CLIENTS: how to get more from your creative agency
A successful relationship with a creative agency is much like any other relationship. There’s the thrill of the chase and sometimes the lust doesn’t last… But the good ones – the ones that end in happy ever afters – are the ones worth working for. They go beyond the first flush of excitement, and develop into something that can inspire and transform, and that leave both sides feeling fulfilled.
Expectations of your creative agency will be high, but the right agency knows that without you they’re out of business, so they have to make it their business to not let you down. All relationships take work from both sides though, so we’ve put our heads together to create some tips to help you to get more from your relationship with your branding or other creative agency (and that creatives may find useful too)…
1. Choose the right agency
Working with an agency whose values aren’t in line with yours will not last. Make sure you get it right. Meet agencies face to face before you appoint them, and more than once if you can. Ask them what matters to them (and make sure you believe their answers). Look carefully at their creds, but do your own research, too. If you’re still not sure, talk to the agency about it; if they’re serious about working with you, they will be happy to let you speak to previous clients or may suggest working together on a smaller project before you commit.
2. Be open
Give your chosen agency the opportunity to learn as much as possible about you and your business. This means where you are now, where you are going, and your hopes and fears for the business. Let them into your world and they’ll give far more depth and value back. Knowledge means that they can give you solutions with stretch, fit for where you are now but also where you’re going.
Your needs will change with time, too, so even if not working on a project with them, keep your agency informed of business developments or new challenges that you are facing, and invite them to come back with creative solutions.
Relationships outside of meetings matter too, so think about going to work in their studio for an afternoon and while you’re there ask a designer to share what they’re working on (NDA-permitting). Send them your newsletter, invite them to your events so they can see what you do first hand, and if they put on an event, turn up and get inspired. It’ll help you work better with them and is also a good way of finding out what other skills and services they have that you might be able to benefit from. There’ll probably be a dog or ping pong table in the studio too, just to sweeten the deal.
The best agencies are ambitious for you, more so than for their own business, so give them the opportunity to be ambitious for you. Remember, you are paying them to inspire you, so share your vision for your business, but take time to listen to them sharing their vision, too.
4. Challenge (and expect to be challenged)
Without you and your business, we’re out of business, so speak up. You know your business and your customers and, if something doesn’t feel right, your agency will want to know as early as possible. You should also expect some friendly challenge in return. Expect to be surprised sometimes by the solutions your agency presents you with. Remember though, you don’t have to do everything they are suggesting, so don’t panic.
5. Avoid internal politics
Politics is guaranteed to compromise creativity and quality. Help your agency steer round it. Let them stay separate to the politics of the organisation so they can always give you an objective view.
6. Set targets
Don’t be afraid to outline exactly what you want to achieve. An intelligent agency will understand that you need to justify the investment and will be used to helping clients measure their success, and many will be motivated by targets themselves.* These could be quantitive goals such as increased sales, leads or basket spend, or perhaps improved employee engagement, increased press coverage or public awareness. You can see some examples here of measured design success.
Think carefully about implementation. A brand is not a brand until it’s implemented, and only as good as its implementation. Be open to the idea that the people who helped you form your brand may also be the people to help you implement the brand; they have a vision for it, and ideas that you’ll love that you may not have seen yet. When rebranding, you should also expect that your behaviour might need to change as much as your business cards, so talk to your agency about how you can plan for, and get the most from this, be it from colleague engagement or PR and marketing.
*In fact the cover image for this post is us with our client Keelham Farm Shop, scooping up a Gold Design Effectiveness Award in February 2015. As the name suggests, these awards recognise design that achieves tangible, measurable results, and are highly coveted in the industry. Read the full story here of Keelham Farm Shop’s award-winning rebrand.
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