It’s a rite of passage for every marketer.
Congratulations, for the first time, you’re managing your creative agency relationship. The agency search is over and you have a new agency partner that exceeded your expectations from the initial impression to the final pitch.
Now it’s time to get to work. How do you make the most of this partnership? Can you address problems at the very first red flag? Peter Sena, founder of the full-service digital agency Digital Surgeons, shares top advice on starting work with your new creative agency partner.
Since founding Digital Surgeons in 2007, he’s managed exceptionally productive relationships with his clients. To make the most of your new agency partnership, you could walk a mile in your agency’s shoes…or continue reading.
5 Questions with Peter Sena
1. What should I expect from our first kick-off meeting? I want to start this relationship off on the right foot.
I think the most important thing with any agency/client relationship is that you establish how you are going to work up front. Understand who your team is, who their team is, and who are the stakeholders. What are the goals and objectives? Why are we doing this project? What does this relationship look like?
It’s all about making sure expectations are set before you get into any strategy or tactics. Ensure you are aligned on what exactly you are trying to solve and what the expectations are from the kick off meeting. Make sure everyone who will work on the business is in that meeting.
2. What exactly does this creative director guy do? He seems to just wear really hip outfits.
A great creative director is a lighthouse and a punching bag. What I mean by that is, it is their responsibility to both strategically guide a cross-functional agency team of creatives and take ownership of all brand deliverables. They serve as the conduit between the brand, the brand manager, and the agency account and creative teams.
The onus is on the creative director to establish the creative vision and the brand vision. So, really focusing on the strategy of how they are bringing the brand to life from a creative perspective.
3. How often should I expect to hear from our agency? How do I know if the work is getting done?
I think that really depends on the type of agency relationship. Depending on the amount of projects or the volume, there should definitely be at least a weekly touch-base, if not more from a status perspective. It’s not uncommon for agencies to disappear and put their heads down to get things done for a week or two but I think in most cases there is always going to be a weekly status touch-base.
In times of higher volume, you could be spending time with brands every day. There’s been times where I’ve been onsite with clients for days on end when it needs to happen.
As far as letting brands know that work is getting done, I think it really comes down to setting expectations and being transparent with your brand partners about what’s being done.
4. Things are not going well. We’ve gone beyond scope and missed deadlines. Is this relationship salvageable or do we cut our losses?
I think that is ultimately determined by the agency and the brand’s stake in one another.
Speaking from the agency’s side, it’s about establishing who is responsible and holding ourselves accountable. Why are we behind schedule? Why have we missed deadlines?
Establish why things aren’t going well and if it makes sense for both to continue the relationship. It’s not uncommon for agencies to invest a lot more in a brand relationship if they feel like it’s going to have a long term outcome that’s productive for both of them.
Regarding scope and missed deadlines, why are you over scope? Are you over scope because you’re putting on tons and tons of extra layers of polish to really make sure that you win the award? Are you over scope because of a client based deliverable or a bad estimate on your end? It’s about understanding who is responsible and working through it as a team.
I generally don’t like to point fingers or establish blame, a great agency/client relationship is a partnership and it’s in everyone’s best interest to understand how you can keep it a well oiled machine.
5. Our agency presented big ideas that are a departure from how we’ve done business in the past. Getting buy-in from the C-suite is going to be tough. Can our agency help us get the buy-in we need?
One hundred percent. A great agency is going to be able to help you create insight and data driven evidence that you can bring to your c-suite. On a number of occasions, I’ve gone with my brand managers to the C-Suite or even to their board of directors to actually pitch the concepts.
Agencies must prove that their ideas are beneficial, that they aren’t just “shiny” things but are actually rooted in insight and will provide undisputable value to brands.
Put the Right Foot Forward
With these insights from Peter, you’re ready to manage your agency partnership like a seasoned pro. Be sure to use the Agency Spotter blog as your secret weapon the next time you need advice. From the first agency search to the last, we’re here to help throughout the client-creative agency lifecycle.