Whether you’re looking to expand your brand’s reach, get help on a particularly tricky campaign, or need a complete overhaul of your brand’s story, working with a branding agency can give you the resources and expertise you need to reach your goals. What’s more, an effective agency can help you go even farther, providing ideas and solutions you might not have even considered. As such, working with an agency is often a great way for a brand to reach new heights in its storytelling.
Smart brands see an agency partnership as exactly that – a partnership. The best agency relationships take a collaborative approach, allowing open communication and ideas to flow both ways. However, many brands might not realize how much preparation and work goes into cultivating a productive agency partnership. In this guide, we’ll dive a little deeper into how a brand design agency can serve your brand, along with 10 tried and true tips that will help you get the most out of your partnership.
The biggest benefits of working with a branding agency
Deciding to work with a full-service creative agency can be a big step for your team – and one that can ultimately propel your brand forward in exciting ways. Here are just a few of the top benefits brands can expect when partnering with an agency.
Access to niche expertise
A lot goes into planning and executing a great marketing campaign or brand strategy. And while your in-house team might have an incredible amount of experience and know-how, we’ve often found that in-house teams lack the full amount of resources they need to successfully move forward on projects of this scope.
When you work with a full-service creative agency, you have access to niche expertise and skills that might not be represented in your in-house team. From graphic designers to professional photographers, SEO experts, copywriters, and more, creative agencies employ the best of the best, leaving no creative stone unturned. And when your project hits a snag or needs a new direction, your agency team can connect you with the talent needed to push that project forward.
You and your team can focus on what you do best
When you’re working on a project with a lot of moving parts, it’s important to not stretch you or your team too thin. A brand agency can give you more people to work with, giving your team the space to focus on what you do best. Whether that’s overall ideation, strategy, or something else, your agency team will take care of anything that’s not currently in your wheelhouse.
A brand design agency can give you a new perspective on your brand
You already know your brand inside and out. Still, it’s always helpful to bring fresh eyes to a project or idea. Sometimes when you’ve been immersed in a brand for a long time, it can be difficult to look beyond what that brand has done in the past. Your agency team will undoubtedly bring a new perspective on your brand to the table, opening up the door to a whole host of new and exciting creative insights you can weave into your strategy.
There are even more benefits to working with a brand design agency. The catch is, if you want to reap these benefits, you’ll need a strategic approach and vision. In our experience, brands that come in prepared tend to get the most out of their project (and often end up coming back for more). We’ve put together a few guidelines and recommendations to help set your brand/agency partnership up for success from day one.
10 tips to get the most out of your agency partnership
Teaming up with a branding agency can add incredible value to your operations and help differentiate your brand from the competition. Here’s our advice on how to make that happen:
Choose the right SOW
When you first approach an agency, you’ll likely bring a clear idea of what you’re looking to accomplish. Or, if you need extra help ideating, you’ll at least know where you want to end up. Your agency can help synthesize any of these ideas into clear, actionable tasks and goals. But before launching your project, you’ll want to work together with your agency to define a clear statement of work (SOW).
Lack of clarity can kill your project before it even leaves the ground. To ensure both parties are on the same page, make sure both your SOW and brief(s) include a detailed account of the scope of work you’re expecting. Outline roles, responsibilities, and make sure they are ultimately aligned with your overall brand goals and vision.
This period is also a great opportunity to refine and clarify your SOW. For example, if your agency has recommended SEO guidance but you’d rather them handle SEO completely, you can redefine your SOW to reflect that. Or if there’s something that doesn’t make sense or is too vague, you can ask for more detail.
Establish a clear point of contact
Too often, brands have too many points of contact from their agency, which can lead to confusion, miscommunications, or worse – things falling through the cracks. From day one, both you and the branding agency you’re working with should establish a clear point of contact for each side. Someone who you can go to for clarity, updates, and help. And if you need to have more than one point of contact, make sure to create a proper protocol for sharing information (for example, when/who to CC on email correspondence).
Set your agency up for success
Your full-service creative agency of choice can do incredible work, but only if you set them up to. Before your agency partners can move forward with their SOW, your in-house team will want to share any and all relevant materials you have on hand. This could include everything from social media logins to established brand guidelines or playbooks. If you have big ‘nos’ or things you want to avoid, you’ll also want to share these.
If you’ve worked with another agency in the past, it can also be helpful to provide any materials (reports, marketing materials, etc) from that past relationship. Especially if you’re looking to compare past performance or measure up current projects against previously set benchmarks, these resources can come in handy.
Get your agency excited about what you’re doing
The most inspired ideas come from people who are truly passionate about what they’re working on. It’s a given that you and your in-house team are inspired by or passionate about your brand – but what about your agency? Agencies work with multiple brands, often at the same time, which means it’s important to make a point of getting your agency team stoked to work with your brand.
There are a few ways you can go about this. It should go without saying that your initial meeting with an agency should inform them about exactly who your brand is. Take this opportunity to not just inform, but tell a story. Share how your brand came to be, how it’s different from competitors, and how it makes an impact on the communities or audiences it serves.
If your brand is product-based, consider getting that product in the hands of your agency team. Trust us – it’s much easier to approach creative projects when you have actually used the product. And, if your team loves the product, they’ll be much more engaged in their work with you.
Approach your relationship with your branding agency as a partnership
We’ve mentioned this several times already, but brands should always approach an agency relationship as a true partnership. What do we mean by partnership? To us, a partnership happens when both parties respect each other, prioritize communication, and see each other as creative equals.
Instead of thinking of your agency as just another vendor, treat them as a true ally. Instead of telling them what to do, allow room for collaboration and co-ideation. Embracing this idea of partnership is key to building trust between both teams, and will ultimately result in a better relationship, and better work.
Create a clear approval and feedback process
This goes back to setting up a clear SOW. Before you give the green light on any new project, outline a step-by-step approval and revision process, and make sure everyone involved is briefed on it. If you want to give your agency full creative control and would rather take a hands-off approach, great – but make sure that’s clear upfront. The same goes if you would rather have a more active hand in each step of the process. Outlining how many rounds of revisions are standard, along with agreeing on a clear format for giving and receiving feedback will ensure everyone is aligned and no one feels micromanaged.
Make sure to have a clear timeline on projects
Oftentimes, brands don’t realize just how long a given project can take from start to finish. This then leads them to rush their agency team, eliminating much-needed time for creative thinking and experimentation. If you’re working on a tight schedule, let your agency know. That way, they can allocate their time and resources in a way that gets the most productive work done in the timeframe you have allotted.
On the other hand, if you’re not racing to the finish line, it can be easy for certain projects and tasks to fall through the cracks. This is where regular communication is key. Don’t let weeks or even months go by without making a decision or providing feedback. This regular communication is key to keeping your partnership running like a well-oiled machine.
Any great relationship needs consistent, honest communication, and your relationship with your agency is no different. Don’t be afraid to share the good, bad, and ugly. If you like where things are going, tell them! A little praise and positive reinforcement can go a long way. Of course, if you’re not as happy with where things are headed, don’t wait to provide that much-needed feedback. Stay honest and clear in your communication, and your agency partners will do the same for you.
Also consider meeting face-to-face regularly, whether that’s in person or virtually. A lot can get missed through email. In our experience, the best ideas come from intentionally putting heads together and talking things out.
Go deeper with your feedback
We’ve all had someone say, “I don’t like it” in reference to something without providing any explanation of why. It feels frustrating, and can make it hard to chart a different path forward. When providing feedback to the team, go into as much detail as possible. Explain what’s working and why, along with what’s not working and why. When possible, tie this back to your business or project’s overarching objectives. This kind of actionable feedback is much more helpful to teams and can give them a clear direction of where to go from there.
Whether you want help with all the parts of your brand strategy or just one piece, a great creative agency can help you strengthen your brand and turn your audience into advocates. Learn more about how we create citizens for your brand here.