I have lived on both sides of the table. Client and Agency. I can’t say I prefer one over the other. And at times when I am at an agency I am also the client as I hire creatives, strategists and various other team members based on the project.
But. As we all know there are those clients who don’t even know how to be clients. Maybe they’ve never hired agencies before, maybe they’ve never built a campaign before or have any idea what the words CPM or Engagement mean. All that aside there are a few guidelines anyone working with their agency could live by that would make all lives easier.
#1. Good. Fast. Affordable. Pick.
You get two of these. Only two. Pick them. Stick with them. There’s no changing your mind mid stream unless you want creatives using your photo as a voodoo doll while they are thinking up your big idea.
#2 Use your words.
Feedback is a curious thing. Feed. Back. Think about it. Be helpful. “I just don’t like it”. “I find it dull” and comments of that nature aren’t helping anyone. (Again voodoo doll). Learn to develop full thoughts. Could we move the image to the top? Does the blue need to be so bright? Can we choose a different font? These are helpful comments. They will get you where you want to be faster instead of everyone standing around playing the marketing world’s version of pin the tail on the donkey.
#3 Respect deadlines
We are all here because you invited us. You have given us a task and we are all trying to make it happen. When we say we need feedback by a certain time. Try. Give it your all. We are and if we think you are too we will give a little more. But all this hurry up and wait is really soul crushing. We aren’t making things up. We may have built in cushion. But you’ve used it up. Twice. Respond. (And use your words)
#4 Empathize and have a sense of humor
We all know it sucks. We are all running around with our heads cut off. Could you stop for one moment and realize that we are working hard to meet the goal. “I’m sorry we were so late getting back to you” “I know you guys are working your asses off but we still aren’t there” – these are encouraging. These make us feel like you get it. “These are terrible why can’t you come up with anything better” – um – not so much. You put us all here with with last minute planning and we know you can’t control the world but could you at least recognize that we are all in it and while we are hired hands we do not live in feudal times. Show some respect to the people trying to bring it to life.
# 5 Pay your bills on time.
My best clients are agencies because they know the importance of paying on time. When your world revolves around project teams and bringing creators in and out of projects; a good way of keep those relationships intact is by paying people on time. Clients are not always as good at this and the notion of 30 days and 60 days seems somewhat of an outdated accounting practice. Especially so in our “creative class” “freelance nation”that Daniel Pink, and more recently Mary Meeker, have defined as our new economy. I always wonder how much healthier our economy would be if the freelance creative /agency world was always paid on time.
So there is my simple list. Sadly Emily Post is no longer with us or perhaps she might have some better thoughts around this than mine. But today this is my best advice for the inexperienced “client”.
We look forward to working with you (and putting away our voodoo dolls).