You’re considering changing your marketing services provider and since “nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM,” you’re looking at the biggest players in the industry, right? You certainly wouldn’t be alone. The process of moving from one MSP to another is fraught with anxiety and the great unknown. The process takes a long time and there are so many intangibles to consider. We talk to people every day who are struggling with this effort, and at the risk of sounding self-promotional (SIGMA is a medium-sized MSP with about 70 employees), below are the top seven reasons prospects tell us they want to include small- and mid-sized firms in their search process – of course, once they’ve made sure the smaller firms can meet the basic requirements of the search.

  1. The “big fish in a small pond” effect: All firms place great importance on their largest clients – often focusing resources and innovation on client relationships in the top third of their portfolio. As a large client in a small firm, your needs may guide their solution development and innovation.
  2. Work with the principals and department heads: At large firms, the folks at the top are often consumed with managing large staffs. At smaller firms, the team you met in the pitch is more likely to really work on your business.
  3. Find a culture and personality match: Really big firms are often made up of units connected through acquisitions, each with their own culture and style. At a smaller firm, what you see is more likely what you’ll get. If there’s good chemistry, you’re likely to keep seeing it. It’s easier to build and maintain corporate culture in a smaller organization.
  4. Staff longevity: Big firms allow for more staff mobility – employees can be moved around more easily for training and career development. That can mean people move on and off your team rather regularly. Having worked with both larger and smaller firms, I’ve found that people seem to stay in one place longer in a smaller firm.
  5. Speed and nimbleness: With fewer people touching every project, change and progress can happen more quickly. With a smaller firm, there are fewer layers of approvals needed and your team can often be faster to respond to new opportunities or issues.
  6. Your other partners won’t mind so much: There is so much overlap in the marketing services provider ecosystem that you are bound to have existing partners who believe they should be offered the business you’re looking to move. Hiring a bigger firm will create more competitive overlap between partners – and potentially more anxiety for the whole team. A smaller firm may have less overlap of services with your other providers.
  7. Team integration and cooperation: Prospects and clients report to us that working with a team from many expert areas can be difficult if they are all from different business units within larger firms. You might find that your marketing team works under one roof with a smaller firm – where they will work with each other every day and won’t introduce themselves to each other over your conference room table.

Forrester Research supports the idea of considering smaller players and SIGMA was mentioned in their research report, “US Database Marketing Services Providers: Alternatives to Consider,” from 2011. The report features SIGMA as a “next-tier” MSP to consider, defining “next-tier” as: “Clients of these firms enjoy the kind of service and attention they’re unlikely to receive as clients of the larger firms. In most respects, however, these vendors resemble their larger counterparts in terms of technology, service, and resource allocation.”

Your first step is to find providers who can fill your specific requirements, the next step is to find a working relationship that makes the relationship fun and productive for your team.