I’ve worked for the largest of brands, as well as some of the smallest emerging ones. One thing that remains true across both types is that marketing and advertising agencies have been critical to helping me scale my department’s output.  This is true for both the quality and volume of output.

In the large brand environment (think global 100 software brand), we had all kinds of marketing and advertising agencies.  From digital to creative to social media, we had them all. And typically, companies of this size are not using one over-arching agency. After all, agencies have specialties, and it’s often best to source programming from where the best talent resides.  More on this later in the article.

If you think that only large global brands use multiple agencies, think again. For the same reasons we used multiple agencies in the large enterprise environment, I also implemented a multi-agency approach when running a small business marketing department.  This may go against conventional wisdom in some cases….. but let me explain.

In the small business environment, I was headcount restrained.  We’ve all been there. Heck, I was there when working in a large business environment as well (only it was not as exaggerated).  In the small business world, it’s often the case that you’ll have a handful of teammates.  So if you really want to compete, you’ve got to find ways to scale the team with the challenges of minimal budgets and those headcount restraints.

Some small marketing organizations hire contractors.  Others try to squeeze efficiency out of existing team members. However, in my experience, both of these approaches lead to turn over that is hard to replace – not to mention damaging to the overall health of the team.

So that brings me back to the multiple marketing and advertising agency approach.  Using specialty agencies assures you that you have people who know what they’re doing.  They’ve also got teams on the roster (and sometimes people on the bench) that are able to jump in when you need to scale up or down.  Have a big event coming up?  Need to launch a product?  No problem when you’ve got agencies ready to jump when you give the word.

So why not hire just one overarching agency?  To me the answer is simple.  While there are full-stack agencies that do everything and do it reasonably well, they are at the highest end of the cost spectrum. In the small business environment, this is often difficult to budget around, so it makes sense to hire boutique agency talent that is focused on specific disciplines.

With the proper coordination and the right division of labor, having multiple marketing and advertising agencies as part of your team doesn’t feel very different from the one overarching agency approach.  You may not have one account manager that looks after it all, but you have a specialist in these agencies that make oversight less of an issue.

At the end of the day, no matter if you’re a big brand or a small one, the odds are that you (or your team(s)) will be leveraging agencies to scale.  I’m a big fan of the approach and prefer it to the alternatives of having too many people on salary, using contractors or burning out a small staff.