Instead of growing their internal workforces, more businesses than ever have started taking the services of design agencies to help them build visual assets and develop their branding. This gives smaller businesses access to world-class designers and marketers at the fraction of cost it would take to develop such a team by themselves.
However, taking on the services of a digital design company often comes with its own set of issues. Here are some of the most common problems clients have with design companies, as well as time-tested solutions for each of them.
1.) Dismissive project managers
You know that some pushback is often necessary, but it has become completely clear that the project manager assigned to look after your business simply doesn’t care for your input. No matter how many times you bring up an issue, it remains unaddressed by your next meeting, where you often find you have to repeat yourself.
It’s not uncommon for a few bad eggs in design agencies to develop egos or an idea that they know better than you do about your own brand. It’s a terrible feeling to not be listened to, and even worse to have to pay for this “privilege”.
Solution: Either demand for a new project manager or get another agency altogether. Life is too short to waste your time and money on agencies who are not interested in performing the service you paid them to do.
2.) Unacceptable quality or turnaround
You keep having to reject their output or they keep sending in their work late. This has set back your timetables and estimates and has kept your business from getting to where it needs to be.
Solution: As much as possible, make sure the service level agreement on your contract is very clear on the type of output you can expect from the agency, right from the outset. This way you can set a solid expectation on the quality and turnaround times.
Your expectations should also be regularly communicated, especially if you feel that the agency’s output is starting to slip in quality. Criticism should be specific and directed at the work, and not at the agency or the assigned creative, if possible.
3.) Unclear division of responsibilities
Is the agency handling your brand or are they just working on the logos? Should they be doing social media as well, or should the internal team do that? Why does my company have all these new Facebook pages all of a sudden?
Sometimes the division of labor can get ugly and confusing, especially when everyone’s fighting to meet deadlines. It can be exacerbated when you don’t have direct access to the agency’s project managers when you need them.
Solution: Roles should be discussed right from the beginning, even before the contract has been formalized. Any agreed on divisions of labor should likewise be in the contract and subject to review later on.
4.) Constant miscommunication
For some reason, the agency folks just aren’t getting it. You’ve said something dozens of times before, but it just isn’t taking. You’re getting the same problems over and over again.
Solution: Look within yourself. Have you really been communicating with the agency to the best of your ability? Did you adjust your communications style so it’s easier for them to understand? Did you try regular face-to-face conversations? Do you give them documentation to refer to when you have issues with their work? Do they constantly overpromise but underdeliver?
If you answered “yes” to all of these, it may be time to shop around for a new digital design company. If you answer “no” to at least some, it may be a reason to explore other avenues of communication before you definitively cut ties with your current agency.