Ask Haley: How can I build a successful relationship with my marketing agency?

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Q: Help! I need new marketing materials and I’m looking for a new marketing firm. My last agency relationship was a disaster. How do I find the right one – and make it work?

A: Congratulations! Working with a marketing firm on new materials is a very exciting process, and it can be a lot of fun. But as you’ve experienced, things don’t always work out very well – which can lead to disappointing results. So, how do you get the best results? Success starts with a great relationship.

With more than 15 years of experience on the agency side of the equation, I’ve had more than my share of good, bad and great client relationships. And, I have done my share of ruminating about the bad ones. But, working on a response to this question led me to think about what makes a client a “good client.”

Google “How to be a Good Client” and you will come across many great articles and satires. Most likely, you will also run across a reference to David Ogilvy (founder of Ogilvy & Mather – and one of the greatest advertising men ever). He dedicated an entire chapter to this issue in his book Confessions of an Advertising Man.

His advice comes down to basic principles: Select the right agency in the first place. Brief your agency very thoroughly. Don’t underspend. Tolerate genius.

After nearly 50 years, Ogilvy’s advice is as relevant as ever.

A healthy relationship can generate highly successful marketing efforts. Here are some things you can do to help ensure that your agency produces great results:

  • Know who you are. Nobody knows your business better than you do. Make sure you are able to articulate your business positioning – what services or products do you offer, who is your competition, who is your target audience, how do you want to be seen in the market? The more detailed and defined you are, the more a creative team will be able to develop your marketing to match your business.
  • Know what you want. Clearly define your goals. Are you looking for a new website or brochure project? Do you hate your logo and need a new one? Don’t put the cart before the horse. If you really need a new brand or logo, start there. Beginning a website or other marketing piece with an outdated logo will not go well. You will not be happy with the final results.
  • Know your agency and their team. Do your research to understand the dynamics of your agency. Have they worked in your industry? Does their culture fit with yours?  Ask for examples of past work and review their website. Do you like the work that they have done for other clients?  Do you like the people you are going to be working with?
  • Trust your creative team. You have done the research and have chosen the best agency for you. Now it’s time to put some trust into your chosen team. Your creative team, led by an art director, will consider your messaging, the format that is being used and your branding  to implement a design. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to give feedback during this part of the process; however, be sure to trust the expertise of your creative team – that’s why you hired them!
  • Give constructive feedback. Design work can be subjective. Colors and pictures elicit an emotional response. If you feel a proposed design is slightly off the mark, targeted feedback is essential. Be prepared to give some examples of what you don’t like.  You might not be used to giving feedback that is so direct – try taking a look at your current marketing pieces (or your competitor’s pieces!) and come up with some critical insights. A little practice can make it easier for you to convey your feedback down the line.

Also, remember that you won’t like everything that the agency presents. Rejection is part of the design development process, we know that, and we promise not to take it personally!

  • Don’t decide by committee. Remember the old saying “Too many cooks spoil the stew?” Limit the number of decision makers on your team. The more people on your end that review creative and have input on the design work, the more likely you are to veer off your goals, and the less effective the final product will be. While you want your employees to buy-in to your branding and marketing, present work to your team after the development is done. Outline the goals and strategy behind the process, then reveal the final product.
  • Have fun. While major brands and companies embark on advertising and marketing campaigns annually (or even quarterly), most small- to mid-sized companies only refresh their look every few years. Design and advertising work is not your day-to-day business, so have fun with it!

If your staffing agency is looking for a great website design or collateral piece, contact Haley Marketing. We can help!

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