What Makes High Performing Client – Agency Teams
Many factors contribute to the success of a team’s collaborative performance, such as 1. Communications 2. Chemistry 3. Trust and 4. Confidence. Of the four, Communications is the most salient, and a prerequisite for instilling the rest. If you are interested in establishing a high-performing client-agency team or improving the existing relationship with your digital marketing agency, start by focusing on communication first.
What your agency says, how and when they say things speaks volumes about them as teammates. The way they communicate signals their style of play, their level of reliability, and their potential effectiveness.
For example, some agencies pride themselves on thinking on the fly and not needing much information to get started. They communicate with what Nobel Prize winner, Daniel Kahneman calls System 1 thinking. System 1 is the brain’s automatic, impulsive, and unconscious thinking mode. As a result, you never know when, or how brightly these agencies’ ideas will shine. While their deliverables are sometimes creative and plausible, they are rarely optimal.
Compare this reflexive style of communication with a reflective approach to communication using System 2 thinking, which is slower, more controlled, and analytical. Using System 2 thinking, conversations are a little deeper and big decisions take a little longer to make.
A hallmark characteristic of high-performing client-agency teams is the way they view and use questions. When presented with a project, some agencies focus their questions just on the project’s requirements and end deliverables. Other agencies use questions to reveal what assumptions conceal. For these agencies, questions are a means to better understand what drives your business, to confirm assumptions about your company and the problem at hand. Some of their questions may appear obvious, but they are asked anyway because they realize “nothing is as invisible as the obvious” Richard Farson. This is true even when an agency has worked with a client for many years.
Here are a few examples that may be asked in various ways. The purpose behind these inquiries is not to be intrusive or invasive, but to formulate viable ideas, select or filter concepts using business-minded criteria, and originate viable alternatives.
- How does the company make money? What is the revenue model?
- What is the cost of acquisition?
The foundational questions above are comparative to basic vitals (temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiration rate) physicians take to initiate and influence their choices and decisions on treatment. While there is a place for specific project-related questions (the use of red or green), it should not be at the exclusion of, or before business-related questions are addressed.
The difference between the two types of agencies is a matter of method and mindset. The first is project-oriented, the second is problem-oriented. While learning about the details of a project is important, understanding a broad view of the current situation and the contextual factors influencing a business is just as important, and of higher priority. The reason is that once your agency takes into consideration insights surrounding the periphery of your project, the purpose and parameters of the project may need to be redefined. Conditions, circumstances, and context make a huge difference in determining the best way to approach a problem and to solve it.