People aren’t the only ones who like to start the new year on a different path. Companies often make changes at the top of the year too, including rolling out new holiday policies, switching benefit providers – and working with new agency partners.
Seeing value and getting the most out of the partnership change takes time, and it’s not just on the agency to make this happen. Businesses also have to be willing to put in the time and effort to start the new relationship on the right foot. Together, both partners should foster a sense of ongoing creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration across teams.
Here are eight tips to help you get down to business and kick off work with your new agency partner.
Make the Most of Meetings
Once you’ve chosen your agency, signed contracts, and are ready to begin working, you’ll need to have a kick-off meeting. This doesn’t mean getting in a room to read through status updates – this isn’t particularly valuable for either side and can set a poor precedent for collaboration at a critical juncture.
Think of this more as a meeting of the minds. What can our two teams accomplish together? On your end, make sure all stakeholders who will touch the program are in the meeting, either physically or on the call.
Pro-tip #1: If you’re video conferencing, encourage everyone show their faces. This fosters more engagement and helps put names to faces.
On the agency side, they should come prepared to ask smart questions and dig into logistical next steps. Based on the research and work they’ve done thus far to acquire your business, which initiatives make sense to move forward?
Share all the Stuff
Before, during, and after the first meeting, share all the stuff. And I mean all of it – corporate strategy presentations, sales presentations, competitor analysis, and brand positioning and guidelines, to name a few.
Sharing materials and knowledge is the best way to get your agency functioning as a member of your team – not just a vendor – as quickly as possible. The quicker this happens, the better the relationship and program will be.
Go for It…
Clients who are willing to commit to a “hot start” tend to start the program off on a more positive, effective note. A “hot start” means just that – starting the program hot, firing on all cylinders, strategically picking a starting point and just going for it.
This might entail a deep dive into creating new messaging for your brand. Maybe it’s a new research project to help you gain insight into your target audience. It could even be an in-person brainstorm with your agency to get the program planning phase underway.
Whatever it is, clients who invest in a true “ramp-up” phase with their new agency and are willing to start hot (and not just pass off a to-do list of routine tasks) will build a better foundation for an ongoing, collaborative relationship.
…But Don’t Forget the Quick Wins
Ramping up and going for it takes time. For some clients, it takes too much time. Many want to see immediate results, and as an agency, we totally get it. That’s why the hot start must be balanced out with the quick wins, aka the “low-hanging fruit” activities that aren’t a heavy lift and still yield results.
We work with new clients to identify a few of these activities that we can, as a team, turn into wins. These are usually in the form of landing you an interview with an industry reporter, getting a blog post published on the website, or securing media coverage of an important company announcement.
Measurement is Your (Best) Friend
Kicking off a campaign without outlining a clear path to measure success is a recipe for disaster. Identifying the benchmarks, metrics, and overall methodology you’ll use to measure the success of the program, before planning or execution, are crucial first steps for you and your agency (not to mention a wise use of time and budget).
Pro-tip #2: Success shouldn’t just mean beating last year’s numbers. In measurement, success is also the ability to consistently analyze program performance and pivot if what you’re doing isn’t working.
At INK, we’ve implemented a Planning and Analysis framework to help ease clients into measurement. It’s a process that allows us to gain a deeper understanding of clients’ business goals, tailor our strategies to meet those goals, and analyze, adjust, and iterate as needed to ensure the best possible results.
Set Clear Expectations
Clients know what they’re expecting out of the program. And agencies spend a lot of time setting their expectations about how they’ll complete projects and measure results. But, those expectations will remain unknown if they are siloed within each team.
The solution? Talk about it. Set up a meeting with your agency to discuss what each of you expect out of the other (and the program), potential roadblocks the agency might encounter, and how you can you help navigate around those roadblocks.
Communication is Key
What kind of client are you? Do you prefer texting or calling? Would you rather have weekly status update meetings or receive pertinent information via email? Are you more engaged when agencies present ideas to you via PowerPoint or Word?
These things matter. Your agency has to be able to meet you where you are and communicate effectively to keep the program running smoothly. Think about how you like to consume information – and then communicate this to your agency immediately.
Finally, Trust the Process – And Your Partner
If you’ve chosen your new agency partner wisely, these tips should occur naturally and seamlessly for you. Trust that your agency partner will guide you through the process of kicking off new work (and the new partnership) like the experts you know they are. Before you know it, both the relationship and program will be clicking – and firing – on all cylinders.