When we started Symphonic Digital, we often were asked why we would create another agency. The digital marketing landscape was saturated with agencies offering the same services. We also often heard that It would be hard to find a point of differentiation to be successful. But we knew we wanted to create a different kind of agency. A company that provides big agency experience at an affordable price for small and medium size businesses.
How Symphonic Digital Came About
About two years ago, I managed the performance marketing team for a big global advertising agency. I was asked to scope out a $50K campaign for a smaller client. Their budget was minuscule compared to the media investment of most of the agencies clients.
After finalizing the SOW and sending it to the account team to create the team allocation, I received the pricing sheet from the finance department. The outlined cost to manage the two-month activity was more than 50% of the clients’ overall budget. To my surprise, this was not due to the account team having allocated an army to manage the campaign. It rather was due to the high overhead rate. The account analyst alone, which was supposed to do the majority of the work, had an hourly rate north of $250.
We ended up running the campaign, but I doubt that the client received the attention and value they paid for. Big agencies do great work when they have large budgets. However, small budget clients pay way too much for the service and attention they actually receive.
A few months later I left that agency to search for new opportunities. When I reviewed my options, I remembered that client. Together with my business partner, we started Symphonic Digital to deliver great digital marketing solutions for small and medium size clients. We thought we could really help clients who face the “small client at a big agency problem” we saw in our previous jobs.
Make it Lean and Efficient
One of the greatest challenges big agencies have to deal with is the overhead. Overhead rates of plus 100% are the norm. They not only have to cover the cost for the fancy office in prime locations, but huge operational teams all the while budgeting for the villa in Cannes every June. In reality, the client has to pay for all the hidden “extras” that do not really add additional value to their media strategy and activity.
When we thought about the agency we wanted to create, we thought about a lean and efficient machine. An organization that is flexible and streamlined, that uses technology and fine-tuned processes. That focuses on what adds value to a clients’ media budget.
We looked at the set up of agencies and questioned everything that was so normal to us in our previous positions. Is it required to have an office in a prime location? Do we need an office at all? Do we want our employees to travel to work daily, while fighting bad traffic? Will they perform better, if they can choose whether they want to work remote or come into the office? Do we need a huge operational team? Can we use technology to overcome challenges that result from our decisions? And finally, do we need that villa at Cannes?
Below are the guiding principles we decided to build Symphonic Digital on. They lead us on a day to day basis and help us to constantly strive for better results for our clients.
Over the last two years, we have reviewed a number of advertising accounts and client activities. We have seen companies selling clicks and marking up the CPC they bought the media for by up to 500%. We looked at client activities with trading desk solutions, where less than $50 of every $100 invested went against buying media impressions. All they do is feed a black box that manages the (high) company margin.
We strongly believe transparency is key to building trust with clients. This is why Symphonic Digital always outlines the exact cost for our services. Our clients know exactly the amount we paid for media and data and technology fees when we run audience-targeted programmatic campaigns. All the costs we outline are the costs we have to pay to our solutions providers.
Affordable Media Services
Having to pay 50% of your media budget in management fees is quite frankly ridiculous. Clients should not have to deal with overhead costs of plus 100%, because their agency decides to set up an office in the hip part of Brooklyn or an over the top office in Manhattan. Today’s technology allows for more efficient ways of doing business, managing a team and getting things done, without the massive price tag.
At Symphonic Digital, we pride ourselves on using technology to break down old ways of doing business. We don’t have a fancy office. Technology solutions are used to track the progress of our projects, and communicate efficiently with our team members and clients. We use well-established processes, that enable a streamlined business approach. That amounts to a lower overhead and costs for our clients. As a result of this approach, we are able to work with smaller clients and limited budgets, while providing big agency solutions.
The backbone of any company are the people that create the solutions that excite clients. Working at big agencies, in big cities usually means employees face a long commute to work. The average two hour per day big city commute means two hours less time to spend with the family, enjoy a hobby or rest from the work day. Over time, with this work-life imbalance, people start to get less motivated, and their performance suffers.
Our approach is different. We do not need the Symphonic Digital team to be grouped together in one place to deliver exceptional work. Our employees work from wherever they feel most productive. This allows them to organize their work day around their daily life and not vice versa. As a result, people at Symphonic Digital are highly motivated.
Finally, we want to be accountable for our solutions, services and results. At Symphonic Digital we look at every client with a fresh pair of eyes. We identify the challenges each company faces and brainstorm about solutions that help overcome them. Our team does not use out of the box solutions, but creates tailored strategies that addresses the unique situation of our every client. Each Symphonic Digital employee strives to find ways to squeeze every dollar just a little bit harder to generate extra value and an even greater return of their ad spend.
We believe these guiding principles make Symphonic Digital unique in the performance media agency landscape. We would love to hear from your what you expect from your agency. What is it that you want, but have not received so far? What makes a good agency a great agency?