Tips to Work with an Agency at Every Stage

Every business, at some point, has the need for designed deliverables, marketing collateral or a logo.  It may be time to refresh the company image, add to the existing content or even fulfilling a life-long dream of owning a business. It’s a critical step in the marketing process, and many companies begin to evaluate the prospect of bringing in a creative agency.

Where do you start?  What proven methods produce results?  How should you prioritize the changes that need to be made?  The variables can be overwhelming.  So overwhelming, you might picture embarking on this experience as driving the Jeep through the gates of Jurassic Park or sitting at base camp looking toward the summit of Mount Everest.

Despite it being overwhelming, the thought might cross your mind that you can do it yourself.  Especially in this day and age with the availability of design programs and the number of vendors online, it is tempting to skip working with a creative agency completely and give it the old college try yourself.  Plus, it can be scary to turn over the reigns of your “baby” to other people.  But, you do not need to fear.  Marketing agencies, with expertise in many areas, work with their clients to create a sustainable and highly integrated plan.  There is no need to buckle up in that Jeep or throw on your pack and hiking boots.  With the information and steps below, working with an agency will seem like smooth sailing with a successful result.

Begin with research and create a plan.

All successful projects begin with data collection and research.  Before the first meeting with a marketing or creative agency, be prepared to answer questions about your brand, vision and direction.  No amount of information is insignificant.  A marketing agency can narrow the scope to the most essential information to make the plan more concise.  If the agency truly understands your goals, they will be a tremendous asset by bringing an objective voice backed by research and data.

In addition, visual materials are helpful in getting a creative team up to speed.  Provide samples of previous collateral, your product, companies you admire or a logo that gives you inspiration for what you want to achieve with design.  Even samples of dislikes can be helpful.

With this information, the creative agency will develop a plan with realistic deadlines, a defined scope of work and final delivery date.  Some things to keep in mind when drafting this plan are:

  • The amount of time it will take to gather the data from research
  • Timeline for creating the initial design
  • Allotting time for client review and revisions
  • Meeting dates throughout the process to discuss setting up print files and production

It is important to meet these deadlines as much as possible and keep the process moving.  When a project does not stay within the planned timeframe from start to finish, it runs the risk of becoming stale in creativity and the vision/goal for the final product can become less clear.

Communication and time management are keys to success.

I know it sounds cheesy, but it is the truth.  Communication and time management are key to keeping the project in scope, on task, and therefore, successful.

Now that the timeline has been created, there are simple measures that will make the process run smoothly.

  • Choose a key contact within the organization to correspond with one key contact at the agency. This helps avoid miscommunication and confusion by ensuring a clear stream of correspondence.
  • Decide on the best form of communication. Some people are better at email and others prefer text or a phone call.  Before the process begins, agree on the best way to communicate with each other to keep things on the right track.
  • Be responsive. After deciding on the best mode of communication, make sure that avenue is open and flowing.  The timeline can fall through the cracks if someone is away on vacation and/or an email is missed.  Maintain responsive communication, even if just to acknowledge the email was received, so those problems are less likely to happen.
  • Hold productive meetings that end in results. Meetings are important to keep everyone on the same page and to develop a sense of progress.  Come to the table with concise and detailed revisions after reviewing designs.  If a meeting does need to be pushed back for the client to make internal decisions, that is better than not being able to move forward once everyone has taken time to meet.
  • Do your best to avoid decision by committee. Even though everyone’s input is valuable, someone needs to have the final word.  It only hinders the progress when there are too many cooks in the kitchen.
  • Be respectful of each other’s time. Just like you have other projects in your busy workday, the agency has other clients and projects they are working on.  It is important to be respectful of each other’s time and not derail the progress.  Everyone’s goal is to complete the scope of work in a timely and efficient manner.

Relax and let it happen!

Again, it can be scary to let loose of the reigns, but it can also be fun.  Each step brings you closer the final product and should create a sense of excitement.  Enjoy and trust the process!

Want to read more about how to improve professional relationships? Read Nicole Morgan’s 5 Principles for Great Vendor Relationships.