Many digital agencies like NPG have the ability and good fortune to work with businesses on a long-term basis. As such, we’ve seen our share of both good and bad professional relationships with clients, and we’ve learned over the years what can go wrong over the course of a project.
In general, you'll get much higher-quality work out of your digital agency if you study how to maintain a good relationship with them, and if they take steps on their end to do the same.
Not only that, but when you put in the effort to maintain a good business relationship, you'll find that you're happier overall with the quality of the work you receive from your digital agency. This isn’t because they're working any harder than normal. It’s because they’ll have a better idea of what you want and need for your website (and thus business) to succeed.
So what’s the secret sauce to a great relationship with your digital agency?
Keep The Channels Of Communication Open
Like any business relationship, communication is the key to success. When you work with a digital agency for a long time, you don't want to simply hand them a project and then check in again when it's complete. Instead, you want to work closely with them throughout the full lifespan of the project.
Check in with them when your idea is just a concept. What are you thinking about changing? What isn't working about your current website design, your current app, or your existing processes? How would you like to change them in the future? Discussing your ideas from the beginning will help give you a better idea of what is realistic from a finished project.
Then, as your project continues, keep communicating with your digital agency. Keep them apprised of any delays on your end. Be available to answer any questions that they have or to help work through any problems. The more you communicate throughout the stages of the project, the happier you'll be with the end result.
Even when your project is finished, that communication isn't over! You want a long-term relationship with your digital agency that's going to last for a long time. To help build that relationship or to establish it more firmly, take the time at the end of your project to discuss how it might have gone more smoothly. Talk about the things that you did like, praise your digital agency's successes, and be honest about anything that didn't go exactly as you expected.
At the same time, listen to what your contacts within the agency have to say about how your company could have helped things run more smoothly. Your relationship will only improve with every communication throughout the process.
Understand Exactly What Your Contract Says
Some of the most complicated misunderstandings in any business relationship can be avoided simply by having a full understanding of the terms of the contract! Make sure that you take the time to read your entire contract. Know everything that it covers: terms of payment, what's expected of you, and what your digital agency is expected to do for you.
If you have any questions about your contract, this is where communication starts to become extremely important! Take the time to discuss any portion of the contract that may be unclear up front so that you'll know what to expect throughout the process.
Have A Clear Understanding Of Each Party's Roles
Any time you work on a collaborative project with any agency, as a matter of fact, it's critical to have a full understanding not only of your own role in the process, but also of the role that the other party is expected to perform. Make sure that you're clear on the expectations of each party.
For example, in many cases, it's necessary for your office to provide vital information before the digital agency can proceed with the development portion of the contract. If you fail to provide them with their information, they can't complete their project on time. Unfortunately, in many cases, poor understanding of the terms of the contract and each party's role in the process means that both parties are sitting there, waiting on the other one to do something, and no work is done on your project in the meantime.
Realistically, your discussion with your digital agency should spell out the expectations for each party and the order in which each step must be completed. That way, if issues arise down the road, it will be clear where the fault lies and how to correct it so that you'll be able to continue to have a successful business relationship.
Make Sure That You're Realistic About Your Deadlines
Sure, there are moments when emergencies arise and you need a solution yesterday. We deal with this often and are happy to help our clients beat the clock when necessary. When you have a great relationship with your digital agency, they will know this is a rarity for you.
Reasonably assessing deadlines and taking the time to be sure you understand what can actually be expected of your digital agency can create a much smoother working relationship. When you are on a tight deadline, it can be helpful to accept that you may have to accept a different solution short-term in order to meet that deadline and to be flexible about what you're willing to accept.
If you don't have any understanding of how long it's going to take to complete the project that you have in mind, that's okay! This is one of the places where open communication with your digital agency will come in handy. You'll be able to talk through your expectations, describe what the completed project looks like to you, and get a clear idea of the kind of timeline in which your agency can produce those results. Is there some wiggle room in the initial estimate, especially if you're in a rush? Sometimes. Listening to those estimates and being willing to abide by them, however, will go a long way toward improving your relationship with your digital agency and keeping your project's adherence to the high standards that you expect.
Also, remain aware of how changes on your end can affect your digital agency's ability to stick to your original deadline. If, for example, you experience a significant delay in putting together the information the agency needs, they may not be able to complete your project on your original schedule. Likewise, if you make big changes in the middle of a project, cause a shift in your deadline, as well.
Remaining aware of this and being willing to work with your agency will go a long way toward maintaining a good relationship throughout the process.
Be Willing To Admit Fault And Make It Right
There will come a time in every business relationship when you're the one to make a mistake. You'll fail to communicate vital information, miss an important deadline, or simply fail to follow through on the terms of your contract. It's usually not due to malicious intent; typically, it's the product of a mistake.
Instead of trying to pass on the blame or gloss over it, be honest about your mistake! Honesty will go a long way toward making the process easier for both you and your digital agency. Do what's necessary to make it right. For our part, we always remain flexible and are happy to help get a project or deadline back on track when we can work together with the client to come up with a new solution.
Maintaining a good relationship with your digital agency (and knowing what standards you’re holding them up to) benefits everyone involved. When you and your agency take the time to be communicative and responsive to each other, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn how smoothly your projects will go!