Post by Brian Tane

After over a decade as the owner of a creative service agency, I recently had the opportunity to be on the other side to experience the process as a client. As our company entered a growth phase in early 2015, I set out to work with three agencies over the course of a year to create a new brand identity, website, and office space that we ultimately moved into last month. In the end, my takeaway came down to three main components that need to be present throughout the lifespan of a project, and they’re all right there in the title – Creative. Service. Agency.

CREATIVE

From small shops to mid-size and large agencies, there’s no shortage of talent out there. But one thing I’m now sure all clients go through is the difficult process of pulling that creative out of the team they’re working with. As impressive as an agency’s work samples can be, once you start getting into the work, it’s rare that the first iterations of drafts will be close to samples you initially admired. You’ll see great ideas and glimpses of the possibilities, but as with all creative endeavors, it’s going to be a process getting to an amazing final product. If you do find someone who is able to get close to 90% or so with a first draft, that’s huge. This typically happens when you combine talent and creativity with astute listening and an ability to understand the client/brand you’re working with.

Even in the best case scenario, there is a lot of back and forth. So while your initial decision on who to hire may have been based on the creative you saw, there’s a second crucial phase of the process – Service.

SERVICE

Service is being responsive, detailed, and assuring. It’s being on top of things and ahead of deadlines. While it’s not that difficult to spot talent during your initial agency search, the real gems are the ones who can match their creative acumen with equal expertise in the service they provide.

Collaboration and trust, qualities which are challenging to muster in the most ideal environment and especially difficult when working with a client for the first time, are essential to successful creative service. How you get there with a creative agency you’re working with for the first time takes a lot of communication and good old-fashioned hard work.

AGENCY

There can be a lot of gray areas in creative services. After all, every project is essentially a custom job. What’s right or wrong? When is something done? It can be very subjective and can sometimes lead to a lot of push and pull, but if the agency support is there throughout the process, things typically go smoothly.

The agency is the reinforcement behind your day-to-day contacts (i.e. producers and project managers). As a whole, the agency takes care of you and makes sure you’re having a positive experience across the board. A good agency will allow you to benefit from experienced creatives, project managers who are on top of the details, and senior-level team members who manage the budget so you feel you’re getting value on top of excellent creative.

What should you look out for the next time you’re searching for a creative service agency? Creativity and style are key, but it’s also important to dig a little deeper. Learn about service and management styles through referrals and find the right size agency that will help you enjoy the process and create amazing work. In the end my time on the client side proved to be an invaluable experience that I would recommend to any agency owner looking to learn more about running his or her own business.