Between Chaos and Organization, You’ll Find Creativity
I said that phrase today and thought, “Wow, I need to write a blog post about that.”
We work with a lot of clients who have other marketing agency or web development agency relationships – relationships that don’t seem to work well. What we hear is that they’re really creative agencies but can’t seem to get anything done. These are the marketing agencies that operate on an organizational chaos theory (no, that’s not a real strategy, just an effect).
Their approach is to take as much work as they think they can handle – but the “think they can handle” is based on everything going perfectly … which of course it never does. As Eisenhower famously said, “Planning is essential, but the plan is worthless.”
Something always happens that throws off your ability to do the work as perfectly budgeted for time – an employee quits, a car accident happens, you (the client) doesn’t like the first draft or doesn’t get edits back in the prescribed time frame.
So in small increments, across lots of projects, the timeline gets thrown off and chaos ensues. Soon, the agency’s approach to delivering work is to finish the work for whichever client yells the loudest.
Not a great way to run a business and not a great business to be a client of.
The flip side of chaos is the over-organized agency. The clients who complain about these firms typically say something like, “They get the work done on time, but there’s no creativity.” In those agencies, everyone has a completely neat and tidy desk. All processes and procedures are documented to the nth degree and every decision-making process is clearly delineated with every possible outcome. Client/agency calls are highly planned and orchestrated and always start and end on time. This type of marketing agency churns out great work that never breaks any rules or barriers.
If you’re a big company that needs to have your ideas implemented and don’t want to be challenged with new ideas, this is the perfect marketing factory for you. Their work is driven by the getting-it-done checklist, and they will get it done.
In between these two extremes lies creativity. I’ll use us at Leading Results as an example.
We keep a pretty tight rein on staff to client ratios. Our account execs don’t work with more than four clients and are backed up by editing, writing, design, strategic, and web development staff. When we bring on new accounts, we bring on more staff (not more contractors). No chaos here.
We use a project management system (Wrike) that allows us to schedule all our work and manage the dependencies, but we also realize that a task list is just that. We have a full-time project manager (who really is the most powerful person in the company) who keeps an eye on the human elements and has the ability at any point to stop a project, move a resource, or bring more hands on deck to get something done or experiment with a new approach. We’re organized, but we clearly recognize that getting great work done is more important than checking a box on a task list.
And, most importantly, we highly value new ideas and approaches. The marketing world, and especially the technology in the marketing world, is moving too fast to just keep doing the same things. We’re always looking for new ways to apply consumer marketing approaches to B2B and B2C approaches to our consumer-focused clients. We go back to the future, taking techniques that worked in the 1970s in print and try them on the web. And we’re always looking for that next new technology tweak that could give our clients a bit of an edge.
So if you’re looking for a new agency, look for one that understands that some chaos, especially experimental chaos, is a good idea. And that organization and project management are important for not dropping the ball – but aren’t the end-all, be-all means to success.
Creativity truly does lie in the middle of chaos and organization.