With more agency options than ever, it can be easy to think that you can use the competitive market to secure the lowest cost for each project you need done. However, you’ll quickly find that while this may save you money, no amount of savings is worth it when your business suffers from inconsistent work. Hopping around between different agencies means that your brand won’t evolve under the strategic guidance of a single creative and digital team. Rather, it will become splintered, as conflicting visions clash and pull it apart, resulting in a subpar user experience and missed opportunities to convert visitors into customers.
What’s the best way to guarantee a healthy, growing, dynamic brand? By developing a partner relationship with the right agency. Building a long term relationship will lead to more satisfying and prosperous outcomes in the long run, because your agency partner will come to share your vision, and work with you to make it a reality. So let’s jump into the details of developing an agency partnership that can best support your business goals.
What to Expect from Working with an Agency
In order to create a valuable agency partnership, you first need to pick the right agency. This means weighing your options, having open and honest conversations between stakeholders on both sides, and selecting based on a wide variety of factors, rather than just price.
You should select an agency that can breathe life into your brand vision. A reputable agency will expect clients to follow their lead, while their expert designers, developers, and strategists do their job. They should be able to listen to what you want and provide visual and messaging concepts that you can apply to your business model. Your agency partner needs to understand your target audience and your revenue streams as well as you do. While beautiful designs and enticing websites can make you feel great about your brand, the people who really need to be impressed are your customers.
It’s also important to remember that settling into a long term agency partnership will take some time. Both parties need to get to know one another, establish shared workflows, and make compromises that satisfy everyone involved. By setting healthy processes in place at the beginning, you can quickly begin to reap the rewards of a long term agency partner.
If you took the other path, hopping between agencies for each project, you will quickly find that massive amounts of productive time are wasted learning new administrative and project management approaches every time. Most businesses can’t afford these setbacks.
How to Work with an Agency
A good agency partnership is like any other relationship. First and foremost, this means keeping lines of communication open and active. If you choose the right agency partner, being honest about your expectations, and frank in your feedback will help them learn to provide what you’re looking for. An agency that’s responding to your feedback in a hostile manner is a red flag. You should always listen closely when they’re explaining the choices they’ve made, but this should never prevent you from voicing your opinion. There’s nothing wrong with not liking a concept, or thinking that it doesn’t align with your brand; you just need to ensure that your agency partner doesn’t take this criticism personally, because it never should be.
This requires learning to give constructive negative feedback. Flat out rejecting work because you think it doesn't feel right, for whatever reason, isn’t very helpful for either party. It's normal to be unsatisfied with deliverables from time to time. However, these should be viewed as teachable moments where you can condition your agency partner to what you like and dislike, and more importantly, why you like or dislike it. This helps build a fortuitous long-term relationship that benefits the client even more.
A great way to keep the potential for clutter and confusion down to a minimum is to appoint an agency point person. They will be the key point of communication, especially by email or other project management tools, to ensure that streamlined and coordinated messaging comes from your organization. When you begin to have several voices, like an executive, an internal marketing team, and a technical team, all speaking directly to your agency partner, confusion can occur, and a project’s direction can branch away from its original vision. Having one point of contact to gather your team’s feedback and synthesize a unified message for your agency partner shortens the path to results, and keeps the relationship humming along smoothly.
Your Client Responsibilities
The primary responsibility you have is to communicate a clear vision for your company. You need to know where you want to be so that your agency partner can build a path to get you there. If you don’t care about the future and direction of your company, then it’s a big ask to get your agency partner, who is ostensibly less invested in the business’ success than you, to produce work that will lead to successful outcomes. You can inspire them with a passionate vision, and bring out the best from their creative, strategic, and digital abilities.
As mentioned above, feedback is a crucial part of all agency relationships, and it should be a focus of yours. Providing thorough, thoughtful, constructive feedback on all work that your agency partner provides will help them align with your expectations better in the future. This includes getting a grip on what resonates best with your target audiences, one of the most difficult factors in any creative relationship.
Finally, it’s important to bring a positive attitude to your agency partnership. A strong agency is going to want nothing more than to help your business succeed, but this requires your belief in their abilities. Bringing your optimism, professionalism, and focus is the most effective way to grow a fruitful agency partnership. No matter which agency partner you select, remember that they’re there to help support your business and brand. By following this approach and these processes, you can achieve a long term agency partnership that evolves as your business grows.