Dear Karin, it was good to read your blog post about the 7 steps to think about when buying services from an agency. I agree with everything that you wrote. The importance of a good brief cannot be overstated. In addition, let me give you a few reflections from a buyer’s perspective. This is based on 25 years of experience of sourcing global and local agencies.
Why work together?
As a buyer you need to ask yourself the question; why does this agency want to work with us? Are they prepared to walk the extra mile to deliver sustainable business results to us? Or, are they under financial pressure, and thus hunting for new projects? Do they focus on finding projects that can win them prestigious advertising awards, or are there other reasons?
The answer to the above questions might give you a hint on how the project will work out. In the best case you find that the two-way contribution is bigger than just exchange of services against money. When this happens you will find yourself in a relationship that makes all parties grow. Like a perfect marriage.
What about expectations?
Clarify the expectations on each other. How do you expect everyone to act and behave in the project? This translates into ways-of-working. Time spent on making the partner understand me and my business is well spent time. You might think we mean the same thing when we refer to ‘customers’, ‘online’, ‘digital’, ‘markets’, etc. but do we really? Many projects suffer from delays when you suddenly find out that you have been using the same words but actually meant different things. Get to know each other before the project starts!
Do you dare to be transparent?
Shit happens. Deal with it. Be clear on how deviations from the time plan or scope should be handled. And most important, be open and transparent! Flag delays or problems immediately and don’t wait until asked. This gives all involved a fair chance to do a professional job.
Do we have all the facts?
Sometimes we have to make assumptions because we simply do not have answers. But, before making an assumption make sure you have made your research. Try to work with facts as far as possible. If something seems unclear, it probably is. And, this adds risk to a project. If you have to make an assumption be clear with it since you might find the facts during the project. Be clear on what to do when this happens. In the worst case it might change the scope of the project.
Are you prepared for change?
Does the project deliver a new way of working or new channels, etc.? Many projects in the online or digital arena actually do. If so, we will be facing a change internally, maybe even a change in mindset. Do not underestimate the time it takes to manage this change. Can the project team drive the change or should others be involved? A marketing project in the online area often impact other parts of the company’s resources and as a buyer of a project it is my responsibility to ensure that the consequences are communicated and understood within the company. An agency cannot assume this responsibility.
What is your experience of purchasing projects from an agency?
Thanks Hans for the post and please leave us and Hans a comment or send your thoughts.