Let’s say your company has the need for creative of some sort; a brand refresh, a new web site, conference materials…you get the idea. Maybe you have ongoing creative projects that have been farmed out and lack consistency—or just aren’t what you’re looking for. Perhaps you’re a start-up company that has focused on the operations side and now it’s time to address the creative needs. Short of building an in-house team, which can be a lengthy and expensive process, what are your options for creative outsourcing that’s on-brand and looks great?
Creative partnerships are a great answer. They work for companies of all sizes and projects of all scopes. Whether you partner with an agency for all of your work or for single projects, this sort of collaboration can be highly beneficial to your brand.
So how do you identify the right creative team to partner with? It’s a lot like dating, without the need to consume lots of booze to survive the process. We’ve put together some guidelines for finding your ideal creative partner.
The Five Cs of a successful creative partnership
(you need them all)
Like any relationship, chemistry is important when choosing a design partner. Your team and their team should share ideals and ethics, and an easy camaraderie needs to exist for the magic to happen. Rather than treating the first meeting like an interview, allow a natural conversation to happen. Your creative partner should position their team as experts that can help. They also should respect your position as the client, and that shows itself in how well they listen and the questions they ask.
Speaking of questions, a good potential creative partner will ask you many, and will show a genuine interest in getting to know your business, your goals and your pain points. What they ask speaks worlds about how they will work with you. This isn’t limited to the creative team, though. In order to determine if this is the right fit, you should be equally curious about them. Asking the right questions brings out true personalities, and successful partnerships have personalities that are compatible with each other.
Being understood requires more than just parroting back what you’ve said or recalling your company’s mission. A good creative partner needs to understand the company mission and goals and be able to provide solutions that work with your brand. While no agency should give all their ideas away before a relationship is cemented, the conversation should indicate that they are already internally brainstorming for you and your team. Creative professionals are problem solvers, but they must fully understand your brand and vision in order to provide solutions.
You can tell a lot about a design firm by how the team players work together. Is there respectful communication? Ease with each other? Is there a healthy sense of play (vital to the creative process)? Is there an obvious hierarchy among them? Having a creative team with no structure or leadership will reflect poorly in the partnership. All of these are excellent indicators of what you can expect from working with them on projects.
When you’ve partnered up with an off-site creative team, communication is crucial. You’ll get a sense of their communication style in the initial meeting, but it’s important to find out how they function once a project has kicked off. How often will they meet with you? What practices do they use for keeping you in the loop; email updates, project management software, phone check-ins? They should be able to outline their communication methods clearly and easily, and if they seem vague or non-committal, that’s a big red flag. Having a solid and strategic communication practice in place is an indication of an experienced, high-functioning creative team.
OK, I’m Ready!
If you’re ready to find a creative partner, start by creating a wish list of your ideal match. Remember that some attributes you deem necessary won’t be, and some you haven’t thought of will become apparent during initial talks. Take your time, meet with multiple agencies and use a combination of common sense and gut instinct to make your choice.
You’ll meet some teams that are fantastic people but may not be what you’re looking for, creatively speaking. Conversely, you’ll meet some very qualified people that just don’t gel with you and your team on a personal level. Don’t be afraid to be picky; this is a decision that requires discernment and care. After all, you’re putting your brand in their hands, and it’s a partnership that should be built on trust, open communication and mutual respect. A good creative partnership can really amp up your company’s success and happiness, so get out there and find your perfect match.
Think Baseline has built a number of creative partnerships with clients, and we take a lot of pride in those relationships. If you’d like to get together and see if there’s a spark, please get in touch and we can set up a first date.