11 Proven Ways Your Boutique Agency Can Win Clients Over Larger Agencies

Last updated on by Ted Vrountas in Lead Generation, Marketing Agency Tips

They say second place is the first loser, but in 1962, Avis begged to differ. With their “We Try Harder” campaign, they claimed that by choosing number 2, you choose better customer service. “When you’re only No. 2,” their ad headline read, “you try harder. Or else.”

A year following its launch, Avis earned $1.2 million compared to losing $3.2 million the year before. It was the first time in a decade the company was profitable. And as the campaign continued to run, industry leader, Hertz, watched their market share shrink from 61%-29% to 49%-36% two years later. Avis had succeeded in swiping customers from the “big fish” simply by highlighting the benefits of partnering with the little guy.

How to lure clients to your boutique agency

If you’re a smaller boutique marketing agency, here are some ways you can be like Avis, and lure clients from your bigger agency competitors.

1. Showcase your creativity

It happens to even the best brands: They start out small, human. They start as people with clear vision and purpose. And because of that, they succeed. But with more success comes more clients, which requires more staff and structure. Small groups are easy to work with, but bigger ones require standards across the board.

Soon, what was once a group of people with a common goal becomes an organization — a stuffy, corporate agency with a jargony mission statement. With endless policies. With strict rules for everything, just to be safe: There are words you can say and words you can’t. Humor’s too risky. Informality is unprofessional. And now, everybody’s walking on creative eggshells ‘cause they’re afraid to upset the higher-ups.

Your standard business might be able to survive this, but an agency thrives on imagination. When big agencies are restricted by corporate chains like these, it usually makes for unremarkable advertising. That means, as a boutique agency, showing off your creativity goes a long way. Here’s inspiration from some memorable ads.

2. Stress examples of efficiency and speed

When it comes to efficiency, you might think big agencies have the edge. They have more staff, a bigger budget, and all the other resources you don’t. But, in the same way, processes can make an agency rigid and unimaginative, they can also make it inefficient. Like two boxers in the ring, bigger usually means slower. More authority and more approval stages are just more roadblocks to production.

“Big brands with big vision are looking for agencies that can match their perspective, not their size,” says YARD co-founder and chief strategic officer, Ruth Bernstein. “If you’re a smart CMO trying to re-steer the Titanic from hitting an iceberg, you would want a speedboat, not a bloated cruise liner to help guide you. They want an agency that can quickly respond to their needs while maintaining creativity and flexibility.”

Clients already have their own set of roadblocks: rules, checkpoints, stages of approval. They don’t want a partner who adds to that. Many big agencies are divided into silos: sales and marketing are on different floors. The dev team is overseas. Boutique agencies, as much leaner businesses, are in a better position to get something through production quickly.

3. Be where they’re not

With some basic research, you can find out how your competitors are spending their advertising dollars. Where are they? On Facebook? LinkedIn? Google?

Just because they’ve covered the major networks doesn’t mean they’ve covered all your customers. For example, while Google Ads is the choice for most search advertisers, it’s not the best in all categories. Bing has cheaper CPCs, better campaign and ad-group control, and better social extensions, to name a few advantages. And let’s not forget these numbers:

Don’t neglect all the networks your competitor aren’t on. Even the smallest platforms are packed with users wielding buying power.

4. Go longtail

Big agencies usually have the budget to own broad keyword search terms. They cast a big net on Google and weed people out later in the funnel. With a longtail keyword strategy, though, you can weed them out from the start at a much lower cost. Marieke van der Rakt of Yoast, says:

It is much easier to rank for long tail keywords than for more common keywords. Another benefit of focussing on long tail keywords is that, although these keywords are used less in search, the visitor that finds your website using them is more likely to buy your service or product.

So, instead of bidding on “small business marketing,” you might bid more specifically on the types of services you offer, and who your ideal client is. This would look closer to “search engine marketing for small dental offices,” or “lead generation services for lawyers in San Antonio.” The technique ensures that only qualified prospects — ones who are likely to need your service — click through. At the same time, it doesn’t drain your budget like it does the bigger guys.

5. Be picky

When you’re smaller, you can’t take on many clients because you don’t have the resources. You have enough for just a few at a time, which means you have to be picky.

This pickiness makes for a level of exclusivity, which sets the foundation for a good client/agency relationship in two ways. First, your client will feel more like a partner than a number. This is similar to what it’s like when any business makes its emails, ads, landing pages, offers, relevant to you instead of the masses. It’s personalization for the client.

Second, picking your clients carefully this way means you can choose only the ones that will fit with your agency ideologically. When client and agency mesh, it can open up doors for even greater productivity. Owner of agency, 85Sixty, Stephen Price, says that he even allows his clients an unprecedented level of access:

Clients tend to then see us as an outsourced in-house digital team. We think that this in itself helps reduce churn because we are so highly integrated into the client's business. We also have direct access between clients and the individual members of our team - many of whom are very senior.

Cooperation on such a high level is only possible between two businesses with similar goals, ideologies, and working styles. The detailed vetting of a digital Marketing agency can help weed out clients who aren’t a good fit, while the big guys attract all they can handle with broad keywords and a dedicated sales team.

6. Customize your proposal to the business

For big agencies, the one-size-fits-all proposal is most efficient. It’s a template-style response to an RFP, which makes it easy for new and inexperienced staff to win business. They can open it up and fill in the blanks.

But, this type of proposal is likely to be moved to the bottom of the pile, underneath ones that are 100% customized to the client’s needs. This is the type of proposal boutique agencies are capable of, with a more selective attitude and a team-oriented approach to winning new business.

7. Be good to your current clients

New business shouldn’t be old news after your first month of partnership. And that’s especially true if you want to generate even more business.

Research has shown that agencies usually end up on a client’s shortlist by recommendation. A whopping 93% of marketing agencies rely on referrals to generate all their new business. What’s more, 80% of clients will recommend you to another client if you just ask. So, when your relationship is established, and they’re especially happy with your performance, it may be time to ask if they know anybody who needs your services.

8. Give more attention

It’s pretty obvious — the fewer clients you have, the more attention you can pay to each. It’s a big advantage that boutique agencies have over bigger ones. But, how do you show it off?

A great way to do it is in the initial meet and greet. According to the agency Hiring and Firing report, the team that meets with the business initially has a big impact on whether or not they get hired.

A big agency isn’t likely to send its major players to every pitch. Whereas, a boutique agency, with such a small team, could send the CMO and even the owner (who very well may be working on their account). What would say “We want your business” more? A design team and an account manager, or the CMO, the owner, and the rest of the team?

9. Keep your site simple

Bigger businesses have usually been around longer. Their website is older. They have more digital resources than they know what to do with: ebooks, guides, tip sheets, blog posts. They want people to attend their conference in May. And by trying to highlight all of it, they end up overwhelming their visitors.

Younger, smaller boutique agencies benefit from leanness in all aspects, including on the website. Without so much clutter, they’re free to prioritize certain conversion goals, like signing up for a consultation. Like downloading a free guide. The best homepages look like landing pages now, so keep yours as simple as your business.

10. Emphasize your expertise

Boutique agencies are smaller, and as a result, usually specialize in a particular kind of marketing: web development, email copywriting, or something in between.

Whatever it is, it’s an important selling point for clients. While big agencies are jack-of-all-trades types, boutique agencies are masters of one. This should be highlighted with badges of awards, infographics of results — even testimonials — on key web properties. That includes your homepage, relevant landing pages, and even your email signoff.

Here’s an example from agency, Pacific54, highlighting their expertise in PPC:

11. Offer the personal touch

Not only does the extra attention help the process of luring new clients to your business, but the personal approach does too. As a small agency, you’ll be able to develop a relationship beyond the traditional client/agency one. Things like Christmas cards, gift baskets, tickets to a game — these are things that say “we appreciate you,” which they’re not likely to get from a bigger business.

Lure more clients to your boutique agency

Bigger doesn’t always mean better (just ask Goliath), especially in the advertising industry. As a small marketing agency, you’re in a position to sell your expertise and highly personalized services. And the best way to do it is with a personalized landing page. Start generating more clients for your boutique agency, sign up for an Instapage 14-day free trial today.

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