Working with an agency is one of the most important investments a business can make but are you getting the most value out of the Shopify Plus agency relationship?
As many a brand manager will testify, an untended agency relationship can end up feeling like a swirl of bureaucracy, miscommunication and chaos. But with thoughtful set-up and nurturing, they can offer objective advice, reliable expertise, and a broader range of opinions to support you and your brand.
With over 14 years in the eCommerce industry and an average client partnership of more than seven years, we’ve got plenty of tips to share with you! In this post, we’ll cover our top five ways to achieve a more productive relationship with your agency team.
1. Get to know each other (hint: project discovery is not a one-off task!)
Make sure you meet the whole management team during the pitch process, which is what we do at blubolt. “It’s an opportunity for the brand to engage with everyone on our team and for us to understand their working culture, objectives, and project scope,” says Leigh Mardon, COO at blubolt. It also gives you the opportunity to ask questions with the relevant person being there to answer immediately.
From there, regular contact (even just for a quick chat) is essential. Sharing what’s going on within your business - from new strategic goals to management changes - means the agency can adjust their approach to better support you. “When you have a good understanding of the client’s personality and the business environment they’re operating within, you can better anticipate their needs and challenge them when necessary,” Leigh continues. “It enables us to help them manage demands from within their own brand too.”
2. Establish how you will communicate.
“Clear, consistent, and timely communications are critical to the success of any project,” says Joshua Lamb, Senior Project Manager at blubolt.
As part of our onboarding process at blubolt, we take a twofold approach to establishing communications. Firstly, we outline the formal communications processes. This includes things like project documentation and sign-off processes so everyone knows what to expect and when. Secondly, but equally important, we set-up a more informal communication method like Slack to enable quick and easy day-to-day communications with everyone on both the agency and client teams plus the wider blubolt community.
Getting these simple processes in place from the start ensures every team member is well informed and has the confidence to reach out to other team members.
3. Agree on an easy-to-use task tracking system.
Efficiently managing ideas, issues and workflows are crucial to maintaining a productive agency relationship for both projects and long term support. For example at blubolt, our project and issue tracking software mean everyone (both client and agency) can raise tasks, flag issues, and make proactive suggestions for development work.
In addition to providing a clear overview of jobs in the pipeline, it enables teams to better prioritise work whether it be fixing urgent issues or seizing new opportunities. “When onboarding a client at blubolt, we’ll always ask two questions. Firstly, what never gets done? And secondly, if you had more development time what would you love to do?”, says Sky Moffatt, Project Manager at blubolt. “By encouraging clients to embrace the software early on, it makes it so much easier to balance immediate and long term tasks.”
4. Get direct access to staff working on your account.
“Most clients want to deal directly with the individuals who are doing the work for them without the bureaucracy that comes with traditional agency dealings,” says Scott McDonald, Client Services Director at blubolt.
While it’s still essential for your project manager to maintain control of the project communications in general, getting direct access to the wider team allows for more timely (and lively!) discussion and action on complex queries or fresh ideas. It can aid the speedy delivery of projects too, like our recent Alexa Chung project where we migrated the brand from Magento 2 to Shopify Plus in just over two months.
As such, at blubolt we encourage direct access to our specialists and facilitate introductions to the whole team - from designers to developers - during client onboarding. We find that with the proper communication and task management processes in place (see points 2 and 3 above), everyone knows what's happening and can enjoy greater engagement.
5. Set aside time for big picture thinking.
One of the key benefits of an agency relationship is having a go-to source for objective advice and specialist expertise for strategic planning. However, this resource can often be overlooked by time-poor brands who only tap into this knowledge for specific projects.
At blubolt, we help brands overcome this by taking the lead with a more structured approach. Through our Quarterly Business Reviews, we get together with clients to discuss their objectives and changes within their brand and/or industry. In addition, we share our own data-led analysis and revenue-generating ideas along with news and developments in our own agency work. With both client and agency actively participating in the process, we then set out a plan of action and KPIs for the following quarter.
Developing a fruitful partnership.
When investing time, effort and energy into your Shopify Plus agency relationship, it makes good business sense to ensure your approach delivers the most productive results possible. As we’ve explained above, success really hinges on getting the people, processes, and platforms in place from the get-go. Apply these three Ps consistently and simply relish the fruits of your client-agency partnership!
Have your own project?
If you’ve got an eCommerce project and need assistance, do get in touch with blubolt here. We would love to help!