Got your attention? Great. Now, let me explain.
We work in an industry where the client is the undisputed king. There is a trump card, however, and that is the relationship between agency and client. It’s the absolute ace in the deck.
Offset 2018 rolled into Dublin recently, and while packed with inspirational and educational moments for designers and creatives, the importance of starting out with solid client relationships came through almost as strongly as the value of creativity.
Agencies—ours included—function best when we work in partnership with our clients. This relationship should never be or feel servile.
Instead, look at your agency partner as an extension of your own team. Your agency is an invaluable resource that you can—with confidence—be open and transparent with, whether about your business or commercial objectives, the issues or challenges you have faced or are facing, or as sounding board for future plans.
For our part, we need to be bold and brave in our communications, and to have a similar confidence in being open and frank with you. You don’t need yes-men. If this is what you’re looking for, you’ll never truly reap the rewards of working with an agency.
The benefit of a retained agency partner is that we can afford the freedom that you often cannot: to stand back and look at your brand or business objectively.
We can take everything from green shoots to blue sky into account and use this to inform our communications approach and recommendations. Every decision is considered and strategic. It’s what we mean when we say ‘intelligent communications’.
Speaking at Offset, Frith Kerr, from Studio Frith, put it perfectly when she said that sometimes you build up enough trust with a client, they let you “f*** with things”. It was a eureka moment!
We are not suggesting that we need a carte blanche brief or a bottomless budget—although this would be nice!—but rather a level of trust from you (the client) in us (the agency) that what we do will always be in your brand’s interest and for its ultimate benefit.
The hardest thing to tell a client is 'no', but it’s often the right thing to do. That’s why good relationships are good, but great relationships are better. It’s also why it is so crucial to invest time in new relationships from the off—and this applies to clients, colleagues, suppliers and everyone else in between.
“Never underestimate the role other people play in your work,” Luke Powell of Pentagram attests. He’s right: it’s the people around you who help you progress, keep you motivated and help you grow.
Challenge yourself to think of three people who have impacted your career to date, and why. What is it about these relationships that has motivated or inspired you to follow this path—or change course for another?
Trust is hard-earned, but it will ultimately inform how we, as partners, interact going forward. That doesn’t mean an end to dialogue or that the client or the agency gets to push through exactly what they want. Both parties need to be prepared to listen to different perspectives and remember that just because those perspectives are different, that doesn’t mean they’re wrong.
If we work together as true partners, then we both leave as better players.
Frith Kerr of Studio Frith and Luke Powell of Pentagram spoke at the recent Offset 2018 design and creative conference.