Advice for agencies (from a client)
Going from agency to in-house has given me a whole new perspective on the client/agency relationship. I'd like to think it has helped me empathise agencies. It has certainly shown me how wrong some creative groups can get it though. All the way from an initial approach to the handling ongoing partnerships.
No names or malice, just some sincere advice for anyone in an agency hoping to form a mutually beneficial working relationship:
1. Don't skip the heirachies
If a manager makes a decision, don't undermine it by going to that manager's boss.
2. Don't be afriad to say "i don't know"
Blagging insight or experience is only ever going to lead to an embarrassing unveiling of the truth.
3. Don't pretend to be experts in everything
Focus on what you do best and don't grab at everything going past the window.
4. Do proactively pitch ideas
If you've got a truelly great idea, then it's a client's obligation to listen and make it happen. Don't always wait for the brief.
5. Do meet as many people in the business as possible
By getting to know all of the teams you can build up a better picture of what life is like for the client, therefore what influences their decisions and ultimately making your job easier. It also helps maintain the relationship if your contact moves on.
6. Do maintain contact if there is interest
Sometimes you need to do the chasing. I know that's not very nice, but if a client states an interest you have the right to hassle the hell out of them. It's not an annoyance, if they are keen, but disorganised.
7. Never, ever make up spurious charges
It's no secret that if you start at reduced rates you have to make up profits later down the line - that's fine, but don't try to drop in charges for random nonsense. From my experience Marketing Managers have no problem paying for expertise, so make the charges up in time, not "DVD burning project management" or "checking the flux capacitor"
8. Don't be afraid to turn a bad brief on it's head
Everyone who has worked in an agency has had a bad brief. More often than not it's because it was born from a confused business decision. Sometimes it's easier to see a more graceful or effective solution from the outside, so stand up and show the client how it can be done better.
9. Know when to back off
Regardless of how long a client has worked with an agency or well the agency knows the business, it will never be privvy to the whole picture. Although it's good for agencies to challenge and push clients, there is also a point at which an internal team must resolve it's problems on it's own. Learn to detect when internal ranglings are happening and back away.