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The secret ingredient for great creative work? Trust.

Everyone always wants to know the secret or the top 4 steps to getting the best work out of your agency. As we planned this podcast episode, we originally wanted to give tips or tricks to get great creative work. But as we sat down to talk about what we’ve learned from our best work and our best clients, there was only one common denominator: Trust.

The only way to get the best work out of your agency is for you to trust them and for them to trust you back. Trust leads to more creative work, more on brand work, and more effective work. When there’s trust in the relationship, your agency feels safe and motivated to push the creative envelope.

In this episode of “Death to the Corporate Video,” we discuss why trust is essential in the agency-client relationship, how to find an agency you can trust, and how to develop trust as you work together. Metaphors include airline pilots and those death traps known as hot air balloons. Listen to the episode or read the full transcript below.

You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below.

Episode transcript

Guy Bauer: So when you get your rounds of feedback, do give feedback. That is your chance. Now, when the agency pushes back on the feedback, what do you do. Right? And that's where the trust really matters.

Hope Morley: Hello, and welcome to Death to the Corporate Video, a podcast with tools and advice for how to make B2B videos that people actually want to watch. I'm Hope Morley.

Guy Bauer: I'm Guy Bauer.

Hope Morley: Today on the show, we are going to be talking about trust, particularly the trust that you need to have in the agency-client partner relationship. Our original idea for this episode was that we wanted to do something about how to get the best work out of your agency. And as we talked about what we wanted to talk about in this episode and what kind of the common through lines for all our best projects had been and how we had done our best work for people, it all came down to having trust.

Guy Bauer: It really is the prime ingredient.

Hope Morley: Yeah. So I want to talk a little bit more about what we mean by trust when we're talking about the agency-client relationship, because I think it can mean different things to different people and what we're getting at here, it really comes down to ... I was trying to think of a way to say this without using the word "trust" again.

Hope Morley: But when you're working with someone who you consider an expert and who you know that they, in a certain way or a certain area, know more than you, like when you hire a plumber to come fix their toilet. There's a level of trust that you know that you're hiring them because you don't have that expertise in yourself. And you have to trust that you've hired an expert and that they're going to do what's best by your toilet.

Hope Morley: And it's the same thing when you're working on something like a B2B marketing campaign. If you don't have video expertise in-house, you have to bring in an expert and you have to trust that they do know what they're doing, and that they do want to make the best work. And that in some cases they know better than you and there is a point that you should listen to them.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. And you can totally tell there's no pain behind any of this episode.

Hope Morley: This isn't a decade of hurt here.

Guy Bauer: Yeah, yeah. All just pouring out. Well, I always think of when you take off in an airplane and you're at full throttle, your back is into the seat, right? Because you're feeling some G pressure. Then the nose goes up at a pretty steep angle, 15 degrees or whatever it is. And you feel acceleration. You feel altitude. You feel the plane is going up. And to a passenger, that's a good feeling, that speed is increasing and altitude is increasing.

Guy Bauer: But then there's this moment, a couple of minutes into the flight, where suddenly the engines spool down and the nose drops pretty suddenly and everyone in the plane kind of lifts up. They get some negative Gs. And still, I'm a frequent flyer and I have hours in the cockpit as a student pilot. Still to this day, I kind of grab my arm rest a little tighter. And there's that just instinctual feeling of like, what's wrong, right? Shouldn't we be going up? And the thing that stops me from rushing to the cockpit to say, "What's going on? What are you doing?" Is that I trust the pilot. I have to have trust because if you were trying to fly an airplane by committee, by all the passengers, kind of crowding behind the cockpit, over the cockpit.

Hope Morley: Voting on what altitude to be at and how quickly to go.

Guy Bauer: And if everyone had a voice, you would crash. The pilots need to be left alone. There's a reason why they're alone from you. They don't want to hear anything. They need to hear the instructions from air traffic control. They need to talk to each other. There's a reason why they're up there.

Guy Bauer: Now, the creative industry that we're in is a little bit different in that, well, we do want someone in the cockpit with us, but not everybody, not 200 passengers, but we do need to fly with a little guidance. But still, you as the client in this situation and we're clients too, we engage agencies all the time to do stuff for us. And there comes this moment for us too, where it's counter. It feels like they're nosing the plane down. What the agency is recommending is like, really? It's counter-intuitive. But there's that feeling I have, even when we work with agencies, which is, I just need to trust them. I see all the work on their website. I know them. They're great. Every thing else they do is amazing. Why would they now choose my project to not give it their all on? And so, we have to restrain ourselves and pretend like we're cooler than we are.

Hope Morley: Every day.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. And kind of white knuckle on the arm rest a little bit and just go like ugh, and then 99% of the time it turns out fine. 99.9% of the time. The more we trust, the better work comes out.

Hope Morley: Yeah. So how should people be looking for and finding agencies that they can have this kind of trust in?

Guy Bauer: You don't just start up Google and type in B2B marketing agency and look at five and then make your decision in that moment on who to even send a request to. What I do is follow their Instagram, become like a listener of theirs and join their newsletter. And it's a vibe match. I think more than anything, your agency needs to match your vibe and your point of view on the world. They may have great work, but if they're not like you, or if they don't, it's not like they have to be like you, but if they don't see the world as you do, that could be an area where that will breed mistrust. It's almost like a breeding ground for bacteria. That breeds mistrust when there's a misalignment of values and point of view.

Guy Bauer: So I think the number one thing is do an initial search, start a folder in your browser, throw companies in there, take a day or two off, go back to it, look at it, join their mailing lists, kind of see their Instagram. And that's the way I would do it because you're going to gain trust that way by engaging with them when they don't even know you exist.

Hope Morley: And when you're doing that preliminary search, I would recommend that people spend the time actually reading the case studies on their site and looking at their work and making sure that what you're looking for fits kind of perfectly in their wheelhouse, like do they actually do what you want them to do? You might find an agency that has a vibe that you really like, and you seem like you personally would get along, but then you look at their work and they've never really done something like what you're looking for and that's just going to create a mismatch too. So the first thing is really to find someone who's an expert in what you want. And then it's finding that kind of personality vibe fit.

Guy Bauer: Totally. And talking about the portfolio and case studies is that's my recommendation for going back to the taking off metaphor. The thing that allows you to trust is you go you saw the pilots, they were wearing uniforms and they sound like pilots over the intercom and they've been doing everything right up to this point that a pilot would do. So they are pilots. And so we're safe. This is obviously air traffic control telling them to do something.

Guy Bauer: The portfolio and the case studies, that's your mental check. So when the agency comes across with a strategy and you're like, "Ooh, really? I don't know about that. We've never done that before." And you have that instinct to say, "No. I don't know. We're not doing that." Go to their portfolio, go to their case studies, reread and go back to that reason why you chose them in the first place. You have to do that, that check.

Hope Morley: And I do want to say too that we're not saying that you're ruining any trust that you have in this relationship because you give feedback. There's nothing wrong with feedback. We invite feedback and we do want our clients to give feedback when we ask for it, like there's a reason why there's feedback rounds.

Guy Bauer: So here's a tweak on the metaphor is we want you in the cockpit with us, but we want your help in telling us where to go. What's the objective? How we get there is the speed, heading and altitude and all that stuff. Let us do that part for you. That's what you hired us for and we'll get you to the objective. As the client, you're the objective setter, the destination setter, and let the pilots pilot the plane.

Hope Morley: If you feel yourself losing trust in your agency, feel like that trust is slipping away, I would encourage you to ask yourself why, like what the agency did that is causing you to have some mistrust. And then take the time to, before you take it out on the agency, evaluate what happened and how important it is to the final product. So for example, if they're giving you work that directly contradicts notes that you've given them in the past, that's a reason that you're like, okay, maybe you should rein in this agency a little bit. They're not listening to you.

Guy Bauer: You're exactly right. And I think what separates an agency who is kind of trustworthy or not is rationale. So if they don't take your note, do they have rationale for it? Or are they did they just didn't take it, right, and they forgot? So it's like, why aren't they taking it? And do they give you rationale? There should always be rationale.

Guy Bauer: It's the same thing. Think about if you're a passenger in my plane. You're the client. I'm the pilot. And you see the air field is over there to the right. And you see me turn to the left. I think you're okay to say, "Hey, the airfields over to the right. Why are you turning to the left?" And then the pilot goes, "Well, we're turning to the left because we have to take a different runway. So we have to swing to the left and then we'll swing around to the right and land there." That's a perfect rationale. What you don't want to hear is, "Oh wait, where?"

Hope Morley: Oh, wait, you wanted me to go right. Oh, okay. Hang on. I need an extra three days and then we'll go right.

Guy Bauer: Exactly. So I think, yeah, like we're the metaphor kings and queens here.

Hope Morley: It's almost like we work in a creative field.

Guy Bauer: Well, I'll tell you this sidebar, the scariest thing. My wife, Jen, we went to Napa and she wanted to go hot air ballooning. And I don't like anything that doesn't glide. So of course, the days leading up to the ride, I'm on YouTube, just watching balloon accident after balloon accident.

Hope Morley: Which is a perfectly healthy thing to do when you're nervous.

Guy Bauer: And the key thing that will bring a balloon down is when they crash into each other. So if like one balloon goes under another one and the other one like kind of deflates the bottom balloon, that will cause problems. Anytime they like touch each other, because all the air gets led out of the bag.

Guy Bauer: So we're on this thing and I'm just freaking out. I'm like looking at all the other balloons. So I see a balloon straight ahead of us and a little higher. 40 feet above the top of our balloon is another balloon. And it goes on top of us. And then as it's on top of us, because I'm watching it like a hawk and knowing where it is, our balloon pilot is like, "Where did that other balloon go?" And I'm like, "You ..." And I was like, all right, this is it. This is the end. Here we go. So I didn't have trust in my balloon pilot. But what can I even do in it?

Guy Bauer: So we know it's crazy. It's like, I still didn't freak out. I didn't go, "We're going to, you're, what's wrong with you?" I was like I need this guy to land this thing. Focus. And so I still couldn't freak out and take control of the situation because I don't know how to balloon.

Hope Morley: Right. Like you couldn't land it, even if you punched the guy out or something. You know? Like what are you going to do?

Guy Bauer: Well, think about that. So that means you have to have a certain tolerance for your agency making those kinds of mistakes. Like, wait, where? Oh! Because you need them to land this thing. Because if you take control too soon, well, now you're out the money you paid them. And now you're just taking all the creative liability on yourself. i.e flying the hot air balloon.

Hope Morley: Then why did you hire the agency in the first place? Then you could have just done it yourself, if you wanted to do it yourself.

Guy Bauer: And are you, do you even know how to land the hot air balloon?

Hope Morley: Like are you qualified?

Guy Bauer: Yeah. Are you qualified? Right. That was the scariest moment of my life. One of them, one of them. My wife doesn't like vacation unless there's some kind of death element. Like there has got to be a chance of death, then my wife will like the vacation, zip lining, hot air ballooning.

Hope Morley: I don't think there's a very high chance of death in zip lining.

Guy Bauer: No, it's actually a super safe, but it was scary.

Hope Morley: So what can people do? How do you develop a trusting relationship with your agency? We talked about making sure that you're choosing the right agency so that's how you get off on the right foot. But once you're in a relationship with an agency, or if you're working with someone who you might not have chosen them or been part of that process, it's possible that you're put on a project with an agency that was picked by somebody else on your team. How do you get off on the right foot and develop that relationship?

Guy Bauer: I don't know. I wish I knew.

Hope Morley: Call us and let us know. No.

Guy Bauer: So if you are working with an agency for the first time, you may want to ask them, "Hey, can we like have a lot of little check-ins or maybe a weekly check-in, even if the check-in is only a half hour." That's great. You get to just hear each other more and you see the micro decisions. I think you want to be in a position where you're making micro decisions, not huge, gigantic decisions. Micro decisions. It's like how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. And so the cool thing about micro decisions too is that if you are prone to trust issues is now no decision has taken you too far off track. So if you have your agency split up ...

Hope Morley: You can really easily reroute, if you see something going in the wrong direction. It's a little nudge to get back on track. It's not a big sea change. And it's kind of like managing a good employee. I think we've talked about this before, that you likely have weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with your team. You should be checking in with them regularly. You know what they're working on. And you would hate to be surprised as someone's boss, if they've been working on a big project and they just dump it all on you, when you've had no chance to see what they've been working on along the way. You have no idea if it's on track or off track.

Hope Morley: So it's the same with your agency. You want to have those check-ins and they're not just to check in on the work, but they're also to develop that relationship because you can only really trust. Well, I wouldn't say only, but a good way to develop trust is to know your agency as people. And then you get to know their strengths and weaknesses. You get to know what they're like, so that when you do have some feedback that they're pushing back on, you know if you should listen to them.

Guy Bauer: And I would say to a new agency, don't give them the biggest thing yet. Maybe start off with some smaller engagements and test it out. This way you can say, all right, we're going to give this new agency a small engagement. And if it goes sideways, no big deal, but let's see what they can do. Right? Let's give them all the rope. Let's give them, or let's take away the net. Let's give them all the trust. All these metaphors are are ...

Hope Morley: Like ropes and nets. And I'm like, are we fishing now? I don't even know.

Guy Bauer: Oh, we're flying a plane. I got like four hours of sleep last night. We're watching James Bond Spectre. And I don't understand. I don't know if I like it or not. It's still...

Hope Morley: Wait. You said that like you didn't watch the whole movie.

Guy Bauer: I keep falling asleep.

Hope Morley: Oh.

Guy Bauer: So, I'll tell you a tactic clients use, which I don't agree with, is the taking away of time. So your deadline is, your deadline say on the client, deadline, we need this thing in market August 1st. So what you do is then you go tell your agency you need it by July 10th. And you're baking in mistrust into their timeline, right? You're baking in three weeks of mistrust so that you have cushion. While logically, that makes sense. We're not buying patio furniture here. It's a creative process. So that three weeks that you took away, that's thought fuel that you restricted your agency on. Right? That's time, that's sleeping on it time. That means that your solve is going to be kind of rushed through. You're not going to have all the time to sleep on it and prove things. You're going to have to make rush decisions. And then guess what? On July 10th, the thing is going to arrive. And then for three weeks, you're just sitting there and odds are the thing isn't going to launch on August 1st anyway.

Guy Bauer: But I wouldn't play that game too aggressively. Baking in a few days of assurance is great.

Hope Morley: Or maybe a week is fine.

Guy Bauer: That's okay. Maybe like a 5% contingency on the timeline, but don't go overboard. And you know what that does actually? So then if you go back to the agency and they saw that you didn't really need it, then there's mistrust on your agency that your timeline is even real.

Hope Morley: That it's a fake rush, whenever you say it's a rush. Yeah.

Guy Bauer: Correct. So yeah. You think when you're a client, you know what's so funny is every time we're a client, I'm always like, why does it still seem like we're working for someone? So like, even when we're the client and you have this vision in your head of sitting back and let me see what you've done. And then, Oh, and like, you're the client. But actually, if you're a good client, you're doing as much work. It's as much work. It's not ...

Hope Morley: Yeah. You need to be involved. Yeah. Trust doesn't mean hands-off, like that's not the takeaway that I want people to take from this episode, is that you should just trust them blindly and be completely uninvolved. Because you need to be involved the whole time.

Guy Bauer: Delegate. Don't abdicate. So when you get your rounds of feedback, do give feedback. That is your chance. Now, when the agency pushes back on the feedback, what do you do? Right? And that's where the trust really matters.

Hope Morley: Yeah. So really what the takeaway that I want people to have from this episode is the way to get the best work out of your agency and to really develop a long-term relationship with your agency, which is how you're going to continue to get great work, is to develop trust with them. And that's really the only way to do it. And it takes time and it's hard and sometimes it's scary, but it also is going to give you the best product.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. Just white knuckle it. Pretend you're cooler than you are.

Hope Morley: That's the real takeaway. Just always pretend that you're cooler than you are. Everyone, thanks for listening. If you want to talk any more about how to learn to trust your agency, we're happy to chat with you. You can find us across all the social channels at Umault, or you can email us at hello@umault.com. That's U-M-A-U-L-T dot com. And thanks for listening.





Picture of Guy bauer, founder of umault

Guy has been making commercial videos for over 20 years and is the author of “Death to the Corporate Video: A Modern Approach that Works.” He started the agency in 2010 after a decade of working in TV, film and radio. He’s been losing hair and gaining weight ever since.

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