How Social Media Boutiques are Winning Deals Over Traditional Digital Agencies


Social Media Agency Budgets: Boutiques versus Traditional Digital Agencies


Some insightful research from a research report by Altimeter Group, reported on Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang shows a pretty dramatic trend going on in the agency business right now. It appears boutique social media and content agencies are really taking some significant chunks of client’s business away from traditional digital shops. This is really no different than the general trend in the agency business as a whole, where clients shift entire budgets away from established agency players to smaller, more specialized practices.

At some point, the big shops become too lethargic and cumbersome to meet the increasingly specialized demands of clients in emerging communications channels and practices. Their staffs a bloated with overhead and people that provide the things clients don’t want to buy anymore. They are machines of marketing service. The big guys aren’t really market makers, after all, they’re market takers.

But, the problem is, success in the marketing services industry is shifting dramatically away from how well you are at being a bulk provider big, media-centric ideas and is now more about delivering innovative and compelling experiences that transcend communications channels. Marketing services is not so much a practice that starts with the client brief anymore…rather it starts by listening and observing your customers online behavior and interests, mining this for insights then creating your ideas and content based on what your audience tells you they’re already interested in. Marketing is now less about what you have to say and more about the user experience. And, it is a new breed of social boutique agencies that is winning over significant chunks of client business, away from more traditional digital agencies.

Altimeter identified why the smaller, more nimble firms are winning:

  • They put business goals first, tools and technologies second
  • They offer a specialized skill set in new media and social business traditional shops most likely don’t
  • They offer change management within  the corporations. Traditional agencies layer social on top of existing campaigns
  • They have a long-term or community-building vision versus a short-term,campaign-focused mentality
  • They roll up their sleeves to assist with deeper customer engagement instead of relying on traditional advertising (a top spend item in social programs)
  • Smaller, more agile teams with senior leadership that can respond and adapt to changes in the technology space
  • Fundamentally are geared to measure differently around engagement and what that means…not just to line and bottom line measures.