Working with an agency: tips from our clients

By Rob Brown

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Working with an agency: tips from our clients

Taking the leap to invest in design and digital

At JUMP we know that our relationships with our customers are important, but how does it feel on the other side of the coin? We wanted to understand how our customers felt about embarking on a project with an agency, investing in a piece of work that is designed to have a significant impact on their business.

We spoke to three of JUMP’s valued clients to see things from their perspective:

For Rhian Lewis at Kiku, having worked with JUMP to create a brand and website for her Counselling practice several years ago, she was now planning to launch Kiku https://www.wearekiku.com an ambitious national online service for therapists and their customers. She knew an off-the-shelf approach wouldn't work for the multi-faceted platform and that she needed to commission a bespoke piece of work from an agency that would exactly fit her requirements.

Penny Randell is Director of Ecological Building Systems https://www.ecologicalbuildingsystems.com who sell sustainable building materials. For them it was time to take a more strategic approach to their online presence, expanding their eCommerce capabilities and exploring the best approach for their UK and Irish audiences.

Charlotte Windebank is the owner and Managing Director at First https://www.youarefirst.co.uk, who work with young people, start-ups and employees. The organisation had reached a stage where they wanted to work with a professional team to rebrand the company and build a new website. Charlotte felt that their existing brand had worked well for them so far but that it was the right moment to make it a priority as the public face of the business “You take a bootstrap approach and evolve as a company, but at the point where it becomes a blocker to progress, you know you need to take that step”.

Commissioning the work

So how do you choose an agency to work with who will deliver what you need? For all of our customers, we know that trust is hugely important.  

Charlotte admits that investing in both a new brand and website for First all at once was not entered into without significant nervousness, but she knew that they were ready for the next step. “Our approach previously had been a mixture of favours from willing friends to get us started and some difficult supplier relationships - a lack of responsiveness that eroded my trust”

Of course there are various things that can help with this - seeing examples of past work, talking to organisations that have worked with the agency in the past and seeing evidence that they have delivered similar projects well. All of these are crucial to a successful project, but more critical still is the working relationship between you and the agency.

Charlotte says it’s not even the trust of the organisation, it’s key people that you place your trust in. Rhian agrees that the relationships are fundamental for her “If there was anyone central to the team that I didn’t like it really wouldn’t work” She says “Because I’d had a good experience with JUMP previously, I trusted you to deal with something this big. I don’t know if I’d have had the confidence to go ahead with something on this scale if I hadn’t already had those working relationships in place and that trust in place”.

Unfortunately, there is no recipe for predicting a good working relationship, and what works for one team may not be right for another, but as a starting point, face to face meetings are the best way to establish that rapport and to get a gut feel if the people in the room are right for you.

Communication

At JUMP we place a lot of emphasis on the discovery phase for both creative and digital work. For Charlotte, that time spent at the beginning of the process was important. “We’d given you a lot of information, you’d listened to everything we said, it was like a counselling session!”. It also sets the scene for informed discussions throughout the project.

We always say that you know your business better than us. The experience should therefore be collaborative between company and agency, with both respecting the others' experience, but feeling able to challenge each other constructively. “You need to have someone there who’s not just going to blow smoke up you” says Rhian, “Someone who will be upfront and tell you if they don’t feel something is right...I really appreciated that”

Branding projects can really challenge client-supplier relationships as you’re dealing with subjective opinions. Rhain believes that being open is really important “you can be trapped or blinkered in your thinking”. Charlotte’s tip was to take your time, let it sink in as a rebrand can be a huge change when you are close to something.

The digital world brings its own challenges however, with specific terminology and technical knowledge. Each of our customers dealt with this in different ways. First had some knowledge internally, Ecological Building Systems hired a dedicated employee with technical knowledge to oversee the process. For Rhian, the complexity of the Kiku platform was beyond her knowledge from a technical perspective, but she had a clear idea of what she needed it to do. “It was a long but crucial process of hashing out “what does that look like, why does it have to be that way…” She says that there was education on both sides, from me about my business, and from JUMP on the practical implementation. “I couldn't have worked with a team that didn’t make that kind of time, and weren't prepared to have those conversations. Some people aren't prepared to step down to your level or might be dismissive, but I never felt that”.

This is where the relationships and trust really come to the fore, having people that you feel at ease with, especially having those difficult conversations, is the difference between a project that feels like an enjoyable process and one that feels like an uphill struggle. We also advise one project lead from the client-side takes the lead, as with all the projects here, having that consistency and single ‘source of truth’ helped to ensure there was a clear trail of communication.

Advice

We asked our three customers for their top tips on undertaking this kind of work:

Trust: “You have to trust one another. Trust that is based on experience and expertise”.

Clarity: “You need to be really clear in your own mind what it is that you are trying to create and then continuing to communicate throughout the project is important”.

Dedication: “Don’t underestimate how consuming the process is, but it is worth it. There’s got to be dedication by the whole team to bring it together, if the whole team isn't on board then it’s never going to work”.

Humanness: “Allowing for the humanness of it. And with something this big - there’s going to be something that is missed or even that changes. It evolves and you need to communicate and allow space for the creative process. Allow it to be messy sometimes. Especially when you are creating something. “True collaboration is how the good stuff can really happen”.

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