It’s unusual for an agency to share the inner details about how they create marketing solutions for their clients. Typically, an engagement goes like this:
- The client and agency work together to define goals and scope.
- The agency disappears for a while to do “marketing things”.
- Followup questions are discussed with the client.
- The agency disappears again.
- The agency returns and unveils a solution that hopefully meets the clients’ expectations and – most importantly – solves their problems.
Although there are variations to this model, the iterative back and forth is pretty standard.
What the client doesn’t see, and what the agency almost never shares, is what happens behind closed doors. No one likes to reveal “how the sausage is made”. We’re not like other agencies.
Here’s the untidy truth about how Divining Point creates marketing solutions.
After a client meeting, when we are back at our headquarters, we sort through our notes. We do a thorough review of what the client wants versus what they actually need. In many cases these are completely separate concepts.
A conversation begins, and it’s not always a consensus.
Our team is filled with talented experts in their fields. They are encouraged to speak their mind. They don’t settle for less than what they believe is best, and they aren’t afraid to push back.
“That could be completely disastrous.”
“That’s not going to work here.”
Each idea is put through a rigorous round table discussion and weighed against the benefits and consequences of each potential decision. Research is reviewed. The client’s needs and goals are discussed. Creative ideas are considered.
Sometimes what Paige thinks is correct is the complete opposite of what Jon believes is right. Meanwhile, Jordania has her own vision, and Coy thought we were all on board with his strategy.
Sounds like chaos, but it’s absolute gold.
Somewhere between the research and the creative vision is a concept that will change the course of the conversation. It’s during this process that gems are discovered.
Words in Action
A client recently came to us for a rebrand. They gave us insight into how their company has grown, the direction they wanted to go, and why. After the meeting, Coy instructed us to do our research and come prepared to present our ideas at the next team meeting.
We dove in. The result was the most in-depth competitive analysis and wildly disparate views on the direction we should take. We went around the table debating our ideas. In the end, we left the meeting rather unresolved. Later that night, on the phone and on Slack, the conversation intensified.
We don’t just see our clients as a line item or a to-do list. We take ownership of these companies and obsess over them as if they were our own. We want what is best for the client, and by golly we’ll fight to make sure it happens.
Our phones buzzed in an almost chaotic symphony. We discussed. We debated. We squared off for what mattered to us. Somewhere along the way something beautiful emerged. With a hidden background cacophony of passionate arguments, we spoke to the client and presented a new company name, a new brand strategy, and an entire plan for the next five years.
“How’d you do this?”
“It just came to us.”
Rules Of Engagement
When you step up to fight for a creative concept, you have to adhere to a few guiding principles.
You’re arguing ideas, not people.
It’s easy to take it personal. Perhaps you like a particular font. The team thinks it’s the worst they’ve ever seen. Does this mean you’re wrong? Nope. It means you believed in something, and it didn’t win the day.
Know when to back down.
Do you want to know who is the least popular member of a team?
The person that never sees any other side of a topic.
Just because your idea isn’t used, doesn’t mean it’s bad. Take comfort that your contribution moved the conversation towards a final conclusion. Each disparate idea or zany suggestion helps to stimulate the conversation and open up a dialog about marketing solutions.
Sometimes your idea wins the day. Other times you play a part of the evolution of the final solution. In either case, it’s best to tap out respectfully when your idea isn’t used.
Leave your ego at the door.
Fall in love with your work. Be intimate with the details. But don’t get married to it.
Believing in what you are proposing doesn’t mean dying on that hill. The people that make the greatest difference are the ones that are humble enough to accept when their idea isn’t accepted.
Don’t let your identity and ego revolve around the success of pushing your point. Your value is far greater than your ability to win arguments and present ideas. If you’re too emotionally involved, chances are high your ideas are not grounded in objectivity. Detachment and a clear head are the fundamental tools for presenting strong ideas that are not only grounded in reality, but also most likely to succeed.
Get behind the team.
There comes a time when you gotta ship. That moment happens when the leader, and usually the majority of the team, says this is done. It’s as perfect as we can get it. This is your cue to own it. The final product belongs to the team. Be proud.
Once the team makes a decision, it’s time to validate the concept. This can come through a variety of methods (focus groups, research, interviews with impartial third parties). But you must fully embrace the new concept while you do your due diligence. Otherwise, you may influence your findings and lead the concept back to your idea – which could have vastly negative consequences if your idea isn’t the right solution for the client.
Leadership Requires Backbone
Moments before sitting down to write this blog (actually the inspiration for it), we had a long, passionate internal debate.
Coy, our CEO listened to Jon, our Creative Director, standing on a hill for something that he felt was too important to let go. It was intense.
“That’s short term thinking!”
“We need to be smarter here!”
Back and forth, and on and on.
Coy not only puts up with this from his team, he encourages it. Why?
“Because somewhere between what I think is right, what Jon feels is original, what Paige’s data shows, and what Jordania’s experience dictates, is a much smarter person than me. It’s the collective brain that raises our performance as a team.”
It also produces better work for our clients.