So you're just starting to execute a campaign with your new agency, that's great!
You've made it through the kick off meeting without incident and now are digging in on what exactly needs to be done to move your digital campaign forward. For most, this is the time where you really get to see what your agency is made of. Meetings and glad-handing are over and now all of those involved with creating and executing the campaign must begin to walk the walk.
Any sense of excitement and anticipation for the campaign can quickly be quashed by an underwhelming first deliverable from your agency, no matter if it's a piece of documented strategy or a web design comp. That first piece, above almost all else, will set the tone for expectations moving forward for both sides of the campaign. It's important for both parties to properly prepare for and handle that first deliverable.
There are a number of key moments that occur between an organization and agency that will define the two's entire relationship. Depending on how both sides handle those moments, either a short-lived client-vendor interaction or long-term partnership will be the result. Knowing this, it's important that you understand what these moments are, what they mean to both sides, and how you can properly navigate through them. Going through all these things will help you and your digital marketing agency build a true partnership.
Key Moment: The First Deliverable
The first deliverable from the agency to its client holds a lot of tension on both sides. With the two teams properly introduced and the campaign moving from kick off to execution time, the expectation for progress, and possibly even results start to grow. If the agency's sales team was thorough in preparing the client for what to expect in a campaign with them, then there should be little doubt over what will be delivered, when and at what overall quality. With that being said, sales may not always be as forward thinking as they should and clients may be holding back a list of expectations that the agency's team may never be able to meet.
From a client perspective, you will want the campaign's first deliverable to meet a number of different expectations of yours on the first try.
Firstly, you'll want it to be delivered to you on time based on whatever timeline was established at the beginning of the campaign. After having cut a check with your agency, you want to be able to see measurable progress toward campaign execution or goals. The delivery of items when promised is the first sign of that.
After on-time delivery, many clients in your position are looking for deliverables (especially the first) to be on target based on what was discussed in both the sales cycle and the kick-off meeting. It's one thing to discuss direction and specifics, but it's another to see if your agency adequately understands what was covered in the initial onboarding and discover process.
Finally, one of the most important things that any client is looking for in the first deliverable is the quality and detail shown. The main reason behind hiring an agency is because they have knowledge, skills, and abilities outside of your own and their deliverables should speak to that. Expectations of being impressed are always high when it comes to the delivery of items from the agency to client and if the first deliverable doesn't meet them then tensions can grow.
If any of the three expectations listed above aren't met by the agency, doubt can quickly turn to frustration for you, effectively changing your perception of your agency and everything they do and deliver for you.
From an agency's perspective, the first deliverable is the opportunity to showcase its expertise, capabilities, and overall campaign processes. Once delivered, they are looking for the client to handle the review process in a few specific ways.
In many cases, the beginning of a campaign is a hectic and fast-paced time. The agency has a number of tasks and deliverables that must be completed within a certain time frame that are often dependent on others' completion. Knowing this, timely feedback from the client on any and all deliverables (especially the first) is extremely important as it allows the agency's team greater amounts of time to judge current alignment and implement any tweaks as necessary. If anything in that first deliverable is "off" in the eyes of the client, it's better to hear it within the first 24 hours of delivery versus a week later, after the team has begun work on other items.
Outside of timeliness of feedback, agencies are obviously looking for quality feedback on their deliverables from their clients. No self-respecting agency wants to deliver a piece of work that doesn't meet reasonable client expectations and while many will aim to impress with their first pass on a piece of work for a client, things can understandably miss the mark in a client's eyes from time to time. Knowing this, agencies look to their clients to provide quality, sometimes brutally honest, feedback on items they deliver for review so that they can ultimately meet any and all expectations that the client has.
Without timely, high-quality feedback from a client, agencies can feel directionless and unsure of the status of their relationship with a new client, ultimately leading to concerns over the validity of their "partnership."
How to Properly Navigate the First Deliverable
When client expectations and agency needs meet, the best way to ensure that both parties walk away with what they need from the first deliverable is to properly communicate.
Knowing what expectations you as a client have is a great start. Sadly, it's absolutely useless if your agency is unaware of some or all of them. Properly communicating what you're looking for from deliverables both in the sales cycle and after the campaign kickoff meeting is critically important if you want to receive what you're looking for. Once these expectations are properly shared with the team, understanding that initial deliverables are often considered working pieces is also key. You now understand that agencies often need timely feedback to finalize deliverables and should focus your efforts on providing this in a constructive manner. This certainly doesn't mean you should overlook errors of any kind, but you should hold serious judgment until consistent negative patterns start to show themselves.
As an agency, plenty of issues can be avoided through proper education of the client on your delivery scope and process both during the sales cycle and once the campaign has started. Understanding the different clients have different expectations, proactively starting a conversation surrounding specific expectations will also help you map out areas of focus for your team to hit in order to move the review and revision process along faster.
The most productive and rewarding client-agency relationships are those that are viewed as a partnership between equals. Without understanding each other's perspectives, objectives, expectations, and processes, it can be hard for both teams to truly work synergistically together and easy to forget the overall goals of the relationship. The first deliverable is just one key moment in a relationship that will define how you will work with an agency.
You may not be able to control what your agency initially delivers to you but understanding their paradigm and processes might just be able to help you better handle the campaign execution process moving forward with your agency.