Why being more appreciative of your creative vendors actually makes YOU money!
I have worked in the video production business for nearly twenty years (and in web development for five). I can honestly say that we always go above and beyond for our clients, no matter the size of the project. Over the years and through numerous successful deliveries, product launches and releases, one thing seems pretty hard to deny: clients don't say “Thank You” very often. The purpose of this article is NOT to complain about clients' lack of appreciation… in fact, it's quite the opposite. It's meant to articulate the power of “Thank You” to employers and managers of creatives. Once you've read this post you will learn that treating your creative with appreciation and respect can add value to your projects and put dollars in your pocket. Most importantly, saying “thank you” opens up an emotional component to your interactions, creating the opportunity for a more real and sincere relationship. Expressing gratitude just FEELS GOOD for both the giver AND the receiver.
Disclaimer 1: To my dear creative friends, please understand that this may sound like a manipulative approach, but I assure you it goes both ways. This type of relationship will benefit both parties. The client gets a product they love at a great value and you get a happy and respectful customer who will continue to do business with you for years to come.
Disclaimer 2: Please note the following scenarios assume you are working with a professional creative that does great work, meets deadlines and strives to exceed expectations (i.e. what you get when you work with ECG Productions). If this does NOT sound like what you're getting from your creatives, CLICK HERE. All dramatizations are meant to be tongue-in-cheek and don't represent any real clients, either past or present.
Once you have entered into a relationship with a creative vendor, you will typically have a kickoff meeting to discuss the the look and feel of your particular project. Ideas will be presented and you will be asked questions that will help the creative team design an approach that fits your needs. This is the first opportunity for you, the client, to show your appreciation and use it to your advantage. You're there for a reason! You need this team to bring your project to life and you obviously don't have the necessary skill set or the time to do it on your own. Take a moment to express this. Don't flatter! Appreciate. You are laying the groundwork that will dictate the tone and quality of all your future interactions with the creative team. For example:
“I'm very excited to be working with you all on this project. We have a vision, but your creativity and input is greatly appreciated. We trust you and the level of skill that you bring to the table, and we want you to have the freedom to do what you do best.”
This statement does several things; it establishes you as a warm person, shows that you are open to new ideas, and most importantly, it sets a level of trust that allows the team to BE creative. Creative freedom is what every creative desires. Even if all of our ideas don't end up in the project, we generally feel good knowing that we could at least present our concepts and that our input is respected. It makes us excited to do the work. It makes us more invested in the project. Getting a creative engaged and invested in the project early on is very important because they will become your advocate moving forward.
During the early stages of the project, it's important that you engage your creative team often. Likely your vendor will be proactive and keep you informed on the status of the project, but if you need an update, it can be as simple as a phone call or e-mail:
“Hey Mary! I am very excited to see what you have done with the designs. Feel free to call me if you want me to take a look at anything. I appreciate your efforts. Thank you!”
With this simple note you do several things: you follow up on the project status without being annoying, you encourage the designer to have an ongoing dialogue with you, and most importantly you show your appreciation for their hard work.
If you're doing a video project and looking for inspiration, find a clip on YouTube that you really like and send it to your video producer with a note:
“John, check out this clip! (http://youtu.be/cNLlWLoIPkI) I know this is a little beyond our scope, but what do you think of it? I thought of you and our project when I saw it. Thanks for everything John! We are excited to see what you come up with.”
In one simple e-mail you thanked and empowered your creative. When a creative feels appreciated, they are more likely to go the extra mile. Its not simply about money, it has to do with pride and the desire to be validated. Empowering your creative doesn't cost you additional money, but it will almost certainly get you more value for the dollars you are spending. At our shop, If we have a great relationship with a client and they share something that we really like that is a bit beyond the scope of their project, we will almost always (within reason) try to incorporate some elements from the samples the client gives us. Just knowing that the client acknowledges the value and difficulty of a particular technique puts the dialogue in a much more positive light. Like most creatives, we really like to please our clients. We just never grew out of wanting people to watch us “go down the slide”.
This goes hand in hand with scenario 2 above. Nothing makes creatives more bitter than when we spend extra, unpaid time to make your project better and you don't recognize it. Take the time to understand what is involved in the creative process and recognize when extra work has been done. For example, you might say something like:
“Andrew, I noticed you added an extra animation during the last thirty seconds of the video. Wow! Thanks for that! I know it wasn't planned when we budgeted for this. Thanks for going the extra mile! I have one small note, and I hate to bring it up given you did it at no charge, but is it possible for you to make the circle a square? If it's something really hard, lets discuss. I know you have already spent more hours than we allotted and I value your time. “
In this last example I illustrated how to show appreciation for the free work and how to appropriately request feedback on that work should there be a change needed. By acknowledging that the additional work deserves money you are respecting the creatives time and efforts. Believe it or not, this type of behavior is very rare. Often clients don't show any appreciatation for extra effort, which can be frustrating. Immediately we feel bitter and our enthusiasm dips. No matter how professional you are, it is very difficult to ignore these emotions and that causes the work to, in some cases, suffer. It can also effect your bottom line as little things often slip through the cracks: a small edit here, a font change there. These small fixes are often overlooked when the client relationship is positive, but you can be reasonably certain your creative will be much more meticulous about small overages if they feel they aren't being appreciated.
Bottom line: If someone goes the extra mile, show your appreciation for it and you'll get great results AND better value.
Giving constructive, well thought-out feedback is a critical part of any creative process. Creatives who work professionally are typically very good at accepting and implementing feedback. As you give your feedback, make sure you have a clear direction and are very specific (include examples when you can). Vague feedback isn't very helpful. Below are examples of both bad and good feedback:
“I don't know Jane… I just hate the color blue and I don't like the font and it's just not modern enough for me. Can you make it more modern with a touch of Apple? My daughter said she read in a magazine that circles are big right now. Maybe we need circles?”
“Jane I really like the layout, but I'd like to try a lighter shade of blue. I also think we need a little more negative space to open things up a little. It feels crowded to me. I've attached two samples with fonts & layouts that I like. What do you think?”
The bad feedback is very vague and there is hardly any tangible direction. It also includes one of the worst things you can say to a creative, which is any of the following; my son thinks, my daughter thinks, my niece thinks, my cat thinks…you get the point. Most of us spent many years developing our skillsets so its difficult to take feedback that seems to come from someone not directly involved in the project on a whim. Maybe your cat has some good ideas, but its all in how you present them.
The good feedback provides very specific direction and includes relevant samples. It also engages the creative by including her in the process. By asking “What do you think?” the creative is invited to contribute to the discussion so that you can move forward creatively and find a solution that works.
When the feedback session is ending, say something like this:
“Jane, thanks so much for taking the time to thoughtfully collect my feedback. I really appreciate your attention to detail and I look forward to seeing what you come up with.”
This simple sign of appreciation makes the creative want to help you. It creates an environment of mutual respect and its hard to deny that's the type of environment where the best work gets done. A creative that feels respected WANTS to step it up and deliver more quickly. with more passion and enthusiasm. You will be such a welcome anomaly that they won't want to lose you! They will see your value as a great customer and you will receive great value from their work in return. It really goes both ways!
THE END OF THE PROJECT:
At the end of the project, if you are working with the right company, you should always be 100% satisfied with your product. Now is the prefect opportunity to show your sincere gratitude to the entire creative team.
“On behalf of [Company X], I just wanted to thank you all for your hard work and commitment to this project. I'm so pleased with the final product and it wouldn't be what it is without you. You are a talented team and we are excited to work together again.
This simple act will make a huge impact on your next project's ROI. If your next project calls for different creative within the vendor's organization, they will surely have heard how great you are to work with, and project veterans will be excited to work with you again. They'll be ready to bring their “A” game right out of the gate and you'll get the best work possible from your creative team. This means getting the most value for your money, which, at the end of the day, is what everyone who engages a vendor wants. It also comes in handy if you are working with lower budgets and need a hand from time to time. We're more likely to bend if you're great to work with. If you're a nightmare, we're going to be watching every nickel.
When you think about it, it's just common sense. Treat others how you would like to be treated. Be nice, be open, be appreciative and damnit say “THANK YOU”! It's not just for us. It's to your benefit too! These behaviors will make your work life easier, your projects better, and keep your pockets fuller.
At ECG Productions we have been extremely lucky with our clients over the years. I'm not exaggerating when I say that 98% of them exhibit the behaviors mentioned above and we have had very long, fruitful relationships with the vast majority of them. I'd like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to our wonderful clients! We couldn't do what we do without YOU!
If you're in a creative relationship that's not delivering the results you deserve, please CONTACT US and let's create something wonderful together.