A creative agency can be a great partner to help you achieve your marketing goals. Whether you need someone to help you produce content or figure out your KPIs, they have the knowhow to help you succeed. (Not sure if you need one? Here’s how to figure out.)
But if you haven’t worked with a creative agency (or are starting to work with a new one), there are a few things you should know before you dive in.
First, know that when you hire a creative agency, you’re entering a creative partnership. A good agency will want to work with you—not for you or above you. Although you’re going to them for expertise and knowledge you may not have, you have ownership over your brand. Thus, you should always feel like an active partner, and both sides should cultivate a relationship based on mutual respect. (If you don’t feel those vibes from the jump, it might be a red flag.)
Second, in our experience, many of the issues that can cause friction or frustration between a brand and a creative agency often come down to miscommunication, a lack of transparency, or misaligned expectations. For this reason, we encourage clients to ask any and all questions when we start an engagement—no matter how silly or obvious those questions may be.
That said, we know many brands aren’t exactly sure what to ask about, especially if they’re feeling intimidated because they’ve never worked with an agency before. So we thought we’d suggest a few questions to help guide that conversation.
The Questions to Ask Your Creative Agency
There are plenty of things that can disrupt or delay a project: simple oversights, confusion about process, etc. These questions can help you identify issues up front, understand how your agency works, and—most importantly—help you ensure your work is successful.
FYI, a kickoff call is an ideal time to ask these questions, but you can ask questions at any point in the collaboration process. Also, a good agency will address many of these questions off the bat.
1) Who will my point of contact be? There are a lot of moving parts involved in marketing—and just as many stakeholders. From strategy to content creation, you will have a lot of people doing a lot of different things. Hence, you need to identify the one person who will be your go-to throughout the process.
Simultaneously, you should identify the point person on your end (if you’re reading this, it’s probably you.) This person should facilitate communication, consolidate feedback, keep an eye on deadlines, and generally manage the project. You should also identify the stakeholders who will need to approve things on your end. (Trust us, things can get awfully messy when you have a dozen people chiming in on a thread—two days past a project’s due date.)
2) How much work is produced by your staff vs. outsourced? In the agency world, it isn’t uncommon to work with contracted creative partners, such as a video production house or composer. (Again, one of the benefits of an agency is that they have a network of reliable pros at the ready.) However, you’ll want to know who your creative team will be so that you know who’s responsible for what.
3) What does your process look like? Every agency is unique, but they should all have an established process to get things done on time. Ask your agency to walk you through their process in detail, identifying every stage of production, the team members involved in it, and what contributions they need from you at each stage. This will also help you identify any potential issues or hiccups.
For example, if they need feedback within 24 hours but you have multiple stakeholders and your annual company retreat around that time, you should flag that up top.
You’ll also want to address how you’ll split the workload with your agency.
4) What’s the best way to communicate? Your creative agency will have a tried-and-true production process in place, but when it comes to communication, you should identify the most effective way. If you prefer emails over conference calls, or Skype meetings instead of Slack, let them know.
5) What materials do you need from us? We can’t tell you how many times a project has been held hostage by a missing asset. Thus, we can guarantee your agency will love you for asking this.
Whether it’s a mandatory asset or a nice-to-have, they’ll appreciate you being a proactive and considerate partner.
For example, in addition to brand materials, we ask our partners to provide any and all inspiration they may have for a creative project. Whether that “inspiration” comes in the form of a commercial, a song, a Pinterest board, or even a whiskey label, it’s a simple thing that drastically improves our creative ideation.
6) What are common roadblocks or pitfalls we can avoid?
Another huge benefit of hiring a creative agency is that they have insider knowledge about what works and what doesn’t, based on their experience with many clients (often in your same industry). Accordingly, they also know exactly what issues can derail or delay a project—especially the ones that are in a brand’s control. They will greatly appreciate your interest in proactively preventing these things.
(Note: Although your creative agency may identify hiccups or unexpected issues that have happened with similar work, they shouldn’t trash talk their clients. If they do, that’s another red flag.)
7) How can we help make things go smoothly?
Beyond the obvious (stick to timelines, provide specific feedback, don’t ghost us), there are likely a few simple things you can do to set yourself up for success. Again, the better your relationship, the better work you’ll get. So be a happy and willing partner up front.
(You can also try these 5 collaboration tactics to do better work with your creative agency.)
Educate Yourself in the Meantime
Above all, you can be the best partner by educating yourself as much as possible. You have a huge opportunity to learn from each other, so keep up-to-date on trends, best practices, and continue to share knowledge and inspiration. To get started:
- Find out why these 5 brands succeed with minimal marketing.
- Learn about why building a brand is the secret to future-proofing your business.
- Try these 10 tips to brainstorm ideas when you’re fried.