Six Things We've Learned in Six Years

Crystallised turns six this week. That’s 2,190 days working with over 90 clients, generating audiences for culture of some 22 million across 2 continents. In our 52,560 hours we’ve worked with some fantastic clients who have trusted us, allowing us to be bold and creative in the ways we converse with audiences; and we’ve learnt a lot of lessons along the way. 

Image Credit:    Unsplash

Image Credit: Unsplash

1.  Scoping and briefing can make or break a project

Frequently, projects can take on a life of their own – an initial chat generates new ideas, other people are consulted, the decision-making team grows ever more expansive, and often the brief that was presented to the agency at the start of the process is not what the expanded client team have subscribed to.

Things change, that’s a given. Both the client and the agency through must be as upfront as possible when it comes to scoping, quoting and briefing. 

Historically, we would regularly over-service accounts, i.e. spend more time on campaigns than the client investment allowed, and we found that this was usually attributable to one of three things: 

a)     The client negotiated hard on price, but expectations remained the same

b)    The scope of the project changed during the project itself

c)     We had underestimated the resource required 

To combat this, we now do three things: 

a)     We are open and frank when quoting, and if this means reducing the scope of the project to align with budgets that is what we do

b)    We track our time religiously and if we are spending significantly more time on a project than is viable, we are able to demonstrate to our clients exactly what is taking the time, clients can then make an informed choice about how to proceed

c)     We use two years of time tracking data to inform our quotation process and resource allocation

We’ve found, that approximately 80% of our clients in the last 12 months have been very receptive to this way of working, more than half have revised their priorities to bring an escalating project into line, and c.60% have revised budgets upwards – for which we are very grateful!

2.  Trust is vital between client and agency 

In any relationship trust is vital; when we take on a client, we commit to the success metrics (please refer to point 5 re: defining success metrics) as well as the outputs; this means that the way we work throughout a project might change, particularly if something is not delivering the way we anticipated. 

To have an objective oversight of a project you are working on is important, we will often suggest a change to a plan or process if our metrics demonstrate there is a better way of working.

We recently worked on a project with City of Dreams (a 10-year strategic project to drive new audiences for arts and culture in the North East) in which we were tasked to prove or disprove a theory we presented around new ways of engaging younger audiences in arts and culture.

The scope of this project changed from the point at which we were commissioned (September 2018) to the point at which we delivered (February 2019) because of things we learned during the market research phase of the project.

Our client was open-minded, trusting of our expertise and flexible. Because of this we were able to deliver on time and on budget, a pilot that could change the way marketers view younger audiences, with learnings that add real value and through a project that was led by the target audience. 

Read more about this project, X-Culture, here.

3.  Always ask why

Why? is potentially the most overused word in our office.

We like to understand the bigger picture, how does our work fit into your wider business aims, how can we ensure we give our clients the biggest impact for their investment. We know that the best way to do this is by having a bird’s eye view. 

Which means we positively challenge the information we receive through the briefing process, supplementing it with what we know, what we’ve learned and what we have discovered from our client’s target audience. 

By understanding ‘why’ we can offer a range of solutions to meet a brief. If we only know the ‘what’ we are limited and limitations restrict our ability to deliver exemplary work.

Image Credit:    Unsplash

Image Credit: Unsplash

4.  Keep it simple, make it easy

Make everything easy, for your audiences, potential audiences, clients, consumers, supporters, users, donors, visitors. Arduous processes without an appropriate payback are not cool. 

In 2018, we worked with a cultural organisation to develop fundraising initiatives to supplement their core costs. The client wished to use social media to promote initiatives that would encourage donations but was not able to take donations online.

This immediately inconvenienced their target audience, by reaching out to them online whilst simultaneously not allowing them to engage with the campaign online. 

Halfway through the campaign, we pushed for (and received) approval to implement an online solution to collect donations – in 7 days donations online had exceeded the previous 5 weeks of donations combined. 

5.  Know what success looks like

It sounds simple, but you might be surprised to hear that a reasonable number of our projects begin without measures for success included in the brief. This is particularly concerning when you know that almost 90% of our clients are publicly funded projects or organisations.

Whether it’s promoting a new product or service, demonstrating social impact, increasing brand awareness, gathering, customer feedback or content, generating revenue, fundraising, boosting engagement or securing attendance at an upcoming event – you gotta have a purpose. 

Often, we will work with our clients to suggest metrics based on the purpose, but even with the best and most impassioned will in the world, sometimes these aren’t adopted as part of the project.

Data can seem like a real drag, but you likely have way more access to it than you think. If considered holistically, as part of the whole project, and crucially from the beginning, the collection and analyses of data does not have to be expensive or arduous – and it could be the difference between securing future funding or the termination of the project. 

6.  Take time to give useful feedback

What can we do better as your agency? What might we need from you to deliver that? What did we learn from the campaign or project and what actionable insights can be derived from those learnings? 

Client and agency are in this together, we all want the same thing, to smash it! 

We exist to make our clients look good, and open and honest communication is an important part of that. It’s also something that can often end up slipping when everyone is in ‘delivery mode’. For a fruitful and happy client/agency ltr (long-term relationship) both sides need to make the time.

We’ve got client satisfaction surveys, data gathering methods, productivity metrics, but there really is no substitute for some quality face-time, so, hopefully we’ll see you soon!

Image Credit:    Unsplash

Image Credit: Unsplash