I’m Hungry

Flow and Form
  • Date Published
  • Categories Blog, Guide
  • Reading Time 6-Minute Read

A humorous take on the right way to choose and work with Agencies, a scribble that parallels Agency work with serving food. Bon appétit.

Let’s talk about the scenario, the first mistake most people make, is taking the “fast food” mentality into a “high end exotic restaurant” type of situation ( yes, I talk about food a lot ), let me clarify; When you work with a Freelancer on a random project and a tight budget, you give him/her some specs on a tight schedule and expect to get something you can work with; if you are lucky, maybe even something good. But going to an agency with the same mentality is as preposterous as booking a group of 5 Michelin star chefs for a day, just for your table, and asking a plain cheeseburger.

Agencies are supposed to be collectives of individuals with amazing skillsets in research, development, design and most importantly, in understanding your kind of business. Yes, your super innovative 1M dollar idea that’s going to change the world; they probably worked on a bunch of them.

And this, my hungry friend, is where the tale begins.

The Burger

When you come with the request of “A burger” to an Agency they need to take one of the three following actions:

  • Elitism: Tell you they are booked at the moment and thank you for your interest as they kindly show you the way out the door.
  • Waitressing: Give you a burger, I mean that’s what you asked for right? It doesn’t matter if they can provide the kind of food that will rock your world if you want to pay 92–740$ hourly rates for a burger, so be it.
  • Honest Expression: The rarest of them all, they will explain to you that even though they can offer exactly what you asked for, maybe the best course of action is for a team of experts to analyse your market, see your company needs, do some innovative problem solving and provide you with the best solution. Get hands-on with your product, understand your needs and make good calls.

Starting a simple conversation with any Agency is probably the best test you can do to see their way of conducting business. Don’t be afraid of negative feedback on your chosen action; in my experience, that’s the only kind of constructive feedback, don’t work with people that will pat you in the back and congratulate you for the amazingness of your every single idea; they’ll be gone when it all comes crashing down.

This “waitressing” client service model has crippled us all by commoditising our work and forcing our clients to view us more as a vendor rather than as a partner. This is why agencies have lost their seats at the adult table where mission, vision, and brand strategy are debated and conceived and have been relegated to the kiddie table where all that is discussed are statements of work, budgets and status reports.

-Cory Smith

Small, Medium or Large?

Do research in the kind of culture you want to be involved in, avoid working with giant mega-agencies, prefer handpicked small studios.

This isn’t me being biased or trying to push my “less is more” kind of mentality. I mean let’s be honest, if you charge in McDonalds complaining about the horrible food you were served, no one will remember you the next day. Sure they will keep the Identity of the brand up by being polite, but truth be told, no one cares, a good up-and-coming Chef, on the other hand, is terrified of a negative review, he’ll pour anything he finds less than perfect down the drain and will start all over, bottom line being; maybe you should just tell your inspiring next Gordon Ramsey you have a lethal nut allergy and dislike sea-food, and then give him/her space to amaze you.

Good Agencies tend to be small studios or boutiques with a positive attitude, a great and consistent body of work, less about meetings for charts, and more about personal talks for meaningful progress.

Fast Food Brunch

In this new instant gratification era, you go in a Wendy’s and it has everything your heart desires, from fries, drinks, ice cream, breakfast, and salads, to brunch! you name it, but is it good?

The best you can hope in a 360° Agency is above average. Supposedly the advantage of a 360-degree digital solutions agency is that they can provide clients with a full spectrum of services. A lot of digital agencies are strong in development or in marketing, but it’s rare to find an agency that can successfully offer both and next to impossible to be really good at it. Don’t get sloppy, get different Agencies for each task, it gives you the freedom to replace the one that doesn’t deliver without crippling your entire company through dead time on a full spectrum of services.

Dinner Coupons

It’s so easy to raise your prices by 30% and then make some “Discount Campaign” with -30% on any service, so why some Agencies are so hell-bound in not doing that?

It’s disingenuous, works on a target group with a very shallow depth of perception and resonates with the “wrong” kind of people. Both the Agency and the client are rendered “cheap” and a whole cascade of horrid interactions, low quality work and “Get 2 pay for 1” kind of pseudo-services begins. There are lower hourly costs in larger projects but Discount campaigns? Steer clear from those.

Pizza or Chinese?

The methodologies of each Agency differ, and It sounds a bit like stereotyping but suit and tie with 16inch office spaces means talking Budget and CPA while a group of millennial misfits that named the Agency “Pink Hookah” might have a “Let’s build the next Uber” kind of excitement, the point is always finding a good match, always remember though:

A good Agency won’t up-sell for no reason they might even lower the cost and get better results, they will ask you questions like “Why do you feel you need X?” and after understanding the problem, come up with a better, more cost-efficient solution.

I remember the time we had a client asking for a native iOS and Android app to create a company contest and through research, we ended up making a simple landing page with targeted social features reaching three times the conversion goals reached with a fraction of the cost.

Great Agencies will always focus on your business goals and set measurements of success for the project, their will focus on an average of 3 Services tops and deliver consistently great work.

They will criticise your course of action, provide constructive feedback and better alternatives and they will get involved with the project.

They will make you think creatively, and persuade you to toss that burger in the trash in order to taste a good Pan-Seared Filet Mignon paired up with an excellent Perrier Jouet wine.

So as I said in the beginning? Bon appétit Monsieur.