How to Collaborate with a Creative Agency

Including how to use meetings effectively and tricks for keeping everyone engaged and updated.

Now that you know how to establish seamless process with an agency, we’re sharing tips for collaborating with your creative agency. 

First, we’ll cover some of the ways that you as a client can benefit from better collaboration with your agency partner. Then we’ll pass along insights and advice we’ve learned from decades of working both client and agency side.

The benefits of collaboration

While you might be used to working alongside your internal teams, taking on an agency partner requires some groundwork. By actively fostering positive collaboration between both teams, you minimize the guesswork, inconsistencies, and delays that are all-too-common when collaborating with a creative agency.

  • Better communication – For more clarity and less room for misunderstanding
  • Increased trust – Among new people and teams now working together
  • Faster turnaround – Thanks to fewer delays and back & forth  
  • Higher quality work – Collaboration helps fuel inspiration and execution

You have a lot to gain by putting a little effort into how to collaborate successfully with an agency. Read on for tried and true tips for building more collaborative and productive agency relationships.

Engage in the project

It’s inherently difficult to work together successfully if some stakeholders aren’t engaged. While you can outsource skills, knowledge, and time, as a client you still want to be actively involved throughout the project. 

At the early stages, don’t skip the creative brief. It’s like the blueprint for how to collaborate with your creative agency, and folks on all teams benefit from upfront clarity. After kicking off your project, stay engaged by communicating updates or changes in plans, responding to questions and requests from your agency, and offering insights that external stakeholders don’t yet know. For instance, maybe you have new learnings about your audience or industry that impact how to proceed with the design for a landing page.

Make attending meetings a priority

One way to help everyone be engaged is to attend meetings. Setting up regularly recurring meetings makes it easier for everyone to stay updated and accountable. For longer-term projects like a full website, each week Expand has a full team check-in with the client, and several internal check-ins with just the Expand team. Smaller or shorter projects might be fine with key milestone meetings, like for kickoff or reviewing work. 

A few tips for making meetings efficient and productive:

  • Keep meetings an hour or under, so folks don’t naturally lose attention
  • Come prepared with an agenda (and stick to it as best you can)
  • When there are 5 minutes left, recap key outcomes and action items
  • Share out decks and notes (and video recording, if available) post-meeting

When you can’t meet face-to-face, Zoom and other video meeting options make it easy to connect remotely. 

Adjust process as needed

Expand has a standard process we know works well, though we do adapt to a client’s process whenever that is the best option. In fact, we find that’s a key path for us to discover new things to refine our process, such as when working on large scale website projects. Whether you hire Expand or another agency, let your partner know if you have a required process or find things are smoothest a certain way. 

One question we get a lot from new clients figuring out how to collaborate with an agency is:

“How should we communicate and update each other?” In our experience, identifying a central source of truth is ideal during kickoff so the entire project can run smoothly. 

For instance, how will updates get shared and where will all files, requests, and other key items live? The more people involved, the more Expand recommends relying on project management software as the single source of truth. That way, nothing gets lost in an unread Slack message or email. We’re partial to Asana because it’s especially useful for web projects, but we collaborate successfully with clients who use Trello, Wrike, and other platforms too.

Communicate proactively 

One of the most valuable things any client can do is communicate. While agencies might specialize in web or branding, none we know of are mindreading experts. The information you share can help save time and effort, produce better work, and also build trust and respect with your agency.

Don’t be scared to give feedback, it’s a primary way for us to validate if something is or isn’t working. The positive feedback confirms we’re heading in the right direction, while constructive feedback helps us course correct and learn so we can be the best partner for you. We’ll share tips and tricks for effectively communicating feedback in the next post in this series.

Another thing to let your agency know about during a project include any shifts to goals, priorities, or dates. With this info, they can switch directions or update timelines as needed to best suit your project. It also helps to ask questions, so don’t be afraid to speak up when you’re unsure about a process or a creative decision. Chances are, someone else had the same question, or your question leads to even more useful ideas and info being shared with the group.

Share knowledge and inspiration

Keep in mind your external partners aren’t privy to your inner workings or latest news. Just like it helps to proactively inform your agency about changes in plans, it’s also very productive to share knowledge and inspiration.

After all, you’re the key to your brand’s success, because you know it better than anyone. To your agency partner, you are the subject matter expert for anything related to your company, industry, and audience. No matter how talented and inspired our team is, your internal expertise is a critical part to making magic happen.

For instance, we particularly work best when clients share examples of what they like or are thinking. Sometimes it’s your own visuals or copy, other times it might be reference material from competitors or even completely different industries. The more concrete context we have, the easier the process goes and the better our work becomes.

Ready to collaborate with an agency?

Contact us below to share a bit about your project. We’re here to help, whether you’re new to or have plenty of experience working with a creative agency. Along the way, we’ll continue sharing insights and tips to best support your goals, just like we’ll work our hardest to deliver the best work possible. 

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