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Why Budget-Friendly Boutique Agencies Make Sense Now (And Always)

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As fourth quarter of 2019 began, none of us could have predicted what 2020 would mean to the budget proposals and marketing strategies we were getting ready to finalize by the end of the year. And now next year’s plans are anything but certain.

While the COVID-19 pandemic and response to it has presented incredible opportunities for a few select sectors—think web-based conferencing and internet retail—most of the nation’s businesses have experienced a huge hit, in some cases exacerbated by civil unrest in urban areas with continuing economic hardship for individuals and in certain industries, especially hospitality fields.

What does that mean for marketers?

For most, it means that budgets will be tighter, strategies may need to be adjusted on the fly, and flexibility is key.

What’s happening with marketing budgets?

As early as May, some analysts predicted that marketing spend will drop by more than a quarter through the end of 2021. (Source)

Those reductions, according to Forrester, will occur across media, services, technology and headcount/staffing.

This doesn’t mean that marketing is any less important. In fact, a majority of CMOs say it has increased in importance. It’s just that the focus may be shifting. (Source) Understandably, digital interfaces are taking priority as more and more business is conducted remotely that would normally have taken place face-to-face. While this is especially true in the retail market, across the board marketers are being asked to get more active online to promote the company and its offerings, to reach current customers with information, and to develop new promotional strategies.

Is your company facing a need to contract its marketing budget in response to overall market forces? If so, how can you adapt without sacrificing performance?

How to get more marketing value for less

According to a June 2020 report from The CMO Survey, at that point nearly 1 in 10 marketing jobs had been lost to the pandemic, and nearly one-quarter of marketers don’t expect those jobs to return.

The majority of CMOs, however, reported not changing, or even increasing, their use of outsourcing during that time (22 percent reported decreases in outsourcing, with the largest decreases coming from the B2C services sector). Aside from possible contract obligations with agencies, outsourcing likely remains steady due to its ability to adapt more quickly than hiring and in-house staffing, as marketers work to make strategy changes on-the-fly to adapt to the still-evolving pandemic conditions.

But even within the outsourcing world, there can be significant differences in cost and value when finding the right partner for your brand. The idea that paying more for a large marketing agency will get you more isn’t necessarily the case. Large agencies have additional overhead due simply to their size, which is passed on to clients through hefty retainers or increased hourly rates.

Boutique firms like JONES can provide the same level of expertise and experience—and often even more—at lower costs. We estimate that our clients get 1.5 times as much quality work for the same budget, which means they can either minimize their marketing budget while maintaining the same level of content creation and promotion or take on bigger projects that have even greater ROI potential.

In this time of shrinking budgets, switching from a mega-firm to a more personalized experience can help you maintain your current momentum, even if you have less to spend.

The benefits of a boutique agency go beyond the budget differences, though.

Boutique agency benefits are about more than the money

Boutique marketing firms like JONES don’t just offer more deliverables for the same price compared to larger firms. They can also offer less-tangible benefits that improve the experience for their clients.

Boutique marketing firms provide a more personalized experience. While you still get the benefit of having a single point of contact to provide overall project updates, you will likely also get to know the rest of the people working on your content, not just an account manager. You may have the opportunity to provide direct feedback to creative staff, writers and designers who are taking on your projects, and who are just as invested in getting them right as you are. They are on your team, not simply a stable of designers being assigned work that they are otherwise separated from by a corporate bureaucracy.

Boutique marketing firms have experienced staff. With a small staff, we can’t afford to constantly train new graduates. At JONES, we don’t hire “junior” staff—everyone in our firm is experienced in their field, whether that is graphic art, video production, writing or website design. No matter what size your account is, you are getting our best, because that’s all we hire. You don’t have to worry about being relegated to the “B team” as smaller accounts often are by larger agencies.

Boutique marketing firms have the flexibility to adjust to your needs. Our small size helps us be nimble and able to adjust to what our clients need. We don’t expect clients to fit into a single mold and stay there. We understand that your business is changing, especially in these times, and that may mean needing to change gears quickly. We’re ready to do that, without having to turn the Titanic in the process.

Boutique marketing firms know our niches. Not only do we at JONES have more than 15 years of experience in marketing and public relations to fall back on, we’ve spent much of that time working with a few specific industries, allowing us to have a deep understanding of the complexity of each. There is no need for a long onboarding process teaching us about your industry. We’re open to working with anyone, but where we really know our stuff is in the healthcare and technology realm from healthcare IT and financial technology to enterprise software and life sciences.

Boutique marketing firms provide transparency and accountability. With a boutique firm, chances are your primary contact is an owner or founder of the firm. You have a direct line to the top, and we are directly responsible to you for results. Nothing gets lost in middle management in layers of account reps, department heads or division managers. You know who is doing the work on your marketing program because you’ve met the individuals involved, and you have a direct number to call for the person in charge.

Are you getting all of those qualities from your current firm at a cost that provides the value you need? What about the criteria listed in our Marketing Agency Checklist (download it here), which covers all of the specific skill sets you may need from a marketing agency, especially if you need to maximize an investment in an automation platform such as HubSpot. If you want to know more about JONES, I would be glad to take time to chat about how we may be able to meet your company’s needs at a time when budgets are tight but expectations are high. Schedule a no-obligation consultation with me here.

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