Does your Client Require Collaborative Software?


Is your client asking for better access to information? Real-time updates? File-sharing?

Are you pitching a client that requires a collaborative system to be in place – and functioning – before they even consider your agency?

Clients want a better working relationship with their agencies. They don’t want to wait for updates, and feel (either right or wrong) that more collaboration leads to greater efficiencies.

For an in-house department, you need to work closely with your ‘internal clients’. Often, they feel you work for them and they deserve to know – right now – what’s going on with their projects.

I know, sometimes you want them out of your hair so you can work. But read on. This is good for you…

In comes…ta da! Collaborative software.
It’s a common space to not only share, but aggregate information that provides all users with real-time data and reduces redundancy, errors, and captures that basic stuff that can fall through the cracks.

These days, more and more clients are requiring their agencies to provide an increased level of collaboration – through systems that document progress and share files as you work through a project.

There’s a lot more transparency with these systems. Therefore, everyone needs to be on their ‘A’ Game and…best behavior. That means – you must use the software as it was intended – entering updates, uploading files, or whatever your defined process requires. And I mean diligently.

We’ve all done a version ‘collaboration’ through email for years. There are servers full of terabytes of old CYA email – a lot of it with attachments. Time to put that data in one place that was designed for collaboration.

With these programs, there is no need to search through email; documents on your desktop or server; or in one or more ‘systems’ you currently use. What a waste of time.

A Forbes article says this:

“Apparently most of us prefer to communicate via email rather than face-to-face or over the phone – the average employee spends 28 hours per week writing emails and searching for information mostly contained within emails. Choosing a tool that facilitates natural interaction among individuals instead of the static nature of email is the first step to adding value and driving efficiencies in managing everyday tasks…” (emphasis added)

28 hours. Way too much time. And I know that email is THE hardest habit to break.

But get with the program and reduce all that extra work. Get everything in one place – and make sure everyone with [appropriate] access contributes. Collaborators from Creative to Accounting are entering data relevant to the project. From specs, to schedules, to estimates and updates – all the way through to billing.

Whether it’s an internal or external client, collaborative tools make the exchange (and tracking) of information more efficient, and more….collaborative.

Are you using collaborative software? I’d love to hear from you.

the bank of [your agency name here]

I just read the brief piece in AdvertisingAge: Three Agency Trends for 2013, and the first trend is Slow payments from clients is the new reality! Ironically one of the other two is about consolidation. No wonder. What small- to moderate- size agency can afford to be the bank for a client?

They say it’s, “not great for agencies, however it’s the new reality in 2013”. No kidding, but I’ll bet it started well before the New Year.

So my question goes out to you folks in the agency world. Don’t you think you should work a little smarter this year? Maybe control costs – like the volume of resources you put into the client’s work?

Follow the money. It has never been more true – or essential.

I don’t mean reducing the wonderfulness of what you create, but keeping a watchful eye on where money is being spent. Time = Money.

Such as a creative deciding to spend (a lot) more time than estimated tweaking and re-tweaking a layout. Or that lovely back-and-forth between a proofreader and a copywriter on whether a serial comma is appropriate. Wastes time and money.

And while I’m at it, you can save a whole heck of a lot of cash if your account team exercises a little restraint when saying YES every time a client wants to be an art director. Those changes rack-up huge costs – which I’m betting you don’t usually track (they’re just small, quick changes), and certainly don’t bill.

I've said it before, everyone in your agency is responsible for ensuring a profit. That profit gets pretty thin when you’re carrying your client for 120 days. And when that profit is devoured by poor management of the client and staff – you’ll break even, or worse, have a really crappy year.

How long can you do this?

New Year’s resolution: call your entire staff together and decide exactly how you will manage your work – and your clients – for 2013. Agree to it and stick to it. And track everything – this means estimates, changes and timesheets. I stress tracking because next year, when do your year-end evaluation, and  you’re ready to re-negotiate client contracts, their value to your agency will be very clear.

And who knows, if you're awesome and efficient, one of the big holding companies may come calling.