The right way to work with us
Here at Squadplan, we’ve worked with a good number of clients throughout the last couple of years. From my experience, I can tell you that there are good times and bad times. That’s quite normal for every type of relationship, including a business one.
Good times are those when we start meeting and are 100% motivated to bring a project to life. Bad times refer to those citations when a project doesn’t go as fast as expected.
Now, there can be a lot of reasons why a project can’t get finished as fast as expected. The most important thing to understand is that it’s a two-way street. As an agency, we were always able to work as fast as our client gave us clear feedback & answers to our inquiries.
Therefore, I sat down and prepared some tips for you. Here is what you can do to contribute to a great work together.
Communication is the key! It always was, and it always will be. Communication is not only what you say but when you say it, how you say it, to whom you say it. So here are some tips on how to communicate with agencies.
Use one main channel to communicate
Try to communicate always through one channel - I recommend that you use emails to do so. Don’t try to mix it up and share information via phone, then switch to Whatsapp, then go back to email only now from a different email account.
Always use the same, previously agreed-upon channel.
If you want to use email and Whatsapp - create a group and only share work-related info in this group. If there is something to be discussed via phone, write a summary before or after the call via email. This is something the agency should do too. It will enable you to have a written record of what was discussed and review the agreement at any point.
Why choose email
Emails are a great way to communicate, which is why they are extremely popular in the B2B world. First of all, I can download them as copies or print them, use them to share links, pictures, write how much I want, and structure them how I please.
It’s one of the best, if not the best, communication channels, in my opinion. When in doubt, you should prioritize email as the main communication channel in business. I, for my part, always write emails.
It gives me the confidence to know that the client and myself can access all information in one place. Plus, the entire communication stays in the inbox, so if there is ever a misunderstanding, we can always dive into email history and double-check the information.
Here are some rules on how to excel at email business communication:
Write back to every email.
The following almost appears as the 100% outcome for me - I write a business email and never get an answer. It doesn’t even matter if it’s an email with one or more questions, a follow-up email, or just an update — every email in business correspondence demands an answer, even if it is a simple acknowledgment.
Before writing back, make sure to read the entire copy. If there are open questions, make sure to answer them. It applies to all questions, even if you render them rhetorical. Write back as soon as you can.
In my experience, everything within 72 hours is acceptable as it doesn’t negatively impact the flow of the communication and project execution. If you know you won’t be able to reply within the 72-hours window, feel free to give the agency a heads up.
Structure your email copy
The structure of the email copy dictates the efficiency of the communication. For instance, I often spend 10 minutes or more figuring out where the answers are in the copy. Also, sometimes I find it hard to see which answers are addressed in the copy and pair the answers to the relevant questions.
Instead of going through an email, I bring pieces together as if I am solving a puzzle. It takes only one mistake to have a misunderstanding with a client and delay the project. This is what I do to structure my emails:
Use Bold fonts — it helps me emphasize something and improve readability;
Use different sizes of font - same as above;
Use colorful fonts — mark the answers next to the question in a different color, use colors to make a statement (e.g., red color for questions you don’t understand, green color for questions and answers you understand);
Use bullet points — improves readability and makes complex instructions easier to understand;
Use numbers (Question 1-5) — use numbers to mark questions because it makes it easier to find and answer them;
Prepare your emails — don’t write and send a breadcrumb of an email. Instead, spend some time working on the email, and once you are certain you’ve mentioned everything you wanted, click that “Send” button;
Provide links to shared files and folders — the agency has access to your shared files and folders, but I find it time-saving to have links to shared files whenever they are mentioned in an email;
Add links to provide clarity — sometimes my clients want me to edit “the white product on the front page”. Instead, provide the link to the product directly to avoid the “Is this that one?” type of questions.
All of these tips will make life easier for both you and the agency you hired. It happened more than once to hear a client say it’s not clear enough for him either when I ask them to clarify a paragraph in an email for me. It happens because they write emails extremely fast.
Avoid this pitfall and write informative emails. It may take you three more minutes than usual — but it will shave hours away from having to explain things again and correct mistakes that occur to poorly written instructions.
Use a business email address
Most inboxes now work as forum topics. If both you and I use the same email from the start of communication, we will go through the entire communication with one click of a mouse. If you use a different email address every time, the conversation will be scattered all over the inbox.
I always use one email account for business and suggest you do so as well. If you, for whatever reason, cannot — at least try to use one email address for one project.
Clearly define your expectations
Every job requires a specific skill set. I always want to contribute to making my clients happy and satisfied with the job done. But I can’t do it if you keep your expectations to yourself. If you don’t tell me what you expect from deliverables, I can’t even tell you whether we have the skillset for the job.
The solution is simple. You need to define what you expect from the project and us very clearly. While you are defining your expectations, focus on deliverables. It will help you figure out exactly what you need.
Make the most of the meetings
Meetings are vital for project success, primarily when you work with an external team. I helped dozens of companies complete their projects and found that meetings can make or break a collaboration.
If a meeting is required — especially a meeting at the office (“offline meeting”), it’s important that every party comes prepared so the meeting can be efficient. Here are some tips on how to take your business meetings to a higher level.
Always come prepared to a meeting
Every time before I go to a meeting, I write down all the questions and all the points I want to discuss. I suggest you do it too as it will help you communicate important information to the agency representative and every other party present at the meeting.
Do it days before the meeting and send the questions and points via email. It will enable everyone to prepare for the meeting.
If you have an online meeting with the agency in your schedule, you should get familiar with the platform before the meeting. There is nothing more frustrating than not knowing how to use a certain tool. It will frustrate both you and agency representatives.
Give the online meeting platform a test run. Learn how it works and how to use certain features. Ensure that you are in a private room/office during the meeting. It will reduce distractions and help everyone focus on the tasks at hand.
Do your part
This is what I often experience with meetings. After I discuss something with a client, we usually both agree to finish it before the next meeting so we can show the results to the other parties. Or we agree that the client needs to send me information so that I can complete a specific task and present results at the meeting.
But then, even with reminders, I often don’t get the information at all. In the best-case scenario, I get it one day before the meeting. I can’t complete a task, and we can’t really do what we planned for the meeting.
It’s important to know that every person has to do their part; even if it looks like a small or “unnecessary part”, it’s still a part of something bigger.
Always write down memos on meeting
Meeting memos are very important because they contain vital information:
What was discussed;
What was agreed upon;
What are the next steps;
Who is responsible for which task;
If you don’t want to write down the Memo, then feel free to ask the agency. Here at Squadplan, I always take down memos during meetings and send a follow-up email and notes about what was discussed during the meeting.
Personally, I think that the most important part is to highlight the next steps, when they need to be completed, and who exactly is responsible for those tasks.
Don’t be late
Don’t be late for a meeting. If this happens and you don’t give head-ups to the agency that you will be late, you risk looking as if your time is more important than the agency’s, which isn’t going to fly. This type of behavior can backfire on your relationship with the agency and cause unnecessary frustration.
Use tools to streamline collaboration
It’s 2021! We have access to some amazing tools and technologies to help us streamline workflows no matter how complex they are. I can’t even imagine workflow without some tools. They help me better structure projects, share files, create to-do lists, and more. Here are some of my favorites:
Sart Infinity is a great tool. I use it to create:
In fact, I like Start Infinity so much that I’ve started using it for organizing my private stuff as well. It’s an essential piece in my toolkit. Plus, it has a lifetime deal of $99 (which is ways below industry average as far as I know).
In my experience, some tasks take longer than necessary. For instance, when I ask my clients to send me their social media account login info or a logo, I have to wait days before I get an email or, even worse, a Whatsapp message.
You can speed things up with Google Drive. It is essentially cloud storage you and I can access on the go wherever we are. The best thing about it is that Google Drive is completely free. You can use it to share files, folders, any type of content for that matter. You can also give different rights to different persons (some people can only read files, while others can edit them too).
Here is how I structure my Google Drive folders to keep project-related documentation tidy (just an idea, you can do things your own way):
CI/CD — Here is where I store logo, font and color information, elements, icons, pictures, concepts, and notes;
Social Media — in this folder, I store posts, concepts, templates, captions, and plans;
Website — this is where I store info, blog posts, content, notes, and product pictures;
Cross Media — I open this folder if I need flyers, business cards, and data from shootings;
Admin — this is where I keep all password and login data.
Name the files right
Here is another thing that my clients often experience — they end up confused by the filename they named themselves. It’s because they don't name the files right. I often end up with ten files in an email because my client doesn’t know which files have a transparent background.
I’m not a fan of complicated things, and it also applies to file names. This is why you will often see me naming files in the following fashion: Logo_invisible_background.
Simple names make it easy to understand what the file contains. You can also use file names as Logo_File_for_graphicer instead of Logo.ai — if you don’t understand what it means.
Another mistake I often see is when my clients send me updated product feeds. It always follows the same pattern Productfeed > Productfeed(1) > Productfeed (1)(1) > Productfeed (1)(1)(1). There is an easy fix for it. Rename the file and add the date to it. It’s easier to find it and track changes. Make an effort and do your part — the results will follow.
Deliver as much as you expect in return
Just because you hired an agency, it doesn’t mean that the agency has to think in your stead and “nanny you”. We are all grown up, and everyone needs to do their jobs. It will make the project successful. You don’t have to do wonders. Deliver as much as you expect in return, and your project will be done before the deadline.
There are hundreds of ways a project can go wrong. Luckily there are ways to prevent it and save both time and money on fixing misunderstandings. As you can see, you can do several things to turn your next outsourced project into a raging success. All of the tips I shared with you come from my personal experience while working at Squadplan.