I am in the relationship business. As a creative director at a busy branding and design agency, I rely on strong relationships with both collegues and clients. The foundation for these relationships is trust. To do my job well, I have to earn the trust of clients. The success of our agency’s projects, our client’s businesses, and ultimately the agency itself depends on it.
Success depends on trust because we explore and develop creative ways to express brands. Our product and process are subjective. The process requires time spent in research, experimentation, collaboration, revision, and execution. The most effective ideas discovered and developed are rarely familiar ones. Quite the opposite. The ideas that move brands forward are unique, unexpected, and even scary. They require our clients to say “yes” to approaches they have never used before. They require trust that our suggested approach will work.
So how do we earn this oh-so-important trust? First off, by being honest. We do what we say we are going to do, communicate what we believe, and tell the client the truth, even when it’s not easy. Telling the truth can lead to conflict and disagreement. We have to welcome this tension. Thoughtful disagreement is healthy and it leads to work that’s strengthened by the rigors of opposing (or at least differing) perspectives. This healthy debate and the resolutions that follow build trust.
Trust is also earned through commitment. Branding projects have a life cycle that includes exciting times where everyone is fired up and seeing the vision, and also tedious times when client and agency teams are sweating details and seeing less obvious progress. Great agencies stay fully committed from start through finish. The various stages of a project also need different disciplines and skill sets. Agency leaders must involve the right people to maximize momentum and quality. In doing so clients comes to trust our ability to maintain focus and enthusiasm, and to see their projects through to the strongest possible conclusion.
Finally, trust is earned with engagement. We’re hired to be a partner to the brands we serve. True partnership includes being plugged in to the client’s business, competition, challenges, marketplace, internal dynamics, and more. Getting and staying engaged with the many facets of the client project makes us more effective. We can foresee and be proactive on behalf of the brand, react more swiftly to changing needs, and ultimately provide more value to our clients.
Trust does not come easy, but it can be earned. We are making trust a priority in our relationships and the results are unmistakable. The work produced, the longer term partnerships created, and the ultimate business benefits created on both sides make trust building well worth the investment.
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