Thursday July 9, 2020

How to Minimize Revisions When Working With a Marketing Agency

Minimize revisions with marketing agency

If you’ve hired a marketing agency or are planning to do so, a big part of your motivation likely has to do with time.

You’re busy. By partnering with a capable agency, you can get a lot off your plate and get your own time back while keeping your marketing moving forward.  

All well and good, but there’s a factor embedded in this dynamic that needs to be considered.

Revisions.

The more rounds of revisions you and your agency need to go through with plans or creative work, the more this time-saving value proposition starts to erode. If you don’t feel like you can approve work without reviewing every piece thoroughly for issues, you aren’t really getting the full value that you signed up for. 

Today, we’ll look at some actionable ways you can minimize revisions when working with a marketing agency – and when it’s time to move on.

Never Cut Corners Building Your Foundation

When we partner with a new client, the kickoff starts one of two ways:

  • The client has recently done (and documented!) the legwork of market and competitive research, positioning, persona creation and strategy development. In this case, we start by assembling, reviewing and discussing these materials so that we have that tribal knowledge, understand the business and landscape and can hit the ground running.

  • Or, the client has yet to do undergo this process or is due for an update. In this case, we start with our discovery process to analyze the market opportunities and solidify the positioning as part of developing the strategy.


In either scenario, we’re ensuring that before we hit go, we have a clear direction and alignment, informed by research and thoughtful analysis.

When agencies and their clients skip past this step or settle for untested assumptions, they’re taking a trial-and-error approach that is likely to result in frequent second-guessing.

Rather than referring back to research and planning documents to create and approve work, opinions are up against other opinions. The loudest voice or most senior person in the room (often one and the same) ultimately makes the decision on what gets approved, but not before the work has gone through several rounds of revisions.

Creative disagreements will sometimes happen – and in moderation, that’s not a bad thing. Ideas should be prodded, tested and challenged regularly, and that means revisions.

But without the foundation of thorough market research, personas and positioning, there’s no shared vision to guide the resolution of the disagreements. 

Create (and Adhere to) a Style Guide

If your strategic foundation is in place and shared among all key stakeholders, your next tool is the style guide. Creating and using a style guide is one of the most effective ways you and your agency can minimize revisions.

A good style guide will clearly document the relevant rules, instructions and restrictions for how your organization should present itself. This document should be informed directly by your strategic platform and should be referenced when creating communications, such as:

  • External marketing and internal communications
  • Web and print designs
  • Sales literature
  • Blogs, social media and other marketing content

There are many ways to create a style guide, but ultimately if it’s successful it should both clearly encapsulate your brand voice and personality while providing the practical guardrails to ensure the brand is not being misrepresented.

If you’d rather not have another conversation with your agency about whether the logo should use those colors in that combination or if the website copy should use an Oxford comma, the style guide is your new best friend.

Need a style guide? Download our worksheet here. 

Use Creative Briefs

The first two recommendations are critical for avoiding revisions across all types of work your agency may be working on. Creative briefs are designed to limit revisions for specific projects and campaigns.

If you’re new to the creative brief, it’s a short document that defines the strategy for deliverables like advertising campaigns, videos and infographics. While not every piece of work warrants a creative brief, it’s a smart way to avoid revisions when there’s a significant amount of heavy lifting and/or investment involved.

By having your agency use creative briefs, you can be sure that everyone agrees on an important question: What’s the one thing a given piece needs to say?

Furthermore, a good creative brief will provide:

  • A clearly defined audience
  • An agreed-upon objective
  • Relevant market insights
  • Context and channel considerations

In short, the brief prevents the “I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but I’ll know it when I see it” approach to requesting work – a surefire recipe for way too many revisions, scope creep and frustration on all sides.

Ready to start using creative briefs? Download our template here.

Schedule Regular Creative Reviews

If you’re leaning on your agency for a frequent output of creative work, schedule a recurring creative review call with them and stick to it.

Note: this is not a huddle call to talk about projects on deck, reporting or strategy. These calls should be used to:

  • Discuss feedback on design and copy choices in real time
  • Get your agency team’s rationale behind their creative choices
  • Be clear about what you like and don’t like (and why)
  • Reference specific examples to avoid ambiguity (i.e. is there a website/ad/copy you can find that illustrates what you’re looking for?)

Regular creative reviews have the immediate benefit of minimizing the endless back-and-forth that easily happens over email where there’s ample room for misinterpretation or missed cues.

As you continue to have these regular reviews over time, you should also find that the average number of revisions will decrease as the shared vision becomes more internalized.

If the Revisions Persist…

If you’re using the tools and systems above and the average number of revisions remains high, it’s time to make a change.

If you or the ultimate decision-maker in your business is a perfectionist, this is likely the root cause for the abundance of revisions and it needs to be addressed. (You can read our argument for why version one is better than version none here.)

Similarly, if you have a committee in charge of approving work and no clear ownership over the final approval, that may be creating an over-editing problem as all opinions are shared and integrated. This also requires a shift on your end.

But, if you’ve taken an honest look at your own structure and neither of the above apply, it’s likely the other possibility: the agency isn’t a good fit.

Whatever the reason for the disconnect, if you’ve given them ample time to understand your business and are following best practices outlined above but the issues persist, it’s time to put them on notice – or if that’s already happened, move on.

At Simple Machines, following these processes to keep revisions at a minimum is one of the ways we make our clients’ lives easier. Get in touch to learn how we might do the same for you.

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