If you've worked in an agency or with one for long enough you know that there is really only one secret to creating great work. The secret is this: if you want to produce great work, you need to do it with people you love. That’s your partners, your team, but most importantly, your clients. Yep, even them. Even if you get lucky enough to work with great clients there are still plenty of pitfalls. Here are three of them.
1. Making Decisions by Committee
Agencies can be change agents for your marketing and for your brand. They shouldn’t be business-as-usual. That type of relationship requires fast thinking and sometimes fast decisions. However, too often clients have to navigate the political waters and be inclusive. So, what’s wrong with that? Anyone who's worked on a large rebranding effort or massive digital product knows that vetting through too many stakeholders grinds the project to a halt and burns out the project leads, on both sides of the fence. And, the worst part – the work suffers. So, how do we avoid this? Work diligently with your agency on the front end to document, and think through, the entire process. Then, knight the ultimate decision maker. Trying to make everyone happy will make the work miserable.
2. Not Trusting the Brain Trust
This is the biggest mistake of all. As long as your agency hasn’t given you a reason not to trust them, you should. Successful relationships are built on trust, and with an agency that is truly your partner, they’ll have a vested interest in having each project be a success. Trust their perspective, their experience, and intentions. That’s why you hired them. An outsider's perspective is one of the best assets that an agency can bring. Especially during the honeymoon phase with a new client. Seeing it as an asset and not a threat can move a brand closer to what their audience truly wants and out of the comfortable space of what has always been.
3. Valuing Size Over Substance
When agencies are courting clients or responding to RFPs, they are usually asked how this new business will affect their shop. “Will I be your largest client? Will I be the smallest? How fast are you guys at turning around a website? We have a tight budget, but we have pretty high standards.” We’ve found that for us, these are red flags that we’re not the best fit. If a client is focused on just how fast they can get something, for the cheapest price, they aren’t invested in the creative success of the project or their brand. Because there is mystery behind the curtain, clients don’t realize that even at a larger shop, their success usually only comes down to a handful of capable and well-informed people. The larger the team, the more layers and more opportunities for delays and getting off-strategy. A good brief and a plugged-in principal can level the playing field for the smallest shop to compete with the big boys. Size of the agency can be important if your only concern is volume of work, but if you're looking for smart work without the bureaucracy, you can find it anywhere.
Michael is the Creative Director and co-founder of FoxFuel Creative. He loves British music, vintage German cars, and American history, and his sarcasm know no bounds. #DreamBig