Collaborative partnership between clients & agencies

Author
Updated on
May 11, 2024

There is significant challenge that many agencies and their clients face, especially within the realms of creative and strategic partnerships like those found in branding and communication design. The relationship between a client and an agency is indeed pivotal, akin to a collaborative partnership rather than a straightforward vendor transaction.

One of the main thing both parties need to focus is to decide who takes the final decision? One of or client recently told us, no brand is build by being democratic. Someone need to believe in a strategy and move ahead. Trying to merge different strategies and ideas will only dilute things. One issue we recently came across is different stakeholders coming into the picture at different stages. Someone is briefing you, someone else is in the strategy meeting giving you directions and someone else is giving feedback on execution. There is no single thought which is going to get implemented well in this scenario. There is no single ownership here.

Building a positive partnership with a design studio begins with honesty and transparency about budgets and expectations. It's important to communicate openly about constraints and collaboratively explore how to fit the project within those limits. Fair negotiations and recalibrating expectations foster respect and happiness, ensuring that creative partners are motivated to deliver their best work. Conversely, telling a design partner they're more expensive than others can signal dismissiveness of their success, flawed comparison parameters, and an assumption of desperation, all of which convey arrogance and disrespect. Respectful and honest communication is key to successful partnerships.

You make an agency chase for money after they raise an invoice, you will never get the best work, period.

Understanding the Collaborative Partnership

1. Mutual Respect and Understanding: Just as a personal trainer must understand their client's physical condition, limitations, and goals, an agency must grasp the client’s brand ethos, market position, and strategic objectives. Respect for each agency's expertise and client's brand knowledge underpins successful collaborations.

2. Open Communication: Key to any successful partnership is the ability to communicate openly and regularly. Clients and agencies should feel comfortable exchanging ideas, concerns, and feedback. This transparency helps in aligning goals and expectations from the outset, reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings and discontent.

3. Constructive Feedback: The culture of feedback is often skewed towards the negative. Encouraging a more balanced feedback approach that highlights both positives and areas for improvement can lead to more productive outcomes and a more motivated team. Positive feedback not only reinforces what works but also builds confidence and trust between the client and the agency.

4. Education and Knowledge Sharing: Clients have deep insights into their own industries which agencies might not possess initially. Sharing this knowledge can empower agencies to make more informed decisions and create outputs that are more aligned with the client’s needs. Conversely, agencies can provide clients with insights into the latest design trends, technological advancements, and strategic thinking, enriching the client's understanding and approach to their market.

5. Joint Problem Solving: When both parties view each other as partners, they're more likely to approach challenges collaboratively. Instead of placing blame, collaborative partners work together to find solutions, learning and adapting from each hurdle they overcome together.

Fostering a Positive Agency-Client Relationship

- Regular Workshops and Meetings: Regular sessions not only ensure that everyone is on the same page but also help in building rapport and a sense of shared mission.
 
- Joint Strategic Planning: Involving agencies in strategic discussions or planning sessions can help them better understand the broader context of their work and contribute more effectively.

- Recognition and Celebration of Successes: Celebrating milestones and successes together can reinforce a positive partnership and enhance mutual respect.

- Long-term Engagement Rather than Project-based Approaches: When clients engage with agencies on a long-term basis, it allows for deeper understanding and refinement of strategies and outputs over time.

By fostering a culture where feedback is constructive and communication is open, clients and agencies can create a more dynamic and successful partnership that benefits both parties extensively. This approach not only enhances the creative output but also builds a foundation for sustained success and cooperation.

If you are working with an agency, be a client who look at agencies as a collaborative partner, but more as a service vendor.

Providing feedback is a critical aspect of any creative and professional environment

Here's a structured approach to ensure feedback is effective, constructive, and conducive to growth:

 1. Setting Clear Expectations

- Define Goals: Clearly outline the objectives of the project and the roles of each team member. This sets a common ground for feedback.

- Clarify Criteria: Ensure everyone understands the standards and expectations for the work.

 2. Inspiring Through Feedback

- Motivate and Encourage: Use feedback as a tool to inspire higher standards of work rather than just ticking boxes.

- Focus on Improvement: Treat feedback as a stepping stone for growth, emphasizing progress over perfection.

 3. Balancing Positives and Negatives

- Acknowledge Efforts: Recognize and appreciate the hard work and dedication that went into the creation.

- Highlight Strengths: While it's easy to point out flaws, ensure to highlight the positive aspects and achievements.

 4. Establishing Context

- Understand the Project: Be aware of the project's stage, its goals, and the current state to give relevant feedback.

- Be Honest: Provide truthful feedback to clarify what is done well and what needs improvement.

 5. Encouraging Innovation and Self-Assessment

- Embrace New Ideas: Be open to innovative approaches, even if they come with a risk of failure.

- Self-Evaluation: Encourage team members to assess their own work, identifying strengths and areas for improvement.

 6. Guiding Through Questions

- Ask, Don’t Impose: Use questions to guide individuals towards their own solutions rather than imposing your ideas.

- Be Specific but Flexible: Offer detailed feedback while allowing room for the individual's creativity and perspective.

 7. Maintaining Objectivity

- Minimize Bias: Keep feedback objective and avoid letting personal preferences influence your critique.

- Consider the Audience: Evaluate the work from the target audience's perspective and suggest ways to better meet their needs.

 8. Using Client Feedback Effectively

- Frame Constructively: Use client feedback to show how the work meets the audience's needs rather than just as a checklist.

- Limit Feedback: Avoid overwhelming individuals with too much feedback at once. Prioritize the most critical points.

 9. Providing Examples

- Use Imperfect Examples: Even flawed examples can spark creativity and provide a reference point.

 10. Seeing Potential and Listening

- See Beyond Flaws: Recognize the potential in rough drafts and early versions of work.

- Listen and Learn: Understand the reasoning behind the creator's choices and build on their ideas.

 11. Maintaining Focus and Alignment

- Work Over Individuals: Ensure feedback is about the work itself, not a critique of the person.

- Align with Vision: Ensure your feedback supports the overall vision and goals of the project.

 12. Clarifying Intentions and Actionable Steps

- Constructive Intentions: Help individuals understand that feedback is meant to be constructive and not personal.

- Agree on Actions: Convert feedback into clear, actionable steps that can be realistically implemented.

 13. Supporting Creativity

- Team Effort: Remember that creativity thrives on collaboration and that every contribution is valuable.

- Have Fun: Make the feedback process engaging and enjoyable, fostering a positive and creative atmosphere.

Here’s a guide to how you can tailor your feedback to get the most out of people like us:

  1. Specificity: Clearly state what you don’t like.
  2. Reasoning: Explain why it doesn’t work for you.
  3. Suggestions: Offer ideas on what might work better.
  4. Examples: Provide examples to illustrate your point.
  5. Basis: Clarify if your feedback is based on research or personal opinion.

Using these points ensures constructive and actionable feedback, leading to better results.

Embracing Collaborative Creativity: A New Era in Branding and Communication

In 2024, audiences are no longer content to merely observe from the sidelines. Today's consumers and clients alike seek to comment, give feedback, and actively participate in the creative process. This shift towards experiential engagement has significant implications for branding and communication agencies, particularly those that cling to outdated paradigms.

For too long, agencies have treated clients as passive recipients of their award-winning genius, adhering to a status quo that fails to recognize the evolving landscape. In a world where clients are becoming increasingly creative, it's imperative to shift from working solely for them to working with them.

Recently, Canva's CMO Zach Kitschke's remarks at Cannes highlighted this very transition. When discussing the evolution of the Canva brand, Kitschke shared their experiences with traditional brand agencies. He noted:

> "This process they laid out was they would come in, do some interviews, have a few workshops, they’d go away for two months, squirrel away, and come back with our brand. This was something we felt a little uneasy about. Canva’s culture is incredibly collaborative; that’s a core driver of our success in many ways. We agonized and decided, let’s give it a go ourselves."

At Everything Design, we have been championing this collaborative approach from the outset. Our philosophy is simple: everything we create is the result of a synergistic effort between our team and our clients. We eschew the notion of grand reveals, opting instead for a process that is iterative, inclusive, and flexible. We believe in presenting options and possibilities, inviting input and fostering collaboration at every stage.

Our preferred method? Gathering around a table in person. We recognize that no agency can know a client's brand as intimately as the client themselves. Therefore, it is only logical to integrate the client's insights and expertise into the creative process. This collaborative dynamic not only enhances the final product but also ensures that it truly resonates with the brand's essence.

As the owner of Everything Design, I firmly believe in the unique magic that emerges from the interplay of an agency's external perspective and a client's internal knowledge. This creative tension and diversity of viewpoints drive innovation and push the boundaries of what is possible.

In conclusion, the future of branding and communication lies in collaboration. Agencies must evolve to meet the demands of an increasingly participative clientele. By embracing a cooperative approach, we can create more authentic, impactful, and resonant brand experiences. At Everything Design, we are committed to working with our clients, not just for them, to co-create the extraordinary.

Conclusion

Being supportive and constructive in your feedback can significantly enhance the creative process. By maintaining a positive, honest, and balanced approach, you help shape better work and foster a more collaborative and innovative environment.

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