“A million dollars’ worth of effective advertising can sell more than ten million dollars’
worth of ineffective advertising.”
– David Ogilvy, Chapter Four “How to be a Good Client”
So, you’ve decided to hire a branding and marketing agency? Congratulations! You’ve made one of the hardest but most strategic choices any business owner can make. You’ve learned that, sometimes, to get the best result, it’s best to outsource the work that may not be your area of expertise. That may be marketing, branding, logo design, website development, email campaigns etc. Whatever the reason may be for hiring professionals, it’s now important to understand how to get the best out of your branding and marketing agency. How, on the client end, can you nurture that relationship and make it work for you?
Marketing agencies don’t often come with a book of instructions. Hmmm…Maybe they should! That’s why we’re providing a “how-to” on how to build a positive relationship with your agency, so that you always get the best results!
Before You “Engage” a Branding and Marketing Agency, Date Them First!
Yes, we’re talking about at least a first date, before you jump right in and hire them.
Before you go all in, you need to know if that agency will be right for you, and whether you’ll be right for them. After all, great marketing requires a collaborative approach. And how are you going to sort through any issues that may arise, if you don’t like or trust your agency to begin with? Make sure that the agency knows as much about you as possible. If you want the best insights, and the best results, they need to know your business inside and out. Don’t be shy! Discuss with them your expectations, your goals, your dream results, and even your pet peeves. After all, trust and honesty are essential if you’re going to work together.
That’s why, at Original Ginger, we arrange “get to know you” meetings with every new client. We do expect a commitment at a certain point, to preserve the value of our work. If someone wants to “pick our brain”, we’re happy to share if we believe they have honest intentions. But, it’s best not to shop around for free advice. As a busy agency with lots of projects ‘on the go’ we want to work with people who respect our years of experience and are willing to pay a fair price for expertise that will help their business grow.
When Making That Investment, Don’t “Settle”. Choose Mr. or Ms. Right.
When it comes to selecting a branding and marketing agency, clients should look for one that uses professional project management.
What do we mean by that? A qualified agency should always explain their work process before beginning a project. If they don’t have a process, or won’t disclose it openly, be prepared to face hidden costs, missed deadlines, or end results that won’t make you happy. As the client, you need to understand how they work and whether you can also work the same way. If you can’t be respectful of the process, then maybe that agency isn’t for you.
At Original Ginger, we take our process, and our professional project management, quite seriously. We often revisit the “process” once a project is under way, to remind clients that it’s in place for a good reason. It protects us, but also you, the client. When you know what to expect, there are no nasty surprises, and if a process is in place, then budget and timelines are kept in check, so things don’t spiral out of control. Make sure you know how an agency handles its clients, workflows, and also, pay attention to it’s general philosophy. If an agency only likes big glossy clients with big budgets, and you’re a small business, you might not get the attention you deserve!
Before You Start That New Relationship, Make Sure You Establish the Ground Rules.
There should be a contract that defines scope, deadlines and budget.
Many squabbles between clients and agencies usually occur because of one simple thing: there is either no contract, a badly written contract, or worse, a contract that the client hasn’t reviewed and still signs! Gasp. We see it all the time. And that’s dangerous because you should always know what you’re signing off on, before any work is done.
Your contract should usually define 3 things: Scope, which means what exactly the project will include, what will be the results, and what will be delivered at the end of the project. Deadlines, which could be broken down into sections, where certain elements are delivered on certain dates, as well as an overall deadline for the completion of the project. Deadlines should fit your needs, but also be reasonably attainable for the agency. Then, of course, budgets should be established. As an agency, we need to know what price you are comfortable with, what your project requirements are, what we can reasonably accomplish within that price, and what is a priority to you, so that we can assign budget to the areas that need focus and allocate resources appropriately.
A good contract will cover all aspects in enough detail, so that you both feel at ease with the overall process. That way, you will both be in tune to how this project will flow. Make sure you also get that in writing, not just a phone call! People are busy. They forget having conversations. Having it in writing just keeps everyone on track.
Trying New Things Can Be Fun, But A Changeable Nature Can Frustrate Your Partner!
It’s important to set the parameters of the project early on, so both you and the agency know what to expect.
This is probably the #1 issue that causes conflict in a client-agency relationship: clients who suddenly change their mind or want to add things to a project last-minute. Yes, as human beings, we can suddenly have a desire to try something new, but for an agency, there is usually a cost associated with altering a course once it’s been set.
What may seem like a simple change may require all kinds of extra work for the designers, writers, and developers. As a client, you need to be aware that any decision you make could affect dozens of people. That’s why at Original Ginger, we don’t continue to Phase 2 of a project until the client signs off on Phase 1. And we don’t revisit phases of a project once the client signs off, unless it is agreed by both parties and a change request is implemented.
Why? Because changes to Phase 1 later in the project will likely have a far-reaching domino affect. Clients who don’t understand this may become resentful, because now the project is taking too long, or the budget is being exceeded. But all that can be avoided if you establish your needs clearly, at the beginning, then stick to the plan to which you’ve both agreed. Extras can always be discussed later, once the initial project has been completed.
Remember, Agency Relationships Are Usually Not Monogamous.
You’re probably not that agency’s only client.
Which is good. That means they know what they are doing and have many clients happily working with them. But that also means it’s unreasonable to expect your project to be the only one they’re working on. They have other deadlines too, and they probably structure their time so that every project gets equal weight. But start making changes to a project mid-stream, and that can affect their entire project management. So, be considerate. If you want to make changes to the project, make it known early on, so you can discuss with the agency how it will affect deadlines and costs. Then, you can work together to find a solution. That will avoid frustration on both ends.
A Wandering Eye is A Relationship Killer.
Communication is essential in any relationship, but more so in business.
When tempers flare, communication breaks down, projects get affected, and then before you know it, life is miserable for both the client and the agency.
In this case, you may have the urge to run, cut your losses, and begin anew with another branding and marketing agency. Don’t. It’s demotivating and shows lack of trust.
If you have problems, instead of switching agencies, address it with your current one. Don’t go agency-hopping. When too many people are permitted to control or criticize the project, the project becomes more complicated. Remember the adage “too many cooks spoil the broth?” This is also true when it comes to project management. A new interloper will have no idea about the process you’re following, they may suggest new features or a different approach that is out of project scope, or confuse you with new strategies that might not fit your objectives. Plus, they might hurry to give you a better price, but will they truly have the resources to pull it off?
Watch out! When someone promises you the moon for a bargain price, that often means something is wrong, or that costs will soon begin to add up as they realise they can’t give you what you want at that price. It’s far better to try and work with the agency you’ve originally hired. They took the time to get to know you, they’re invested in giving you a great result, and with proper communication, even the most challenging situations can be overcome.
If Issues Arise, Don’t Yell. Communicate.
Always try to keep your communications professional and courteous.
If you have a problem, you may be worried and super stressed, but let your agency know in a polite manner, and oftentimes, they will be ready to come up with a solution that suits you both. They want your good review, or maybe even a testimonial, so a good agency will often do what it takes to find a compromise that will make everyone happy.
But if you threaten, yell, belittle, or demean the agency, or their work, there’s nothing more demotivating, and they are less likely to go the extra mile for you. And remember, you may need them later to help solve a critical problem! Agencies tend to work harder for people they like working with!
Show That You Care…Nurture that Relationship and Appreciate Your Agency!
They may have done great work, but have you told them lately?
Everyone needs to feel appreciated! And it’s the little things like a “thank you”, that will make them want to go even further for you! We’re not saying praise mediocre work. Have high standards, by all means, but when your agency delivers, make sure to give them the praise they deserve. A lot of time and talent goes into the work, but sometimes, clients only see the areas that still need refining, without acknowledging all the great stuff that was already accomplished.
Remember, it always looks good on you when an agency project succeeds. Because you were the genius who found and hired them! So, sometimes it’s best to stand back and let an agency do what they do best. And when they do a fantastic job, give them some praise. They’ll work even harder for you the next time a project comes their way.
Original Ginger is a marketing and branding agency located in the Fraser Valley, in British Columbia, Canada. We focus primarily on helping small to medium sized businesses with brand strategy, brand identity, web design, eCommerce, video, content marketing, etc. Looking for an agency with the kind of expertise and talent that will make your business grow? If you’re a business owner excited about their brand, and you’re ready to take it to the next level, find out more about working with our agency here.