For the past 15 years I’ve worked in client services designing websites, apps, and digital products for mega corporations, start-ups, and small businesses. During this time I’ve realized many of the most successful clients I work with have a few similar traits when it comes to working with agencies. Based on this experience, here are five tips to help you get the most out of your agency.
Define your organization’s goals and your personal aspirations up front.
My best clients are honest about their organization’s goals as well as their own aspirations. In the past, one of my favorite clients told me he needed to increase sales on his company’s ecommerce website, but that he also needed to make a good impression with his new boss. This type of direct and honest information helped me prioritize the work on the website, but also ensured that I supported my client with the right information to build his case internally and sell the work up the ladder. A good agency will have your back. Be transparent and honest and leverage the agency as part of your team.
Define your creative risk tolerance.
There is always more than one way to solve a design problem and if you don’t define the constraints early on you may end up with something that doesn’t meet your expectations. If you expect bleeding edge creative, state this up front. If your organization is more comfortable with a conventional tried-and-true solution, no problem. A good agency will be just as happy to help you, but you need to state this up front as well. Agencies cannot read your mind so be honest with yourself and your organization and determine what your creative risk tolerance is. If you don’t, you can burn plenty of time and money exploring design solutions that are either too unconventional or too conservative for your needs.
Establish a regular cadence for status and review meetings.
Like any good relationship, communication is key. Every organization is different, but consider establishing regular daily or weekly status calls. Aside from participating in status calls, expect to spend time working collaboratively with your agency. Plan to devote part of your busy schedule towards reviewing agency work and providing feedback and direction and be sure to frame your feedback relative to your goals. The more you put into your agency relationship, the more you will get out.
Shield your agency from your internal politics.
Agencies don’t need to see your dirty laundry. Establish one primary point of contact from your team to interface with your agency in order to limit conflicting messages and confusion from different stakeholders on your project team. Remember, if you are not aligned internally, your agency will see this right away and be forced to spend valuable time and energy trying to appease multiple masters rather than solving the real problems and helping you achieve your broader goals.
Pay on time.
At some organizations it’s surprisingly easy for agencies to get lost in the shuffle in accounts payable departments. When you hire an agency it’s your responsibility to ensure they are paid on time and as expected. It’s unreasonable to expect a high-level of service and attention when you aren’t paying your bills, and the truth is, you’ll be prioritized accordingly by the agency.