Why should a small business or start-up choose a small design agency?

Why should a small business or start-up choose a small design agency?

There are a lot of factors to consider when selecting a design or marketing firm. Choosing wisely can lead to greater success while making a poor choice may lead to disaster or at least wasted marketing dollars. So it’s critical to choose a design / marketing partner that can help your business grow. So what are some of the factors to consider?

Price / Budget

Obviously smaller design / advertising firms generally cost less than the big agencies. Often you’ll simply get more bang for your buck working with smaller firms. So when budget and value are concerns choosing a smaller firm can be the smart choice. But price shouldn’t be your only metric.

Who will you really be working with?

When working with a large firm your primary contact is generally an account executive. This person filters your input and provides it to the creative director. Who then communicates “their” interpretation to the team. For small business owners and start-up leaders this process can be frustrating since they’re use to direct interaction. Or worse, some larger firms woo smaller clients with big profile creatives then hand off lower budget clients to junior design teams.

But in most smaller design firms you’ll be in direct contact with the partners, creative directors, and/or the designers themselves. This generally cuts down on changes and cost overruns since you’re likely dealing business owner to business owner - or at least speaking directly with the creative folks. This direct interaction minimizes miscommunications and generally leads to better outcomes.

Big fish, little pond

It’s always better to be a bigger client for a smaller firm. You’ll demand and receive more of their attention and effort. If you’re a small account at a big agency you may get the short end of the stick even though you’re paying the big dollars. So make sure your marketing partner will (and can) provide you the attention level you need and deserve. Just don’t abuse them.

Experience, knowledge, and willingness to help

Many small business owners or start-up personnel don’t have marketing or design experience. So when they choose a marketing or design partner they need a lot more guidance and personal attention. If you’re working with a small firm they’re more likely to work closely with you to help and guide you in creating a marketing strategy. Whereas big firms will expect to charge more to develop strategy then charge again to execute it.

Since you’re working with key people at a small firm you’re more likely to develop a close relationship with them and their company. Your success becomes intertwined with their success and vice versa. So the give and take becomes reciprocal. So often, the team members at a small firm will go the extra mile to help your company grow.

An aside - often when Nuvonium is working with clients, even if we’re only tasked with a small design project, we’re thinking “how does this apply to the big picture?” And if we think an alternative approach will work better - we’ll propose it (or show it) and make our case. Because we want the best outcome.

Match your needs to their services

When selecting a design agency make sure you’re getting what you need from them. This will often come down to strategy and what deliverable you need to execute that strategy. Can they do print and web design? Do they do packaging? Events?

They don’t necessarily need to have it all in-house (remember, they’re small, which keeps overhead low and fees low). But they should have a network of partners they can call upon to execute what’s necessary. Or they should be able to manage the process for you - or work well with others on your marketing team.

Yes, you may be working with multiple creative vendors. It happens. So make sure all the team players can work together well - even if their service offerings overlap. Which brings me to the final consideration....


Since it’s likely you’ll be working with (and hopefully succeeding with) the design / marketing partner you choose for a long time. Make sure that both your company’s personalities and team member’s personalities mesh well. It’s always easier to work with folks you like and who you get along with. It won’t always be candies and roses but you should get along the majority of the time.

Choose wisely

Selecting the right design / marketing partner may seem difficult but it doesn’t have to be. Make sure they can work within your budget, that you’ll be working with the team members you think you will, ask where you fit within their client base, inquire to their experience and willingness to assist you to grow, review their services and their extended network, and make sure you get along well. Sometimes this means testing the relationship with a project or two before “jumping in bed together.”

So good luck finding the right partner and for great success. And of course, feel free to consider us (Nuvonium). We think we’re a good fit for most.

Nov 21, 2013

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