How to get the most out of your agency: what we’ve learnt from working in our clients’ shoes

By: Louise Bredholt

You can only really understand someone when you’ve ‘worked’ in their shoes. So, at Decidedly we encourage our staff to take secondments; jumping the proverbial fence to work client-side. This has helped us gain a much deeper understanding of our clients’ businesses. But it’s also been a real eye opener for us – giving us some serious food for thought on how agencies and clients can work better together. Here are our top tips on what you can do to get the most out of your agency.

DON’T WAVE GOODBYE TO YOUR AGENCY AND WAIT FOR THEM TO COME BACK WITH A REPORT IN 3 MONTHS’ TIME

Working client-side has helped us understand changing priorities, needs and challenges – as they happen. And things change – all the time. Especially in fast-moving industries.

So, what does this mean for managing an agency? Well, the old model of briefing an agency and then waiting 3 months for them to report back, is dead. In this time, the business has moved on and there’s a risk that the work the agency was originally commissioned to do will no longer be relevant. Instead, keep your agency up-to-date with changes in the business as they happen. There are simple ways that this can be achieved like setting up a regular check in or a Slack channel to share information quickly and easily. With a finger on the pulse, your agency can craft actionable recommendations that make sense in the context of your business’s fast-changing world – getting you further, faster.

LET YOUR AGENCY CHALLENGE YOU

When you’re on secondment, you’re no longer a consultant with an ‘outside looking in’ approach. You become more immersed, more familiar with the company. This helped us realise that when you’re working client-side, it’s easy to get attached to the products you’re working on – they become your baby. And along with this greater sense of ownership, come a new set of challenges. It’s harder to remain objective; harder to criticise; and harder to make decisions.

Away from the fray, agencies can provide a valuable perspective. So, let your agency challenge you, your thinking and your product. Commissioning an agency just to show you’re on the right track is a recipe for disaster. Give your agency a voice so they can bring new perspectives, provide fresh inspiration and challenge the assumptions or accepted wisdoms that might have gone unchecked.

GRANT YOUR AGENCY ACCESS TO YOUR TEAM

When on a secondment, you have a crucial role as a bridge – connecting the right people and ideas to facilitate and create change. We found ourselves with access to people that we otherwise wouldn’t have, and this proved invaluable. It allowed us to get the killer insights from a piece of work to core stakeholders. But it was also crucial in getting ideas, insight and input from the right people upfront.

So, what’s the lesson here for clients working with agencies? Given them access to your team, your stakeholders. This will enable your agency to really understand the challenge, gather better insights and give contextualised recommendations. But it also means the job of circulating findings within your organisation – one of the trickiest bits of a research project – doesn’t rest on your shoulder’s alone.