‘It’s not you, it’s me’.
Those five little words have the power to stop a person in their tracks and rain on anyone’s parade. Deep down you know the other person believes it’s ‘you’ and no amount of spin will change that.
Relationships in the real world can be hard work. They’re emotional rollercoasters that can send you soaring one minute and crashing down to earth the next, but working relationships needn’t be like this.
Rather than having to utter — or hear — those five little words, I believe all new client/agency relationships can progress quickly to the ‘promised land’ of fourth base without any need for heartbreak along the way.
First Base: Trust your gut
Without any doubt, as soon as you leave your first meeting with someone, you begin to ask yourself whether you like that person and what they were saying. We’re human and it’s how we interact. Those first impressions can have a lasting impact, and I have found that it is so important to trust them. This is certainly not to say you can’t be wrong, but more often than not that first reaction is spot on.
If you are left with any nagging doubts about whether the agency can deliver what you want, then don’t be afraid to walk away then and there. No one is going to take it personally and you can all save yourself a lot of problems in the long run.
You’ll know how you feel, so trust yourself and only move on if it feels right.
Second Base: Understanding your needs
So, the general consensus is you like the people you’ve met but can they deliver the work?
From an agency side, the initial brief we receive is so important: it is the foundation from which the relationship will grow.
Having your aims, outcomes, hopes and dreams down on paper gives us clear guidance on which way this journey can progress. It’s up to us to deliver on that, so the more information we get the better.
You can tell a lot about the organisation you might work with by how well they dissected and delivered creatively on your brief, and more importantly whether they’ve understood you and your audience.
If they present ideas that just feel like rehashed versions of what they’ve done for others, then it might be time to reassess before you’re involved too deeply.
Third Base: Be Honest
So they come back with their creative and it’s time to chat through the ideas. Arrange to get together with your key stakeholders and the agency to go through the proposal in person.
The worst thing you can do is not speak up if you are not happy with any elements. This is true at any stage of the working process.
The best clients are the ones that can constructively question ideas and have open conversations.
Likewise, those clients that are also happy to be proved wrong will get more value out of their relationship. After all, you are paying a company for its professional services — you would be silly not to listen to them.
Any agency not willing to bend on their idea because of their own attachment to it is probably not the one you are going to have a future with. It’s like the date that looks great on your arm and in photos but, deep down, they’re only interested in themselves.
Fourth Base: Open line of Communication
So, you’re rounding third base and heading for home. It could be argued that this is where the hard work really begins!
Open communication is the key to a successful relationship. We all invest a lot of time and money in the work that we do, and ultimately it benefits everyone that we get the right results.
Never be afraid to pick up the phone and chat through how things are going. Are there any further questions, anything to update or chat through? It’s too easy to hide behind email, and we lose that personal connection by using it all the time.
That said, picking up the phone every 10 minutes for updates would not endear you to anyone, so manage your communications wisely. No one wants to be stuck with the clingy person who wants to know what you’re up to every five minutes.
Remember, we’re all human
At the end of the day, we are all human. We are never going to get along with everyone and sometimes you need to start a journey to realise it’s not going to work. But on the whole most people just want to know they have been listened to, they are valued and respected and you can deliver above and beyond what they expect.
The unspoken truth is that we work harder for the people we like the most and we want to see their businesses succeed. If you connect on a personal level, that is a lot more likely to happen professionally.
Moving beyond fourth base, never rest on your laurels. It’s important that as things progress, so should the relationship. If you’re not being challenged or wowed anymore, move on before you have to utter those five little words.
At Lush, we’re always keen to progress things to fourth base and beyond, so drop us a line or call in for a chat.
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