The agency game: 10 tips for working with agencies


So far in The agency game, I’ve provided reasons why your business should consider working with an agency and then some tips on choosing the right one for you. If you’ve now gone and hired an agency, congratulations. The hard work has only just begun.

Despite the romantic ideal of love conquering all, in reality relationships need work. Same goes for your new partnership with this creative, ad or design agency. All love advice columnists say that there are simple things you can do to ensure strong and successful relationships, so here are my 10 tips for working with agencies.

Section 1

Get connected

get together

1. Assign a dedicated contact

Your agency has an account manager who is the main point of contact for your business. As well as knowing who this person is, select someone from your side who will have a handle on everything the agency is doing for you. This way you’ll ensure nothing gets lost in the cracks.

2. Develop personal connections

Bring the main teams from both sides together for dinner and invite the agency to your office so they can meet everyone else. This will help the agency be invested in your firm and you to build a better relationship with them.

Section 2

Educate the extended team

3. Get them hooked on what you do

Your agency should be immersed in your firm’s goals, processes and audience until they truly understand your business. If it’s feasible for them to use your product or service, give them free accounts or samples so they get first-hand experience of the benefits and potential shortcomings.

4. Set expectations up front

The common misperception is that agencies are always dreaming up crazy ideas. In fact, many are risk averse and prefer to maintain steady relationships with safe bet ideas. If you want innovation, make sure you say so.

5. Don’t blow off creative briefs

The creative brief is the most critical part of any campaign or project. A good one is a recipe for success, while a bad one is a sure path to a rocky relationship. Give the creative brief your full attention and if you need help, here are six tips for writing a great one.

Section 3

Establish process


6. Review your feedback loop

How you provide feedback on the ideas your agency’s creative team generate can be crucial to producing great work. Don’t be afraid to ask if your feedback was helpful and find out what you could do better during your next creative review.

7. Have a clear approval process

If you don’t have the final say, let the agency know in advance that final approval must come from someone else. You’ll save everyone a lot of frustration if you get buy-in from this person early in the creative process.

Section 4

Communicate regularly


8. Schedule regular meetings

In this article, Hightail COO, Mike Trigg acknowledges that he can be a difficult client who demands updates whenever he has time to think about the project. Having a regular meeting scheduled means updates will be provided proactively, helping you stay on top of things. Just ensure these meetings stay focused on high-level decisions and updates. Detailed tactical and creative discussions should happen elsewhere.

9. Over-communicate

Keep the agency up to date whenever your business has major changes to its priorities, product or personnel. Even if some news doesn’t seem all that relevant to them, it could open the door for opportunities you didn’t see.

10. Remember that you’re not their only client

Your agency has multiple clients and should prioritize their work accordingly. But sometimes one of these other clients will have an urgent issue requiring immediate attention. Be reasonable and work on establishing timelines and expectations in these situations. And remind yourself the next time they’re rushing around after you, that another client is now playing second fiddle.

Additional resources

Check out the rest of the agency relationship series.

  • Five reasons to consider an agency

  • Six tips for choosing an agency

  • Eight ways to leave your vendor