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How to Ask the Right Questions of Your Agency

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team member

Kieron Matthews

It’s fascinating how bad we are at asking for what we want.  I mean directly, boldly and clearly asking for what we want.  Here are some examples that might resonate and look hard — they are questions, but the answers rarely give us what we want:

  • “Am I the only one who fills the dishwasher?”
  • “Did you get my email?”
  • “Am I expected to just drop everything and come and pick you up?”

Now let’s look at them again:

  • “Am I the only one who fills the dishwasher?” — I want someone else to stack the dishwasher because I feel like I’m the one that always does it and I’d like a break.
  • “Did you get my email?” — I want you to acknowledge my email by reading it, replying to it and answering the questions in it.
  • “Am I expected to just drop everything and come and pick you up?” — I want you to let me know in advance when you need picking up so I can plan my time.

I’m woefully under-qualified to advise on being better at asking for what you want, but we at Flock are aware that this lack of clarity is epidemic within the client-agency relationship. Do any of these questions sound familiar?

  • “Why doesn’t our agency ever give us any market insights?”
  • “Why does our agency always give us rubbish creative work?”
  • “Why are our agency so expensive?”

Too one sided? How about these?

  • “Why doesn’t our client ever take brave decisions?”
  • “Why can’t our client give us a clear brief?”
  • “Why can’t our client make a decision?”

These are some common examples of the kind of questions asked — they’re asked in this particular way in order to avoid opening up in a potentially vulnerable way, but the questions don’t clearly state what is wanted. They were all sentences that highlighted what the other person was or wasn’t doing, while never genuinely asking for what was needed from an undefended place. When people (agencies) receive a clear request, they are much more likely to want to act upon it. “I want a competitive review of the drinks market in Italy because I want to learn from our competition” is much clearer than, “Why don’t you give me any insights?”. The way you ask for what you want will directly influence the outcome you receive. In short, what you put in is what you get out.

We frequently hear the previously discussed questions and more, which is in part why we developed the Flock Agency Scoping Tool.  It may not be an immediate panacea for great communication, but we do believe its development is a pivotal point for the industry.

A clear scope between a client and their agency forces both parties to think more carefully about what they ask for – what does the client want from their agency and how does the agency clearly understand costs, resource and other factors involved to deliver on the client’s request? The scoping tool is not simply just a ‘request for’, its outcome should be interpreted as the start of a healthy dialogue where two parties can come together and agree specific project goals, deliverables, features, functions, tasks, deadlines and, ultimately, costs moving forward.

Just with asking better questions, it’s easier to say than do. It takes time and attention to consider what you want. We’ve worked very hard using our industry expertise to guide the development of the scoping tool. The tool is designed to provide shape and structure to the questions asked, empowering the agency to structure a response. We absolutely recognise that changing the way you scope is transformative and it’s may not seem easy.

Get in touch and we’ll see if we can help. No wait — I want you to get in touch, so we can help and support you scope your agency better, if you’d be willing for Flock Associates to help you do that.

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