Just like any other commitment, this particular relationship requires a little effort. So, how do you and your agency ensure that perpetual bloom?
Meet for lunch. The people tasked with working on your company are just that – people –whether your account rep, art director, copywriter or digital specialist. Take the time to get to know them. They’ll often reach out to meet for lunch, coffee or a happy hour before officially kicking off your project. This is a great way for them to learn more about you and vice versa. It’s also the foundation of a great relationship – and, hopefully, you’ll feel even more confident in their ability afterwards.
Overwhelm them with information (or not). What have you tried in the past that was a flop? What have you tested that’s proven to be successful? You want to increase ____ by ____ amount. Do you have a working set of brand guidelines to follow?
This type of information is the crux of working towards the desired outcome. It serves as the basis of what work will or won’t be done — and, more importantly — will influence your agency’s strategy. And when you think you’ve given them everything that will prove to be useful, add more upfront. The abbreviation TMI doesn’t exist in this realm.
You can also give them free reign to do whatever they want (agencies love that). Just know your creatives might very well take you literally.
Identify milestones. Everything should have a number associated with it – deadlines, return on investment (ROI), number of revisions, number of concepts. Everything. Numbers set expectations. And your agency wants to exceed those expectations.
Let them know what you think – constructively. The big day has arrived. You get the first round of your website’s wireframes, direct mail piece, logo, or whatever your team has worked on. Maybe (hopefully), you love it, aside from a few minor tweaks you can easily identify. But more often than not, feedback can be nebulous. You want to change something, but you aren’t even quite sure what that thing is, or why. It’s just a feeling.
Take a moment to reflect on what you’d like to see changed. Sleep on it. Be as specific as possible. The three most cringe-worthy words during the review process are, “I don’t know.”
At the same time, be professional in your criticisms. Realize the people working on your account put a lot of effort over the course of many days and stages into what you’re seeing. They know – and even expect – there will be changes. Thick skin is a prerequisite for working in an agency setting. Just try to soften any blow.
Be flexible; things happen. For whatever reason, at some point in time, an issue, illness or circumstance will arise that can affect the project or established deadline. It won’t be ideal. It might be tempting to point a finger, but in a word: Don’t. Have an open discussion instead. This is a partnership, and communication is key.
Being flexible also applies to artistic direction. Chances are your company has done a variant of the same thing for some time. Approach each project with an open mind and a sense of excitement like your agency does. Good things happen with positive energy. Speaking of…
Trust. Every partnership fails without it. Believe in your agency. You selected them for a reason. Every shade of color, every written word, was chosen by your team for a reason. They’re the epitome of perfectionists. If you’re unsure why they did what they did, ask. They’ll be able to explain. You may not agree with their explanation. That’s a right you should exercise — and you can expect future projects to reflect this understanding built on transparency.
Appreciation is golden. You know the feeling you get when you get a handwritten letter? Or when a nice little treat is waiting on your desk? Magnify that by 100, and that’s what a little praise from you can do to the people working on your marketing efforts.
If you follow these seven tips, the relationship with your agency should be stronger as a result. But, is it good enough for a long-term commitment? Does your agency make the grade?
Maybe your company is interested in seeing our advice put into practice. Let us know today.
Photo courtesy of “My Life Through a Lens“