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A little while back, my company’s creative direction partner came in to speak to our marketing team. The topic was a good one: How To Make Your Agency Love You. Over the next 45 minutes or so, one of the partners walked through 11 hints, or things to keep in mind, when dealing with a creative agency to make that process as smooth as possible. I liked it so much that I asked if I could re-blog it (thanks, Alfred!). Alfred agreed, and wanted to note that not all are original – some are variations of things he’s heard along the way, and some are direct repeats.
That aside, the list is below, and it is a good one. I’ve added my own commentary in italics.
1. Nothing takes 5 minutes
Presuming it does trivializes your view of the agency’s time, and it also de-values what you think is their effort. Some things, indeed, should not take a long time, but that’s probably better for them to decide, not you.
2. Know what you want before the call – An elaborate RFP or a simply state your desire for an outcome. Large or small, know your goals before you talk to your agency. The clearer you are, the stronger the solution will be.
This falls squarely into the camp of time management. If you prattle on and on, and they bill you on a T+E basis, you’re only hurting yourself. Think clearly before the call (or any other communication), and make the best use of that time.
3. Create a communications map – Who are the go-to people? Whose perspectives will be sought?
If you want to minimize the time your creative partner bills you, then make it easy for them to get answers. Which leads into …
4. Limit the decision-makers – Experience teaches that no more than 4 should approve the choice. The candidates are: the day-to-day liaison, that person’s boss, project sponsor manager, and the final “yes”
This doesn’t mean that it’s a dictatorship. Socialize an idea for feedback, but roll up all those opinions to one voice that acts as a proxy for a department. Make this easy.
5. Get your house in order – Manage that committee, communicate goals, get buy-in; Consolidate feedback; Insulate the agency from office politics
Clearly, items 3, 4, and 5 go together. The one item here not really covered above is the insulation of the agency from office politics. This wasn’t our agency chiding us, but rather saying that if you need to take care of some issues in private, then do so. Don’t let the agency see mommy and daddy fighting.
6. Make up your mind – You can take a while to decide, but once you have, own it. If you must change your mind, understand and appreciate the implications of that: more time, more money, both
This, to me, cannot be more clear. Perhaps it’s me recalling my days as a consultant, but time is money. Simple as that. And it’s OK to go in a different direction. But, understand the consequences.
7. Tell us what you’d like to convey, not how to convey it – “I’d like this the design to feel more upbeat” not “make it yellow”
You hired a creative agency for a reason. Let them get creative.
8. Never leave ‘em hanging – Responsiveness is way up there on the Agency wish-list
Can you see the running theme of communication here?
9. It’s not possible to know too much – Talk, and don’t stop there; Invite account people to internal meetings, add us to distribution lists; The more you make us think, the better we’ll execute.
Don’t assume they know everything. In fact, it’s better to have someone (in this case, your creative partner) tell you “You know, you can probably take me off the ___ list, but keep me on the other list.” If someone is getting deluged, they’ll tell you. Or simply delete. But don’t make the assumption for them.
10. We want to be partners, trust us. Trust and partnership are a goal and a state of being. Share sensitive information. Rejecting ideas is inherent in the process, not indicative of failure. “Vendor” makes us die a little inside.
I’ve never been on the creative side, but I think being able to handle someone not liking your personal favorite idea is table stakes. So, if something isn’t working, say so. You’re paying for the service. And to the last point – the agency, if treated right, is an extension of your team. Treat them that way. Be nice.
11. Say “Thank you”. Food, alcohol and logo wear have proven especially effective.
I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
My favorite part of all of this is that this is much more than just a list of hints for an agency to a potential client. Just about all of this can be applied to colleagues on the same team, inside the same organization. It’s about respecting one’s stature as a professional, open and honest and timely communication, and giving someone the freedom to do their job.
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