Agency Experience and Letting Go
Creative firms have a lot to prove to win new business.
First, we have to prove that we’re creative. That we have big, beautiful ideas that can inspire our clients’ audiences. Then we have to prove that we’re strategic. After all, our client needs to believe that those big, beautiful ideas are also going to achieve business objectives. We need to show that there’s clear thinking and a philosophy behind our work. That we understand our clients’ industries, and have encountered problems similar to theirs before.
The third thing creative firms have to prove to win new clients is that we have a clear, consistent vision for what it’s like to work with us: how we manage projects, who plays which role on the team and how we respond to certain situations.
When clients are searching for a creative agency, they don’t always know what they’re going to get. Proving that you are creative, strategic and have a plan for a smooth working relationship is a way to give clients confidence that they’re making the right choice by hiring you.
Typically, the way we prove all of this is by showing successful work we’ve done in the past. We walk through case studies and show off beautiful pictures of brand identities, websites, digital campaigns and print collateral. We rattle off success statistics and share testimonials praising our past work.
But I think agencies should start doing something a little irrational during this courting process. They should let go of their experience.
I once read that the best thing you can do when working on a new project is to approach it with “innocent naiveté.” That agencies should listen, have empathy for their client’s situation, and be unafraid of eroding the perception of their expertise by asking simple questions like “Why?”
What does our past experience really prove anyway? It proves that an agency has solved a certain type of problem for a certain type of business before. But even with all of your experience in a category or with a specific business objective, you may not have a recommendation or a solution… yet. And that’s okay! That’s the work the needs to be done.
After all, one of the benefits of hiring a marketing agency is the opportunity to gain fresh perspective. Every piece of new business and every client situation should be approached with innocent naiveté and a willingness to discover something new.
Yes, experience matters. It’s how we prove we can do the work. But we should never pretend there’s a ready-made, cookie-cutter solution for every client scenario. Marketing firms and creative agencies need to understand and communicate the real value of experience – realizing that you might not have all of the answers yet.