Don’t discount the small agency for your big data needs

When it comes to being agile and ahead of the curve, small can be massive, says Stephanie Walters, head of marketing operations at Dot Network

Here it comes. Another round of big data talk. The reality is that it’s not going away. Everyone is using big data to draw insights on consumer behaviour, improve the quality of their sales lead data, increase the quality of their sales leads, and generate greater value from marketing campaigns. But the big question, now, is that while big agencies used to be the ones to help brands achieve these goals as part of their overall strategy, are they still your only option?


Do you really need a big agency, complete with hordes of analysts, programmers in their droves, tens of designers, and a mob of consultants to help you use big data? Not necessarily. The kind of agency that you require depends entirely on what your needs are, and how you need them to behave in order to get the best out of them and reach your business goals.


While bigger agencies are certainly adept at helping you achieve the full scope of your strategy, it might be time to reevaluate your view on how small agencies can help you deal effectively and strategically with your big data and give you more bang for your budget.

The cost factor

Some agencies have deliberately opted to retain a smaller team of highly specialised employees. In so doing, they can streamline costs, not just for themselves, but in a manner, that will better serve their clients’ best interests. They are then in a position to funnel revenue into newer technologies, adopting these innovations sooner, thereby giving them more experience. This means that they can create pioneering campaigns that are more targeted and effective.

This cost-cutting behaviour also acts as motivation to play smart and not waste a drop of their clients’ valuable marketing budget. Take, for instance, programmatic advertising, which allows you to reach the people who are interested in your product, engage with them directly, and sell more. By crafting the right message that resonates with the right people, in the right places, at the right time, you make more sales and ensure that not a drop of that precious marketing budget is wasted. Importantly, you will also avoid backlash from the consumer who doesn’t want your product and finds your messaging irrelevant.

Quick and nimble

In the past, we have seen big brands go to big agencies because they felt secure knowing that there was an “all-hands-on-deck” approach. There was safety in knowing that more people were actively working on your account for their success.


Now, though, there is a myriad of digital developments available which doesn’t necessarily require a horde of people working on the account. Added to this, though, is the fact that smaller teams have the ability to apply a more flexible approach to their big data initiatives.


Not to say that bigger agencies can’t act in this way, but often larger teams, especially in agencies, work in silos. This silo approach encourages people to commit and excel in their given task-space, however, when people stay within their zone they don’t think about other aspects of the campaign. Under these circumstances, there is little room for the cross-pollination of ideas.


In addition, by nature, the behavioural model of a smaller agency prompts them to a more innovative and proactive approach when dealing with unexpected data – or an unexpected lack of data. Not only that, but smaller teams tend to come with less red tape and with less red tape comes more creativity with which to push the boundaries of the digital world that we live in.

Risky business

When it comes to data, if you can’t monitor or measure it, then you can’t use it to your advantage. That’s why it’s crucial for data be at the heart of every campaign – and even more so that you have the right people to interpret and use this data. While both big and small agencies can achieve this, it’s worth considering that some larger agencies can be encumbered with legacy models, shareholders, and top executives who may be unwilling to take risks and branch out to find alternatives that are at the forefront of digital solutions.


In addition, older marketing models never catered for in the past. How deep you could delve into data and the insights that you could gain. The world is no longer flat, discovery improved how we view data and how we would put it work for us.


You need to rely on those agencies who are willing to make the risky choice to invest in newer technologies, like programmatic marketing and other data-driven techniques. More often than not, smaller agencies are the ones to fly this flag and apply extremely innovative approaches to big data.

Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!

There’s no arguing with the fact that it’s great to have big agency resources. That said, quite frequently these big resources come hand in hand with legacy models, executive management teams, shareholders, and red tape.


Smaller agencies, who aren’t bound by these kinds of constraints, are able to shift roles and deliverables based on the business need at any given time and have the ability to leverage flexibility to pivot quicker, while still meeting tight timelines and producing great work. They also have the ability to ‘about-turn’ in a matter of minutes to meet a client’s marketing and sales goals.

Neat, niche, and near perfect

Most big or more complex agencies deal with segmentation of big data based on demographics and behaviour, but the probability of reaching the exact person who needs your product or service is not very likely when the pool is so large.


This probability drops when you drill down to a smaller, more niche subsection of the market. That’s why we need to ask the questions that matter and build a detailed, anonymous profile that fits the exact type of person who needs your product or service. Through the power of big data and programmatic advertising, you can do this.


You can find an audience as small as 250 people in all of South Africa who fall into a very specific category, like institutional investors who work for family offices and have $500,000,000 to invest tomorrow, or independent financial advisors who live in the Free State Province and earn over R50,000 a month, or CEOs and MDs who work in companies with between 200-500 employees with a R60m turnover in 2016 within the Pharmaceutical industry based in Gauteng.


That’s the detail that big data should and can provide. It just takes a team who is willing to look and help you use it. Unencumbered and keen to adopt newer technologies, smaller agencies are less confined to it comes to tackling big data to find you these specific audiences.

Lasting thoughts

What all this comes down to, is that brands are looking to create a greater impact in an increasingly fragmented marketing landscape. They’re on the hunt for a partner who is able to meet those needs.


While this could be found in a bigger agency, it is quickly becoming apparent that smaller agencies are more than capable at helping their clients make the shift from a marketing strategy that is distracting and irrelevant, to one that delivers strong messages to consumers who really need your brand, meets marketing and sales goals, and turns brands into legends.


This article originally appeared on BizCommunity.


Stephanie Walters is head of marketing operations at Dot Network. Contact her.

"The behavioural model of a smaller agency prompts them to a more innovative and proactive approach when dealing with unexpected data – or an unexpected lack of data."