January 17, 2023
The hidden value of creative partnership
The email was out of the blue and one we hadn’t seen coming. One of our clients announced that a long-standing marketing team member was no longer part of the organization. We weren’t privy to the ins and outs of this person’s departure, nor did we need to be, but what was quickly evident was that the internal handover of active projects had gaps.
We could see this because we’d been here before — not necessarily with this client but with many others. Sick leaves, internal conflicts, and shifting economic realities can all lead to sudden departures. Life is full of curveballs.
The first time this kind of announcement came through, it jolted us into panic mode. Would our current projects be disrupted? Would a new hire bring with them a new agency? As we matured, we realized that it’s at these moments of transition that we can deliver our greatest value: our insight into their business.
Clients come to us for our creative skill – they see our design sensibility, way with words, and big ideas as being our value. But where they see the real return on investment is with the relationship we build with their people and, by extension, their business (or brand).
After leading clients through rebrand assignments, our team has routinely been called upon to develop products, build internal presentation materials, onboard new internal team members (and even other external partners), audit experiences, and even institute company-wide project management systems.
Julie likes to recount how one of her clients at Second Cup would regularly call her whenever she was near our office because she needed Julie to help parallel park her car. (She also loves to share how I’m the only writer she knows who can swiftly assemble an office chair thanks to years of assisting with new product launches at Allseating.)
Our connection with their team and their business made it feel natural for The Richards Group to have us lead their strategic facilitation session. After years of developing their new brand and becoming an ingrained part of their team through the development of their East TO magazine, we were instantly up to speed with their goals and team dynamics.
Some may call that account management. But that term doesn’t quite fit. Account management (or project management depending on the firm you work with) is assumed to be non-creative and administrative. But in our experience, they’re often the most creative and strategic part of our role.
So when our client let us know about this change in their org chart, we set up a call and walked through all outstanding projects on our shared Trello board. We provided our perspective on where things were at and how we could assist during the transition — including helping onboard some new third-party agency partners being brought into the fold.
There’s a misconception in the agency world that long-standing relationships result in complacency, which results in diminishing returns. In my experience, the opposite is true. The stronger the partnership, the more value it generates.
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