3 Ways to Not Commoditize Your Work
The challenge in building a dynamic agency, as with any business, is being able to work 'on' the business as well as 'in' the business. Leading a team internally while also being a part and contributing to a client team is a perilous juggle at times. But over the 25 years that I have been in the marketing and storytelling industry, I have learned several key lessons that allow me to serve the team at home while also adding critical value to the clients with whom I have the privilege to serve. Here are 3 critical ways to not commoditize your work in the office or with the client:
#1 - Work 'With', Not 'For': Now, you have to keep this straight. The client is the boss and they are the ones that write the checks (and we like that). But the fastest way to become a disposable commodity is to simply take orders and do only what they ask, when they ask. Vibrant partners in a client-vendor relationship contribute over-and-above effort beyond what is requested. It can be a new idea or concept, an automated method that simplifies their daily tasks, or a tool or widget that can assist them in your work together. The partner (client—yes, we don't like that word) will love you for it and appreciate that you are thinking about them when in between strategy sessions.
#2 - Be a Content Gatherer: The best way to be in tune with the needs and interests of a partner you work alongside is to constantly be reading material that is directly related to their business. At least once I week I forward a link or a scan of an article that is specifically focused on their business, not mine. Many times, they will use it or re-post it to their social media or blog. It takes one task off their plate for that day—content creation, and it lets them know that you are into their business mentally and emotionally.
#3 - Be An Advocate with Candor: Too many times agency staff are pleasers. We go out of our way to do whatever is asked without thinking about whether or not it is the best thing. By being a courteous, respectful advocate who speaks with candor, you will be elevated to trusted adviser rather than a vendor order-taker. Partners want to know they are heard and are respected, but they also want to know that you care enough about the work that you will suggest additional tools, methods, or resources. They want to know that you always analyze on their behalf.
Just to restate it: The partner is the boss and has the final approval, yet, with time, respect, and proven trustworthiness we can build long-term and profitable working relationships. It is time to graduate beyond "Do you want fries with that?"