The key to most every business is finding your point of differentiation. What makes you different than everyone else? Sometimes in smaller firms that can be more challenging because the focus tends to be on what you cannot offer. I believe that there are many points that can make small firms stand out from the big guys.
First the negatives…as a small firm you are, well, small. You simply don't have the resources of a larger agency and are not a one stop shop with all capabilities in-house. You may not have teams of five or more people working on an account simply because it isn't possible. You count on strategic partners to help fill the gaps when it comes to video production, web development, and, potentially, other services. Sometimes clients are ok with that and sometimes, not so much.
Now, a few positives:
- Access to Experience: Something smaller agencies hear from prospective clients during initial meetings is that they have used PR firms in the past but have stopped because they meet the senior executives during the first meeting or two and then are quickly passed to a junior associate or even an intern. From a business perspective this happens from time to time because there are only so many hours in the day and ultimately much of the hands-on work needs to come from more junior PR professionals. But many clients want to make sure that they are top of mind with the senior members of the company, and small firms can deliver that more consistently and with more clients.
- Cost Effective: Smaller firms have less overhead and as a result, can charge less. When dealing with small to midsize companies or non-profits as clients, expenses are always an issue. Small PR firms can make the argument to prospects that for the cost of one employee they can get an experienced team working on their behalf with no overhead or HR issues.
- No Territorialism: With smaller firms there tends to be more of a sense of team and it is far easier to correct a problem when it arises. One bad apple can spoil the bunch but finding that apple in a small bushel is easier. The sense of sharing contacts and ideas is generally more prevalent at a small agency and in the end it is the client who wins.
Now as smaller agencies grow they may find that their perspective will “evolve.” Regardless, the key is finding that point of differentiation. The thing that makes you stand out from the others. When a company is hiring a firm there are usually many right answers: it comes down to that small difference that can win or lose that account. Excellent PR pros are at agencies of all sizes and success is gleaned by highlighting your assets and what you do best. Sometimes it might feel like a negative when it is really a positive in disguise.
John Maroon is president of Maroon PR.