As the client, you’re paying for a service (in our case PR, video or integrated comms) because you either don’t have the time or the expertise to carry it out internally. And since you’re the one footing the bill, it’s understandable that you might think your job is simply to sign the contract and then wait for the agency to deliver.
They’re the experts after all, so there’s no reason to expect that they wouldn’t just get on with it. There’s a caveat to that approach, however. Because while you may well be paying for services rendered, it’s still a relationship. And like any good relationship, it needs certain things for it to thrive.
1. It starts with trust
It takes time to build trust, sure, but if you’re not at least open to the idea it’s not going to bode well for the relationship or the work you want done. There may come a time, for example, when the agency requests confidential information from you. When that happens, you’ll need to trust that they’ll keep it to themselves. There’ll likely be a clause in your contract that speaks to this (and if there isn’t you should insist on one before signing), but at the end of the day it still comes down to good old fashioned trust.
2. Be willing to help
You and your team know the ins and outs of your business far better than the agency could ever hope to, so they’re going to need your help from time to time. Recognising that yours is a mutually beneficial relationship means good things for both parties. Removing potential roadblocks and helping the agency access the right people in your organisation will ensure the ultimate success of your project.
3. Give honest feedback
It can feel awkward to come out and say you don’t like something, but the alternative (sugar coating or worse, lying) is far more detrimental. If you’re not happy you probably won’t use the agency again, which means they miss out on the chance of repeat business. But more importantly, you’ll leave the transaction feeling short-changed. Both scenarios are easily avoidable if you tell it like it is. In a nice way, obviously; constructive criticism always has a better chance of landing.
There could be any number of reasons you don’t like the work the agency presented. Rather than fake smile and run for the hills, a better approach is to get together and talk things through. Find out where the communication process fell short and figure out a way to work together to avoid a similar situation in the future.
4. Be responsive
Deadlines are a two-way street. If you want your agency to deliver within a certain timeframe, then you need to play your part in making sure that happens. This means responding timeously to requests for additional information or feedback on work in progress. Any delays on your part could very likely impact the final delivery of the project. By being responsive you can easily avoid any unnecessary delays.
5. Extend social invites
We’re not talking weddings or bar mitzvahs or anything, but inviting your agency to your next company function is a great way for them to learn more about your business. Plus, it’ll give everyone the opportunity to get to know one another in a more relaxed setting.
With work happening more online than anywhere else nowadays, it’s not uncommon to communicate only via email and never meet face to face. From a time saving point of view this is great, but it does nothing for building lasting relationships. People are usually more inclined to go the extra mile for someone they’ve met in person, as opposed to just online.
6. Pay on time
Money. The green elephant in the office that everyone would much rather ignore. Nobody likes chasing outstanding payments, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth and, if we’re honest, it’s a bit embarrassing. Avoid the situation entirely by making sure your agency knows your company’s payment policy upfront.
If they need a signed purchase order before they start work on your project, tell them. If your payment terms are 30, 60 or 90 days, let them know. Whatever your accounting hoops are, inform your agency upfront to avoid any misunderstandings later. Likewise, once they’ve delivered the job and jumped through said accounting hoops, be a mensch and pay them.
7. Take (or at least listen to) advice
Just like you know the nuts and bolts of your business, the agency knows just as much about the ins and outs of theirs. That’s why you hired them. If they offer advice, it’s usually based on years of experience and should therefore be taken with more than just a pinch of salt.
There will be instances where your insider knowledge will dictate a different approach, but for the most part going with their suggestions should result in the most favourable outcome for your project. That doesn’t mean you can’t weigh in at all, however. Collaborating is the birthplace of creativity, after all. Just make sure you listen as well as suggest and you’ll be well on your way to a winning end result.