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How to choose the right agency for your small business

Posted by Veronica Wainstein on December 19, 2019 at 2:12 PM
Veronica Wainstein
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Penquin Website_Feature Image_Picking the right agency for your SME

Full-service marketing agencies in South Africa don’t often cater to small-to-medium enterprises. But that shouldn’t deter you from trying to find an agency that helps you with your SME’s marketing.

The importance of a good marketing strategy is something we’ve spoken about and emphasised. But, we understand that not all businesses, especially SMEs, can afford a good, reputable, integrated marketing agency. An SME is a small-to-medium enterprise and is a term often used for categorising businesses and companies that are between a home office of one to two people and a small office, with usually no more than 250 employees.

Traditional marketing methods and strategies are designed with big companies and corporations in mind. This requires an understanding of the budgeting and work needed for them to be successful. Sadly, this often means that small businesses are left with two choices: being an insignificant account to a large agency (spending huge amounts only to feel like an afterthought compared with bigger players) or trying to DIY their marketing strategy using a myriad of boutique agencies or suppliers.

At Penquin, we strongly believe in giving SMEs a third, much more desirable option: a scalable marketing strategy tailored to their needs and budget with a reputable full-service advertising agency. We’re passionate about providing successful marketing campaigns that achieve more than just the goals of a client, no matter how big or small their company. Why? Because we believe in building long-term partnerships with our clients. 


What you won’t get from a ‘mom & pop’ marketing agency

Every company should have a good marketing strategy - not just large corporations. Your business growth depends on it!

As SMEs are often owner-run businesses, the budget for their marketing isn’t a priority - it’s money coming right out of the owner’s back pocket. This means SMEs spend sporadically on marketing which, in the long run, is more expensive and results in poor lead generation and slower growth.

What happens is SMEs spend sporadically on marketing which, in the long run, is more expensive. 

What does sporadic spending look like? Spending R1000 one month on a landing page,  another R2000 to update your website, and hiring a school leaver to maintain your social media (while also manning the reception desk) is typical of the sporadic spending trap. You’re going to spend money - but there’s little to no trackable ROI. It’s like pouring water into a leaky bucket.

Many SMEs turn to ‘mom ‘n pop’ shops to create quick websites at the lowest possible cost. These websites are text-heavy with no analytics, no SEO, no trends or updates, no thought leadership, and not geared to customer experience. They’re the digital equivalent of putting up a poster in small shopping centre. You don’t get the support or strategic business advice and insights that a marketing agency can provide. 


What should an SME know about marketing strategies before signing up with an agency?

SMEs should know why they want to get into a specific marketing space, what they want out of their marketing, and why they think digital marketing will make that possible. ‘Word of mouth’ is still the key method of marketing for many small businesses. As an SME, signing up with a marketing agency that can tailor a strategy to your business needs can extend beyond the reach of ‘word of mouth’ to get more referrals. 

Many companies, large or small, don’t understand the difference between referrals and leads. Alvalyn Creative defines a referral as, “A qualified sales opportunity where the two parties are introduced to each other and both have agreed to be introduced. Consent is a prime aspect in successful referrals. A lead is unqualified. It’s a chance opportunity with potential. Leads are not personal introductions made by a third party for the mutual benefit of both. A person who is given a lead has no assurance that things will pan out".

The power of a referral is more important than a lead for an SME. Sales Leader and founder of Engage Selling, Colleen Francis, says, “You double your success with a referred lead, which traditionally has a closing rate of 50%. In this case, you’re not taking any additional time with the sales process and probably less time to prospect, with results that are leaps and bounds better.” With a referral-based approach, your SME will see a much larger increase in sales - however - referrals can only come with good marketing.

A marketing agency will provide you with high-level strategic advice. If you’re an SME figuring out your brand then you need an agency to give you insights on choosing the right logo, CI, and fonts to get a holistic overview of your brand and send its message to the world. Choose a marketing agency that’s able to look at all of this information to create a true representation of your brand and make it come together as efficiently as possible. The long - term effects will end up being cheaper because you're getting the results that you need.


What the Penquin SME packages can do for your small business

These packages won’t be as cheap as a ‘mom ‘n pop’ shop. But, what you will get is value for the money you spend. We’ve tailored these packages to ensure there’s efficiency in getting quick results and turnaround around tangible outcomes over a shorter period of time at a lower cost. 

By taking our senior specialists in each field in the business to drive the campaigns in the SME packages, you’ll get quick strategic insights in every facet of marketing, from events to design to media buying and planning for your marketing campaign. No small or medium business is getting the “B team” with these packages. You’re getting the “A team” of selective services in a shorter period of time than offered by normal marketing packages so that you’ll get quicker impactful wins from your marketing and sales.

These are just some of the frequently asked questions we have received from businesses:



  • Why does it take so long?
      • As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Creating a strategy that suits your business and ensuring the effective implementation of the strategy takes time to get the absolute best results. 
  • How quickly will I see results?
      • There isn’t a hard and fast answer to this. As Metric Marketing says, “Digital marketing isn’t a one-time thing. It isn’t overnight. It is in-it-for-the-long-haul marketing. Digital marketing efforts take time and expertise. Best practices focus on long-term strategies rather than quick fixes—meaning that you need to be ready to make the investment in your company’s future.” This applies to digital and non-digital marketing. 
  • Do I really need this?
      • In short, yes. If you would like to see real ROI on your business’ marketing efforts, then partnering with a reputable agency is what you need to achieve your business goals.
  • Why is it a step-by-step process? Why can’t we do it all at once?
      • It’s never wise to try to do everything at once. You won’t be able to give each part of your strategy the attention it needs to see the best results. I suggest starting with what will give your business the most impact and prioritising from there. We practice the 80/20 rule (or Pareto Principle) at Penquin - starting with the 20% of activities that do 80% of the heavy lifting for your brand.
  • Why do we need a strategy to make a website?
      • You wouldn’t build a house without the plans from an architect. A strategy for your website is the same. The reason so many website projects fail is because of a lack of planning. A website strategy considers things like the user journey and user experience to ensure that your website helps visitors find the information they need to make a well educated purchasing decision.
  • Why do I need to speak to client service?
    • They are your go-to person to speak to in the relevant departments within an agency. Client service is dedicated to you and your business. If you speak directly to the brand activation department or the design department, they are working for a number of clients and things may fall through the cracks. Client service should be seen as your business’ extension into the agency you’ve partnered with - they’re your internal champion.

Unfortunately, there are marketing agencies that do take advantage of SMEs. Be sure to partner with a marketing agency who understands that by putting you at the centre of their business, if your business grows so does theirs. At Penquin, we don’t want to be viewed as a supplier but an extension of your company - your own marketing department. We build long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships with our clients.

Doing everything at once is never a smart choice because putting in half the work means you’ll get half the results. Focus on what will have the most impact in achieving your business goals and start from there. A client service team is dedicated to you and your business and will be your champion in a marketing agency. It’s important for an SME to see the client service representative as an extension of your marketing department into the agency you have partnered with.

SMEs with sales and marketing teams are probably suffering from zero sales and marketing alignment. This makes it difficult to ensure you send out a consistent message to your customers. A marketing agency can ensure that your sales and marketing teams and efforts are aligned because agencies provide holistic, top-view, and strategic insights. 

As an integrated marketing agency, we understand the importance of good marketing and can provide that for an SME. The size of your company shouldn’t deter you from getting the right kind of marketing to give you real ROI. 

Measurement of your campaigns is the most productive step you can take to increase your marketing impact. Take our free digital audit to find out where your brand is doing well and where there's room for you to improve your digital marketing ROI.

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Topics: Strategy

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