is no junior partner to whom responsibility will be transferred. There is no decreased accountability, no “handoff” to a less-informed colleague. If the prospect’s interests are at stake continually, shouldn’t the client reasonably expect the principal’s continual involvement?
  • You provide resources on a “just-in-time” basis. That is, your agency does not have to cover excessive overhead, such as multiple offices, large administrative backup, recruiting, partner perks, and so on. You are organized to efficiently provide everything the prospect needs but nothing more than that.
  • There is greater likelihood of observing privacy and confidentiality with fewer people working on the project. In addition, the fewer people working on an account, the fewer “filters” there are to go through. Larger agencies sometimes have a problem dealing with a number of revolving staff’s differing perceptions or interpretations of information, and this can stall results. You (and the few people you might also involve) are constant, removing the need to sift through dozens of differing perceptions.
  • You’re faster. You can respond to requests quickly and return all calls within two hours. (If you can’t, then you’re not taking advantage of your smaller size.) Your client needn’t worry about a bureaucracy, delays, and unfamiliar people answering their calls.
  • Since you handle fewer concurrent projects than larger agencies, your attention is more focused. The client doesn’t have to “compete” with another dozen or so of your clients, some of which may be larger or more time-demanding. You structure your work so that every client receives maximum attention.
  • Inevitably, you are less expensive. (Note that this is way down here in the list, because you shouldn’t be that much less expensive!). There are economies to using someone who can base their fees on each situation and not on a predetermined rate or their need for reaching a holding company goal.

Add your own reasons to these, and have them handy anytime you know that a prospect is considering other, larger agencies. Don’t be rocked back on your heels, defensively trying to explain why you can do the same things with fewer resources. Defense might win football games, but it doesn’t accomplish a thing in the new business process. Take the offensive, and explain why smaller is better for this client’s particular needs. Don’t disparage the competition; simply point out your superiority.

Don, over at Marketing Thought Leader has added more good ideas with his post Going Head-to-Head With the Big Guys. A good read and I highly suggest you head over all read his take.


Great photo by JoanLlado