The mad geniuses in the underground science lab at Salted Stone HQ are hard at work developing a hat that will let us read our clients’ minds. But until they get the prototypes to stop spontaneously combusting, we’re stuck doing things the old-fashioned way — relying on great feedback from our points of contact.
Great feedback makes the difference between stunning deliverables that exceed the brief and get delivered on time and, well, the opposite.
It isn’t about hand-holding or doing your agency’s job for them. A solid team of writers, designers, developers, media specialists, and solutions pros will always be able to bridge the gap between what you say you want and what you really need.
Instead, giving great feedback is about staying engaged in the process, understanding a few key guidelines, and avoiding costly distractions.
How to give feedback to your creative agency
We asked our production team members for their top tips. Follow this advice, and you’ll maximize the ROI of your agency relationship and the success of your projects.
Ignore this advice, and you may find yourself automatically enrolled as a beta tester for our spontaneously combusting mind-reading hats.
1. Start with the problem, not the solution
This can be counterintuitive, because in many areas of our lives we’re taught that telling people what’s wrong without suggesting how to fix it is rude.
But when you’re providing feedback to your agency, it’s best to describe the problem first and foremost. Tell us in detail why something isn’t working for you, and what specifically you dislike about it.
If you’ve got ideas for fixes, that’s great too! We’re happy to collaborate. But avoid jumping right to solutions without first identifying the problem — that’s where misunderstandings and frustration tend to occur.
2. Take yourself out of the equation
The work you do with your agency will almost always be primarily for an audience other than yourself.
Websites and products are for your users. Sales materials are for your prospects. Emails are for your contacts. Most of the time, we’re asking you to put yourself in these folks’ shoes in order to provide feedback. And that can be a confusing position to be in!
It’s pretty common to forget that you’re supposed to be thinking about what’s best for your audience, not what you personally like and dislike. It can be helpful to start each feedback session, both internally and with your agency, by reminding everyone on the call precisely which audiences the deliverable in question is meant to reach.
3. Give specific positive feedback
The nature of the agency/client relationship tends to discourage positive feedback. After all, if you get a deliverable that’s absolutely perfect, what else is there to say besides “approved”?
While constructive criticism is the main thing we’re looking for when we ask for feedback, it’s important to remember that positive feedback can be equally important, as long as it’s specific. Telling us what exactly you liked about a deliverable will let us know to do more of that in future work.
4. Assign a feedback leader
Technology has made it really easy for loads of people to leave feedback on a deliverable, whether it's comments on a Google doc, notes on an InVision mockup, or live feedback on a Zoom call.
Unfortunately, when there are multiple stakeholders independently leaving feedback, it’s sometimes confusing, contradictory, or overwhelming. Too many cooks spoil the broth, and relying on your agency to interpret the whims of your internal stakeholders is a recipe for really spoiled broth.
Therefore, we always suggest that our clients appoint a single point of contact to act as the hall monitor for all feedback.
5. Keep internal arguments internal
Doing work with your agency often means touching on subjects which might be cans of worms — stuff like brand messaging, design motifs, and technical workflows.
It’s important to get out ahead of these topics in order to avoid the comments section devolving into an extended internal debate. We recommend giving all stakeholders explicit instructions for giving feedback on particular deliverables.
6. Examples are (almost) always welcome
We love examples! If you’re having trouble describing exactly what you’re going for, examples from competitors or other touchpoints can be super helpful.
Two caveats: First, if you send us an example, you also must tell us why you like it. And second, send your examples early in the process. The third round of revisions is no time to be bringing up new references.
7. Remember the big picture
One advantage of working with a full-service agency like Salted Stone is that we’re always thinking about the big picture as we’re developing and delivering your work.
We like to remind our clients to do the same. By always framing feedback in terms of your specific project objectives and overall business goals, we can avoid bike-shedding and ensure every deliverable contributes to your success.
8. Be nice
And if you don’t remember a single thing on this list, don’t worry. Simply following the golden rule will get you pretty far with us 🙂