Specialized Boutique Agency vs. Full-Service Agency

Jason Berkowitz | | 0 Comment


We are conditioned to think that bigger always means better, but when it comes to choosing a marketing agency nothing could be further from the truth.

Boutique agencies routinely out-perform full-service agencies in several critical areas including more sophisticated specialization, better customer service, and a better rate.

This is not to say that full-service agencies don’t have their upsides.

Many will tout that by working with an agency that covers all aspects of your marketing from soup to nuts, you’re actually saving time and money in the end.

For businesses that want a cookie-cutter approach to their marketing, this could be true.

Full-service agencies tick off all of the boxes, but if you’re looking for an agency that can provide stellar service and unparalleled R.O.I. in a single area, boutique agencies are where it’s at.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

According to Statista, in a study performed in 2016, 24% of U.S. based companies had roughly three marketing/advertising agencies, leading the charts; with the close second being 23% hiring two agencies:

Statistic: Number of marketing/advertising agencies hired per company in the United States as of April 2016 | Statista

This data shows us that most companies are hiring multiple marketing agencies, likely specialized in various different verticals. 

Being A “Jack-Of-All-Trades” Does Not Make You An Expert

Marketing is a tricky, fickle and specialized discipline that requires staying constantly apprised of trends and algorithms. This is especially true as it pertains to SEO.

What was in vogue last year is now hopelessly outdated, and with search engines like Google changing their algorithms all of the time, you need a marketing agency that can be on its toes.

Jacks of all trades are famously masters of none.

This is dangerous when it comes to your SEO. You don’t need a company that only has dipped its toe in the SEO world.

You need a boutique agency that has taken a deep plunge and knows everything about how to best market your company.

Full Service Agency

Boutique Agencies Think Outside Of The Box

Full-service agencies generally have their methodology and patterns set in stone.

Since they juggle so many elements of the marketing world, they need to stick with rigid patterns to keep everything straight. They have too many balls in the air to think outside the box for creative solutions.

In short, the protocol becomes more important than creativity.

Boutique agencies live and breathe their specialties, so they are able to think outside of the box and come up with creative solutions to common problems.

Nothing is off the table. It’s refreshing to be able to brainstorm with an agency that is open to all ideas- even off the wall ones!

You’ll Get The White-Glove Service

Full-service agencies have clients from all over the spectrum and do not have time to give white glove service to all of them.

The larger clients or legacy partners will get preferential treatment. Others will be seen as another cog in the machine.

Just like full-service agencies do not have the bandwidth to extend the white-glove service to all of their clients.

Guess what? Boutique agencies do!

The reason boutique agencies can give their clients personal attention is because they generally have fewer of them.

This means that the clients they have are as important as gold and boutique agencies will treat them that way!

Boutique agencies are also equipped with people who can answer important questions on the fly.

Many times customers are nervous about their marketing campaigns. As a boutique agency specializing in SEO, we totally understand this and are willing to hold our client’s hands and walk them through the process.

No question is too big or small. We have people on hand who are able to help. Moreover, our people want to help.

Boutique Agencies Are Less Likely To Outsource

• 68% of agencies outsourced SEO to a white label SEO provider

• 48% outsourced PPC services

• 28% outsourced content marketing services.
Source: Hubshout

It’s an open industry secret that full-service agencies will outsource some of the services that they provide (not outing anyone but a few outsource to us).

Many full-service agencies will focus on a few single areas of marketing expertise and then trust white-label partners (that’s us) to handle the rest.

If you go with a full-service agency there is really no guarantee that the agency you hired will be doing the work for you.

To the contrary, it’s highly likely that they will not be providing all of your services.

Sometimes clients will check the websites of full-service agencies and read glowing bios of their employees, and think “wow, their staff really knows what they are doing!”

Unfortunately, those people might not be the ones who are handling the project, making the website a little deceitful.

Boutique agencies do not outsource because they don’t have to.

They have all of the specialists that they need right there in their office.

When you work with a boutique agency you know exactly what you’re getting and who you’re getting to work on your project. You’ll also be able to reach them in the office with questions.

You Will Have A Single Point Person

Marketing Point of ContactFull-service agencies generally have teams of people dedicated to dealing with your project because they handle so many aspects of the marketing campaign.

While that might seem great on the surface, it is actually a detriment to your business.

You don’t have a single point person to turn to with questions or concerns.

A team of people will know small aspects of things that are going on with your project, and you might never get an idea of the full picture.

Additionally, you could find yourself working with a different team than you initially wanted to.

Just like white-label outsourcing, full-service agencies often have many different teams to take care of various customers.

Some even have “A” and “B” teams depending on how high priority that customer is.

This means that even if your colleague had great results from a full-service agency, you are not guaranteed the same. It’s really a roll of the dice.

You Are Not Just A Number

With a boutique agency, you are far more than just a number.

Full-service agencies look at their customers as another client, but boutique agencies see them as full-fledged companies with individual struggles and problems to overcome.

This is not to say that the people at agencies don’t want to see each client as special and important- they simply are unable to do so with such an influx of clients coming in all of the time.

Boutique agencies know the industry inside and out and are willing to talk to you about your problems and do a little hand holding.

It’s easy for us!

Our speciality is our passion and we sincerely help our customers.

To us, your problems and concerns are valid and we know that part of our job is easing your concerns.

You don’t need to be an expert in marketing. That’s our job!

There’s More Room For Negotiation

If cash flow is a concern, boutique agencies could be the way to go.

Simply put, there is more room for negotiations when you work with a boutique agency.

Full-service agencies often have rigid contracts that prohibit any wiggle room, but boutique agencies know where they can make some compromises and tone back on some different services and offerings to stay within your budget.

We want to work with you because we really want your business and we value you as a company.

The ability to negotiate also makes the union of agency and client a more collaborative partnership, as well as a simple transaction.

We both have a little skin in the game and we are in this together!

Are Boutique Agencies Really Better? We Know From Experience

As a boutique agency since 2009, we have seen firsthand the pitfalls of working with a full-service agency.

One prospective e-commerce client came to us for a website migration.

Their objective was to keep their SEO on point throughout the migration and also beef up their organic SEO.

As SEO experts we were poised to help them make a seamless migration, but they decided to go with a full-service agency.

Although we wanted the business, we always want the client to do what’s right for them.

Unfortunately, in the case of this e-commerce client, this was not the right choice.

The full-service agency had indicated that they were proficient in SEO but had no case studies on their website. This is a red flag!

Agencies worth their salt will always provide case studies.

Since the full-service agency was not as adept at SEO as a boutique agency, and because they probably considered SEO a footnote to the rest of the project, their organic traffic plummeted almost 400 percent.

Additionally, we were approached by a large company who specialized in women’s beauty products and services, who trusted their SEO to an accounting firm.

The accounting firm had a lot of star power and was known for its involvement in Hollywood Award Ceremonies, but they did not have the skills to engineer an effective SEO campaign.

This left the client feeling dissatisfied and like her SEO campaign was an afterthought. Truthfully, it probably was!

Our SEO & Marketing Experience


Every boutique agency has stories just like ours.

Companies are often lured to full-service agencies under the promise of visiting a one-stop-shop only to realize that they needed specialized care in certain areas.

In the case of SEO, which can make or break your business, the specialization is even more critical.