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Archive for the ‘Project Management’ Category

Ever worked with a vendor/advertising agency or outsourced a share of your work to another company? For people new to doing this or experienced in doing this, here’s a list of 5 things you should do to ensure you get the best service, get loyalty and nurture a high level of trust in your relationship.

  1. Clarity is Paramount
    Do you know your organization’s goals for the year? Your budgets? Do you have a plan for what you want to achieve in the coming quarter? If you don’t have the answers to these questions, you need to get them ASAP! If you do know the answers, the most important question here is: Does your agency know all this too? If they don’t have the big picture, if they don’t get the answers to their questions and if they see you as a client who needs to be constantly prodded for information and clarity, how can they serve you with the kind of efficiency and professionalism you expect? They’ll respect you and your organization more if you confide and explain things to them in the most verbose possible way.

    Don’t have a close relationship with your agency? Do you treat them as just suppliers of a commodity? Then you need to do one of two things: either take them into confidence and share all the information you have with them, or fire them and hire someone you can trust. The middle ground here is just too inefficient.

  2. Plan in Advance
    Always on the edge when it comes to demanding tight deadlines for deliverables? That’s probably why the output from your agency is low quality – they haven’t had the time to digest the situation and come up with better ideas. Remember, you are not the only client they have – everyone else is also demanding their time with unreasonable deadlines and its usually a case of too many things to do for too few people. Planning the bulk of your activities in advance helps everyone – forces you to make rational plans of what you want to achieve and why in the short term, and notifies your agency of the kind of work they can expect from you in the coming months so they can plan their resource allocation. At the end of the year, your plans will have changed significantly, but at least your agency will not have been completely clueless about what you wanted to achieve.
  3. Giving a good brief is an art form
    Well ok maybe it’s not exactly “art” but you get my drift; you need to spend a lot of time on your briefs, explaining everything from the core reasons why you want something done to what you aim to achieve from it. The more you explain, your agency gets a better idea of what to do and what will help the most. Of course, there are some that argue that “My agency knows our organization so well, only a one line brief is enough”. Well, in my opinion, even if an agency knows your organization well, you still need to give them a slightly verbose brief. It need not have a huge amount of detail, but simple objectives and reasons need to be there. Also, if you have any preferences for colors, logo sizes, shapes, database structure, code style or typography, please leave them out of your brief – leave that stuff to the agency, which is what my next point talks about.
  4. Why keep a Dog and Bark Yourself?
    Ogilvy’s famous words say it all: You’re hiring your agency/vendor to do something that’s not your organizations core competence, they are probably the ones who’ve given a lot more thought to your communication/marketing activities, so why can’t you trust their judgement? Sure, theres a fair amount of learning that has to happen if you’ve engaged a new agency or are at a very young stage in your relationship – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to direct everything they do. Making decisions through a “committee” is another thing that will induce high blood pressure for your agency’s people. The more opinions they get on their work, the harder it is to maintain the original intended integrity of the message. I’ve seen several instances where agencies have distanced themselves from work they’ve done because the final output was completely different from the original idea. (bigger logo! change the typeface! change headline! change visual! um.. ok, now I’m happy – lets see what the sales team have to say.) You’ll have agencies dumping your account the moment this seems to happen too often – however much money you’re paying them. If you want so much control, why hire an agency? You might as well do it yourself.
  5. Nurture the relationship
    If you are satisfied with the approach your agency takes in their work and if they seem like the right kind of people you want to work with, don’t just show your appreciation by praising them. Give them more work. After all, this is a business, and if their work is satisfactory and you’re compfortable with them, what’s preventing you from growing the relationship too? They have people, just like your organization does. they probably have targets, just like your organization’s peolple do – The best way you can show your appreciation for good work is to give them more work, trust them more and start giving them access to various people in your organization so that they can know your company better. If all goes well, this can only help increase the quality of the work delivered to you, as people who respect you will always do their best for you. Also, remember another of David Ogilvy’s famous lines: Pay Peanuts and you’ll get monkeys. Be open to expanding the scope of your relationship slowly, and demanding higher quality work and interaction for it.

At the end of the day, you need to achieve your organization’s objectives in some way – working with an agency or a vendor usually means a long term committment to the relationship – and like all relationships, you need to invest time and patience to make it a happy one.

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I’ve been on both sides of the client-agency relationship, and in a 2 part series I’m going to highlight the pain points of both clients and agencies, faced by both me and some of the people I know. In this first part, I’ve put down some basic client servicing expectations people have from their agencies.

How to NOT infuriate your clients

  1. Deliver on Time
    Sound simple, doesn’t it? But in reality it is just an alien concept for most agencies. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to run around to get things done because my agencies have not delivered as promised. And it’s not just me – everybody I know who works as a client in a client-agency elationship, from PR and event managers to good old marketing managers, have horror stories of how the only consistent thing their agencies manage to do is deliver late. Agencies that deliver on time not only get respect, they also get more business. That’s simple too.
  2. Think before you execute
    I’ve come to believe that expecting this from agencies in Bangalore is asking for too much. After all, is it rocket science to do good work? How can you deliver collateral with headlines that a 10 year old child can write? Or design collateral that looks like it’s for a client in another non-related industry? When you’re given a brief or a requirement, please stop and think. Before you roll your sleeves up and dive into generating the communication collateral, take 10 minutes off to contemplate the big picture. If you’re a designer or visualizer, this is extremely important as your work will be questioned and debated more if there’s no apparent thought process behind it. Give it some thought, express that thought process while presenting the collateral, and your efforts will show that you’ve understood what your client wants to communicate.
  3. Quality Control is not “nice to have”, it’s “need to have”!
    You know you’re in trouble here if your client gets back to you with proofing corrections of typos and tells you that collateral with your client’s logo (which you created!) is in the wrong colors. Whether it’s a first draft or a final deliverable for approval, please proof read it and check for design inconsistencies. Alignment of objects, print ready files (CMYK images, cut marks) are the norm, not something your client should ask you to do. The last thing you need for your credibility is for your client to point out spelling mistakes in a headline. (Which, unfortunately, I’ve had to do in the past)
  4. Listen, Ask Questions
    Listen to what your client’s pain points are, and don’t just draw up tactical answers. If you listen well, you can glean what your client really wants you to do. If you don’t ask questions, you won’t know everything you need to know about an assignment. As David Ogilvy once said “I prefer the discipline of knowledge to the chaos of ignorance”. Find out more about your client’s business, understand the markets they are in, ask for more information about deliverables and your client’s intentions, question your client’s decisions and come up with better ideas that promise better results. If you don’t ask questions and just follow instructions blindly, then you’d rather work at a DTP Operator’s shop and not be surprised why your client wants so many changes in the work you’ve delivered.
  5. Integrity first, your client’s business second, you last
    Sounds preachy? Well it is – because nobody seems to like that “Integrity” word and agencies and suppliers usually interchange the last two bits. Evaluate if what you’re doing is extortionate, or detrimental to your client’s business. It’s not always apparent, but even simple direct mailers with the wrong message could be a disaster for your client’s brand equity. If you’re on a retainer, sitting back and expecting your client to call the shots and give direction while you absorb the monthly fee is not only unethical, it’s also not going to help you be motivated to do good work.

Doing all this will mean only two things: You earn respect and trust, which in turn means more business and more money. It really is this simple – do a good, professional job and that itself will make you and your agency stand out from the crowd.

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