Getting the Most out of a Branding Agency
Here’s how to work with a group of professionals dedicated to helping you build, grow, or evolve a valuable brand
Perhaps you’ve hired or inherited an agency and you’re looking to get more out of that relationship, or you’re completely new to the agency-client experience and don’t know what to expect. As brand strategists, designers, and marketers with decades of combined team experience, we humbly offer the following to those who seek the services of honest, talented, and caring souls who work in our industry; an industry filled with so-called quick solutions, shiny bells and whistles, and hungry entrepreneurs trying to make your brand part of their next arbitrage scheme.
Start with the right relationship
Obviously, this one is most applicable to clients who have yet to choose an agency. If you’re currently working with an agency that is not meeting your expectations, don’t lose hope: there are actions you can take to renegotiate your relationship. See Clarifying an Existing Relationship, below.
What problem are you trying to solve?
The key to selecting an agency or partner is understanding exactly what you want them to deliver, and that can often hinge on language. We can’t tell you how often we’ve taken calls with potential clients who reached out looking for a “branding partner” only to find out through conversation that they are actually looking for social media content creation. A good problem statement will save you time and money and help narrow the field of potential partners—some branding agencies specialize in startup branding, others specialize in brand transformation or evolution (shameless plug: we happen to do both).
Finding the right branding partners
Direct referral is an effective strategy to identify an agency or group of agencies that are more likely to get you results. Why? Not only will the folks you solicit referrals from only refer the partners that knocked it out of the park, but the agency receiving the referral will go above and beyond to maintain the positive reputation with their former client. Solicit your personal and professional network to find out who had good experiences with agencies that:
- Communicate clearly and timely
- Base their recommendations and executions on a strategic foundation
- Possess a portfolio of high quality work
- Are a joy to work with
Direct referrals provide the “flavor” of collaborating with that agency, as well as an understanding of the results of that agency’s efforts from a trusted source.
Brands in transition can struggle to find their way. We can help.
Great brand strategy is the process of understanding where a brand has been, it’s current market position, and it’s long term goals. From this strategy, we can achieve future goals based on a deep understanding of how a brand’s products or services solve problems for customers and what moves those customers to make decisions.
Contact Ben Greenberg today to ensure that your vision and brand strategy is aligned.
Clarifying an Existing Relationship
One of the big reasons that client-agency relationships (or any relationship) go south is miscommunication and misaligned expectations. There are many, many things that can start, and then remain unclear, and the longer they remain so, the deeper the financial and emotional tole:
- Misunderstanding by the agency of what the client is seeking to achieve in their business
- Misunderstanding by the client of what the agency is proposing to deliver
- Miscommunication by the agency of what they are capable of delivering
- Miscommunication by the client of what they seek, tactically or creatively
- A lack of comprehension by the agency of nuances of the client’s business
Each of these vital areas must be defined — and often refined — during the engagement. If any of the above triggers an area to explore, do it sooner rather than later, and get the clarification built into an action plan.
The best agencies will have workflows and specific tools to capture, communicate, and ensure that all relevant parties adhere to these realities, so that “scope creep” and finger-pointing doesn’t become a festering, time-sucking and money consuming reality.
Creativity is an organic process; it shifts, morphs, and changes all along a circuitous path. However, timelines and budgets need to be adhered to, and your most notable competition isn’t kicking back and just letting you rule the roost.
A good agency will present you with documented timelines and briefs that are fair, realistic, and actionable. You should get the feeling that the agency is genuinely working on your behalf when you receive their output. A good branding agency will no doubt be highly creative, but they’ll primarily target business-enhancing insights and actions to be executed to make your brand an asset, not just a clever expression.
If you perceive your agency is spinning in circles, address it quickly and respectfully; ask for clarification and justification of recommendations. There should always be a business-building reason for any agency recommendation, no matter how right-brained. If your agency can’t tell you how they expect a deliverable to affect your business for the better, it could be a lack of detail — or it could be something you don’t need.
Give the process a chance
If your agency is presenting well-justified decisions surrounding strategy, creative, timelines, budget, etc., but you find yourself questioning them or — simply not liking them, try to determine if you’re looking at the work objectively.
Branding is ultimately a way of capturing and communicating a relationship between your product or service and the customers for which it’s intended. Sometimes you need to be able to step back and realize that you aren’t the customer or audience member. You have to practice the art of letting go if your subjective likes and dislikes are flying in the face of clear strategic insights.
Conversely, if the work isn’t standing on clear rationale and researched facts, and you’re not feeling the output, you need to call the agency to task.
- How will this story track gain us more customers?
- How is this brand expression expected to fare in the marketplace?
- How do we justify this workflow?
“That which is measured (should) improve”
This maxim is quoted a lot, and for good reason.
When we choose to mindfully measure something, we’re choosing to pay close attention. And when something garners lots of attention, time and resources tend to get shifted in that direction. When that happens, the object of the attention tends to experience some measure of growth.
If your agency isn’t collaborating with you towards the production of assets with business value and definable growth potential, go back through this list and see what can be addressed.
And if you have yet to begin that collaboration, we hope this guide helps you launch from a solid foundation.
In this white paper, we describe the Five Pillars that leaders of companies in transition can lean on to build.
BS LLC offers branding, strategy, and design solutions because we believe that businesses operate at their highest growth potential when guided by a holistic set of goals, informed by shared values, and driven by well-crafted tools.
If you would like to learn more about how BS LLC can help you grow from the inside out, please send us a message or give us a call. Additionally, you can take an in-depth look at our services and resources.
Contact Ben Greenberg