Riddle me this – In what profession are you a social media manager on Monday, an human resource specialist on Tuesday, a business analyst on Wednesday, an account manager on Thursday, and an administrative assistant on Friday? You guessed it – a small business owner.
Small business owners literally wear all the hats, and often more than one at a time. When you’re just starting out, you want to keep your costs low and do it all yourself. It’s your vision, and who better than you to execute strategy on all fronts? This plan might work for a while, but as your business grows and becomes more successful (#winning), it’s going to get harder to keep it all together by yourself.
When the time comes, most don’t think twice about bringing in an accountant or legal expertise for their input. They can do certain tasks faster and more effectively than you ever could. Besides, your time is better spent growing your business. Another professional you should loop in sooner rather than later: creatives.
In the beginning, you had a mission statement and a fondness for PANTONE 7703 C. That translated into a website with some copy you crafted on your own. Perhaps you post on your social accounts with images you captured or downloaded for free. It all looks somewhat consistent and has gotten you thus far.
Why do you even need a creative agency to step in?
A creative agency will help you decide on a branding strategy to present to the public. What’s your story? It’s more than logos and slogans and blog content (although that’s part of it!). You’ll end up with a strong and consistent voice that will appeal to your target demographic. This should ideally assist in delivering meaningful results for your business.
If you’re going down the path of working with a creative agency, it’s a good route to take to lock down the pillars of your brand. Here are a few things you can expect from the experience, and insight on how to get the most from it.
While the intention is not to break the bank, you shouldn’t go into this looking for a steal of a deal or with the mindset to get it done as inexpensively as possible. Take the time to educate yourself on costs and the value equation agencies offer. Decide what you can do now and what can come down the line. Creative agencies will work hard to stay within the budget, but things happen. Extra revisions might be needed, or something was uncovered that shifts the original scope of work. Cushion your budget to account for the unexpected. With all things in life, you get what you pay for.
Do the homework, and ask questions
The creative agency will most likely have a lot of questions ready to throw at you during the discovery phase. The goal is to learn about your brand, your unique needs, the problems you’re facing, and your prior attempts to solve them. Be thoughtful and thorough with your answers. The agency will also be doing research of their own, including learning about your competitors. Share your knowledge, share your goals and what success looks like for you. If you have any visual inspiration (images, sketches), share that too. Voice any concerns and ask questions up front and throughout your engagement. The more you and your agency are aligned, the better.
Trust the experts
Once you’ve locked in a creative agency, it’s time to do a trust fall. Kidding. Please don’t do this. You will, however, need to trust that you’ve brought on experts who have expertise. You wouldn’t go into a mechanic’s garage and dictate how they diagnose and repair your car, would you? Most would not. You recognize that they are professionals. The same applies here. Trust your creative agency to get things done with the tried-and-true processes they have in place.
Trust the process(es)
There could be brainstorming sessions, mind-mapping tools, documentation of customer journeys, or maybe even some non-traditional approaches to get the creative juices flowing. With agencies, there is a process for everything, but there is a method to the madness. The process could also take longer than you might expect. When you’re used to having to make all the decisions, you might decide and execute on a task within the same hour. An amazing website or a stunning logo design takes time, and to have it done right is worth the wait.
The creative process has many, many moving parts. Miscommunications or oversights can delay work. Feedback and input are needed throughout the journey. If you’re working with a team on your end, be prompt about gathering everyone’s feedback in a timely manner. If there are files you need to share with the agency, be prompt about sending them in a reasonable amount of time. Never leave a request unanswered, even if the answer is that you’re working on it.
Creative agencies can help you tell the story behind your business, product, or service in the most creative and compelling way possible. They provide real strategies that produce lasting results. Going into the relationship with some knowledge of what to expect will aid in helping you get the most of it.