I’ve been running projects for over a decade now, working with a wide range of clients, business categories and project scopes. One of the things I’ve learned over the years is some clients get more out of their agency than others and it has less to do with the size of their budget than it does their overall approach to working with the agency. From the Fortune 500 to one-man startups, business-to-business accounts to consumer giants, these are the five things clients can do to get the most out of their agency relationship.
1. Establish An Escalation Path
At the start of the project you need to know who you can complain to. Typically it will be someone on the account or client service team, but ultimately you need to have an individual at the agency you feel comfortable having a frank conversation with. This will make it easier if something goes awry, because you will know who to talk to if there is a problem or issue. Sometimes this relationship comes naturally, but don’t be afraid to ask if you aren’t 100% sure you know who it is.
2. Always Tell Them The Truth
You’re working with professionals and, as professionals, they can take it. It’s much easier to change early than it is later, and much easier to get a result everyone is happy with if you aren’t trying to shoehorn something you don’t like into something you do. If you don’t like it, tell them. In detail. It can be hard to tell a designer you hate their work, and if you can’t bring yourself to do it, just follow rule number 1 and have an offline conversation with your confidant at the agency and get your project back on track.
3. Give Them More Information Than You Think They Need
You can’t give an agency too much information. Details are crucial to the creative process and can make or break a project, so when in doubt, share. If your CEO hates yellow, tell them. If your biggest competitor just launched a new site, make sure they’ve seen the before and after. If Bob from product marketing is a problem child, tell them. It’s good information that helps the agency avoid unnecessary churn against a project if they know up front– and it can help you avoid #2 all together.
4. Take The Time To Get Sign-Off Internally
Projects can get derailed by moving too quickly and not getting the right people to sign off on each stage. If the agency says you have two days for review and Bob the product marketer is on vacation, tell them they’ll have to wait. He may have critical changes that will be easier to address in the moment than after the agency has moved forward. Consolidating feedback from decision makers also helps avoid the dreaded, “we only scoped for two rounds of revision” discussion.
5. Start Sooner Than You Think You Should
All projects take longer than you think, and that can largely be due to #4. Getting all the appropriate people involved early takes time – sometimes scheduling a simple meeting can take days just to find a time everyone agrees to. Also, depending on the project, make sure you’ve mapped out time to create content to support it or time to train customer service reps and sales teams prior to launch. It’s often the little details like these that can make or break an otherwise successful project.
The key piece in all of the above is open, honest communication. Great projects require trust, and great communication is the foundation for building it. Sometimes it may seem like overkill, but if you work with the agency to make sure you have a strong communication plan at the outset you will be much happier with the results.