How To Get the Most from Your Agency: Part 1

How I got here

I’ve only ever worked in agencies. Back in the ’90s I started out as an Account Exec in database/direct/telemarketing agency of about 28 working with the likes of Southern Water, Lombard Bank and Siemens. Not long after I started we sold to Havas (at the time Brann) and I was shipped off to Bristol to run a £1m+ finance account as Lombard had sold its motor finance book to Abbey National and rebranded First National. This big agency machine allowed a lot of learning and growth, I now had more people in my team than there was in my previous agency. I left Brann at the end of 1999 to take on a new challenge at The Real Adventure. I had 9 great years, starting in client servicing and ending in planning, working with excellent people and with fantastic brands including Cow & Gate, Walkers, Lloyds Bank, Tropicana, Calpol and Merlin Entertainments, across CRM, digital, DM, advertising. But everything was geared around building return on investment for clients over the longer term, built on service, trust and openness.

At the beginning of 2009 I left to co-found Liquorice with, Creative Director, Rob Hammond. For the last 7 years we have forged our own path, built long term relationships with great brands; challengers, leaders and start-ups, most with a shared goal of improvement and success, and today we are working with the likes of One Stop, the Tesco-owned convenience retailer, Alliance Pharmaceuticals, Italian engineering giant, Maccaferri and planning consultancy leaders, Quod.

But why is my career journey relevant?  Well in all this time, in different flavours and sizes of agency, one thing is clear. Agency people just want to help – want to solve problems with great ideas and great work. and we would like to get paid for it thank you.

The skillset you get when engaging an agency means they can adapt and fit solutions to your brief and budget. We are natural born problem solvers. We don’t have a production line and make widgets to a size and specification, underpinned buy a set of fixed costs. We build your solutions with experience, expertise, IP and time. And this takes us to the money shot.

So let’s talk about the money

Perhaps its a British thing, but the majority of us don’t like talking about money. So when approached about a rebranding project for example, one of the early questions I will ask, alongside goals, dreams, vision and direction is about budget. The budget is important. It helps frame the response, estimate or proposal.  We can fit a solution to (most) reasonable budgets. A rebrand in your mind and in your marketing budget, could be a simple logo upgrade, new colour palette and typefaces and a simple brand guidelines. To the next person it should involve 3-6 months of research, stakeholder interviews, consumer engagement and testing, battle planning and more. The first one could be completed in 4 weeks for less than £5000, the second could take a year and could cost in excess of £100,000. But in the eyes of the buyer, they’re both a rebrand.

This is why we don’t sell widgets to a size and specification. We create bespoke solutions to suit a client budget and goal. It will always be a clear and detailed scope of work with estimated costs to complete.  If there’s no deviation, the invoice will look just like the estimate, in fact in over 95% of projects what we estimate is what we will. In the other few percent of cases, there is scope creep, additional requirements, revisions and the like, and the final invoice represents this change to what was originally agreed.

Getting the most from your agency

So to help get the most from your agency, whoever they are, and whoever you are, lets get be upfront about the money. Give them a budget, or a budget range. Or ask the questions, how much could a website that does X, Y and Z cost to develop, but have the conversation round the numbers and what they mean and what you end up with at the end.

It’s not that if you have £20,000 for your project that we will charge you £20,000. What we will do is help you get the most out of your budget, which may even mean our costs are much lower as you would be better spending some of it elsewhere. Success, for both businesses, is about long term financial viability, so lets work together on getting the best value for money, and that can only happen if we both know what the amount of that money is.

Unfortunately, there will always be a handful of shady operators but I hope that these are the minority in our sector, and that you can navigate past them. Speaking to agencies with a track record, with credible brands and long term relationships should give you confidence that you’re in the right place, and always check out their references, even speak to some of their clients to find out what working with them is like.

If you want to talk money, or how you can be getting more return for your marketing pound, feel free to drop me a line, darren@liquorice.marketing or call me on 01242 323 393.