Professional Services Branding: retaining a creative agency
In a world where markets are increasingly flooded with branded content, consistency is more important than ever. To successfully compete, brands must be both creative and disciplined about how they present themselves. If not, over time, a carefully crafted brand identity becomes diluted across multiple service areas, employees, and platforms.
Consistency provides the structure for a brand to truly connect with clients and prospects, to attract talent and retain expertise… it’s what establishes, maintains and builds brand integrity.
Horses for courses
Finding sufficient in-house time and resources to effectively support your brand is a challenge for many firms.
As businesses grow, responsibility for creating professional branded content spreads out across the organisation and oversight weakens. Internal pressures can result in hasty decision making and rushed outputs, all leading to death by a thousand cuts for your brand.
For many employees, design simply isn’t a priority. And even when it is, it’s unlikely to be a core skill. However, for your audience, first – actually, make that all – impressions count.
That’s why retaining a creative agency, who’s very raison d’etre is to act as your brand guardian, is often a commercially sound decision.
Long term benefits
Retaining a creative agency as your go-to brand guardian will protect and enhance the investment you’ve already made in your brand identity by ensuring it is consistently and correctly represented.
Whether your requirements are a steady stream of design assets for social media, marketing messages, digital ads, sales collateral, or more ad hoc work on PR, pitches and presentations, your agency partner will maintain that all important brand integrity by:
- helping to unite the firm or business under one message and one mission.
- creating consistency and quality across all your branded collateral.
- encouraging a more efficient working environment by providing clarity on brand outputs and enabling employees to focus on their core roles
- ensuring the brand works hard to attract and retain business
Often, although not always, it makes sense to retain the creative agency who designed the visual identity. This agency will already have a deep understanding of the business and a good working relationship with internal stakeholders built on mutual respect and trust.
However, if your current agency relationship has run its course, or you’re simply looking to expand your agency roster, then it’s time to find that perfect match elsewhere.
The right creative agency will merge seamlessly with your business, either by supporting your existing in-house design resource, or being your ‘go-to agency’ for all branded communications.
It’s vital to have open and honest budget discussions with your creative agency.
Ensure that important projects are adequately funded right through to delivery. For example, when producing a Thought Leadership piece, a common mistake is to budget for the research and writing phases but leave insufficient funds for the design of the final TL output and promotional campaign. And, however great the content, if it’s not presented in a professional and engaging way it will fail to make the required impact.
We’d recommend 2 approaches to buying creative services:
- Project based – works well for larger requirements such as a new website or brand campaign but may not be the most cost-effective way to purchase day-to-day creative output.
- Retainer – an agreed pre-paid, annual spend. This allows routine creative requirements to be serviced promptly, professionally and without delays caused by individual budget approval, POs etc. Supported by timesheets and regular reporting a retainer can be a really efficient and cost-effective way forward.
As a creative agency with more than 30 years’ experience in professional and financial services branding, we have witnessed, first-hand, the benefits of an ongoing and productive client-agency relationship. Transitioning from brand creation to brand guardianship has resulted in branded communications that:
- are designed to a consistently, high standard
- evolve in line with the needs of the business
- are delivered on brief and on message.
The opposite is also true. We have seen great visual branding steadily decline and erode through poor management, a lack of design quality and insufficient resources.
If you’d like to discover more about our creative services, please get in touch.