Regardless of an agency’s expertise and talent, clients themselves have a big hand in determining the quality and effectiveness of the final marketing product. Great marketing isn’t merely the result of hiring a flashy, award-winning agency. It’s the result of a collaborative agency-client relationship.
On that note, here are ten strategies for how you can work with—and get the best results from—your agency. (From an agency who’s been there, done that.)
- Be transparent with your budget. Your agency is there to help you get the best bang for your marketing buck. Which becomes more difficult if you withhold budget information. Don’t worry that you’re going to be taken advantage of by divulging your budget. Instead, being upfront about it will free your agency to focus on the most effective and creative marketing solution within your limits of time and money. (Which is a big part of what you’re paying them for.) To maximize your marketing effectiveness, your agency needs a full understanding of the financial resources you’re working with.
- Answer your agency’s questions as thoroughly as possible. As stewards of your brand, your agency relies on you to educate them. You’re the expert. You know your business better than anyone else. So don’t hesitate to overload them with info, even if you think it might not be relevant. There’s really no such thing as having too much information. The more your agency understands the ins and outs of your business, the better they can serve you—and that goes for the good, the bad, and the ugly.
- Keep personal preferences out of it. This one’s a toughie. As humans we’re hardwired with opinions. But when assessing creative work, it’s important to separate what your audience will like or dislike from what you personally like or dislike. You can’t let your personal opinions and biases affect the final product. Just because you’ve always hated the color green, that doesn’t mean it may not be the right color for your website header. This is a good time to listen to your agency and find out the reasoning behind their choices. There is most likely a sound strategic reason for doing what they did.
- Voice your concerns out loud. Your agency is there to serve you—but they can’t address things they don’t know about. So be upfront and honest about what you need. Don’t hold back or worry about offending anyone. The client-agency relationship is only as good as the level of open communication between the two parties.
- Remember, quality takes time. There’s no way around it. Thoughtful, effective creative work takes time. It’s a process—there’s no magic button or formula. So plan enough time in the schedule to give your agency the time they need to learn your business, to think, to explore different creative approaches, and to provide you with the best possible work. Rushing the creative process can create problems at launch or lead to work that is less effective than hoped.
- Stick to the timeline. Agencies typically don’t have the luxury of “padding” timelines because everyone wants their marketing done fast. We get that. So to keep projects moving as quickly and smoothly as possible, all parties need to stick to the timeline. Nothing jams up the works like a lack of responsiveness. Sometimes an agency will rush to meet a deadline only to have the creative work languish in a client’s inbox for days waiting for a response. With schedules being as tight as they are, this can cause deadlines to be missed.
- A little creative freedom goes a long way. Presumably, you hired your agency because you love their work and their way of thinking. Now it’s time to let them do their thing. If you dictate or micromanage the creative process, you’re going to hamstring them—and get in the way of the best possible work. After all, you hired them for their expertise, their smarts, and their creativity. Give them some space to do what they do best.
- When it comes to decision makers, less is more. There’s a tendency, especially when the choice is hard or important, to want to get as many different opinions as possible before making a decision. But when it comes to creative, this can lead to watered-down work. Those being polled often don’t have the background, understanding, or context to fairly assess the work—and everyone will have an opinion. The stuff that rises to the top of the office litmus test is usually the lowest common denominator. To end up with something better, entrust the decision to a small, core group.
- Keep an open mind. Taking chances is hard, especially when the stakes are high. But great work doesn’t come from playing it safe. Sometimes you need to take a calculated risk. Generally, your agency has a very good, thoughtful reason for what they’ve just presented. If you disagree with their recommendation, that’s okay too. But don’t forget that you hired them for their expertise and business smarts. So hear them out.
- Practice professional courtesy. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but there’s no denying that people who like and respect each other just plain work better together. True, your agency is here to serve you to the best of its ability. But agencies are made up of people. People with lots of emotions. And if you want to make sure those people work extra hard to ensure you look extra good, a little niceness goes a long way. (Free food doesn’t hurt, either.)
Well, there you have it—ten ways you can help ensure that the creative product your marketing agency delivers is the best it can be. Agree or disagree? Think we’re full of it? Leave us a comment. We’d love to know what you think!