The benefits of being a client-facing agency
One of the first questions I was asked when I was interviewing for a job at Luminus was, ‘How comfortable are you talking with and presenting to clients?’
Thankfully, this question didn’t trip me up. It was a skill that I was fairly comfortable with; just pitching my ideas a different way in my previous industry. I could see how that question might shake some people up though; particularly creatives that tend to have all of their time consumed with projects, not client meetings. Clients may also feel the less people in meetings, the better.
While it’s not unheard of for agencies to have more of their members interacting with clients on a day-to-day basis, most agencies ensure client interactions happen with a designated group of people. Many digital marketing agencies may only have their account executives or the creative directors handle conversations with clients. Clients then become essentially cut off from those doing the day-to-day work to bring their projects to life.
Being able to talk directly to clients not only sets our team up to lead with confidence, clients directly benefit from the strong rapport built through those one-on-one interactions.
One of the most important things to Luminus is that our relationships with clients aren’t strictly transactional: we’re focused on actually building collaborative relationships. Owner and CEO, Tim Bouchard says these three things are the keys to collaboration:
A lot of the things that happen in marketing are promises. We’re making promises to our clients, as clients are making promises to their customers. A marketing and creative team develop theories and hypotheses about what will work, which turn into strategies.
By putting the whole team in front of people, it proves that every member of our team is worthy of your trust. Clients are usually intuitively saying yes to these strategies based on our suggestions. You’ll only step off the ledge if you trust the people around you.
Senior Copywriter Kellie Mazur says, “With the Luminus approach, people know you have a team of experts. It allows everyone to really take ownership over their own work and it builds confidence and credibility with the client.”
“Luminus has confidence in each member of the team and it sets the tone for our clients.””
– Kellie Mazur, Senior Copywriter
Tim has made it a point that every person on the team has their role and a voice no matter what their role is. This translates into a sense of ownership, pride, confidence, and personal growth in every member of the team. Empowering the team also makes stronger leaders. Putting people in the right position helps them to flourish and feel confident about what they are doing. When the team’s heart is in it and they feel a sense of ownership, this leads to much better work delivery for the clients.
Every member of the Luminus team is put in front of clients to present and have conversations about their work, which means every member of our team becomes a true master of their own domain and their expertise develops far beyond their specific role within the company. The company has been able to promote up in many instances for that reason.
Being able to communicate directly with clients is something that some team members may never have been exposed to, and is something that helps them grow. Project Manager Jen Zimpfer reflects, “Before Luminus, I was never ever exposed to clients. I feel visible not only internally, but externally as well. Being able to talk to clients is fun for me and is an opportunity for me to grow and build relationships.”
This tenet sets up the team to become the experts and not hide behind an account executive. Each person’s reasoning and results are not getting lost in translation. Tim recalls, “When Luminus started, it was just me and Mike [LaDuca]. We used to get work through other companies that acted as our account managers and things always got lost in translation. We decided that when we became the executives, we didn’t want our team to feel the same way we did.”
One of the best parts about clients being able to talk directly to the team– you don’t have to play telephone. Creatives are able to hear feedback directly from you and hit the ground running. Direct and transparent communication helps the team go through fewer rounds of revisions faster.
Transparency also allows more honesty to come through from both the agency and client sides. It’s easier to believe in someone when you’ve heard their tone and see their body language. While there have been some slight obstacles because of the virtual challenges of COVID-era communication, it’s still a much easier conversation when it’s collaborative.
It’s common sense that whoever works on a particular project would have the most working knowledge of it. That includes all the little decisions that were made along the way to reach the product or solution that it did. That’s why we believe that there’s really no ranking order at Luminus; whoever does the work presents it. There’s a little more sense of pride and excitement when you’re presenting your own work.
Everyone being in front of their own work helps Jeff, Jen, and the rest of the team out. Projects are scoped and timed properly, so that there’s more time to manage our clients. In addition, everyone becomes more educated and gets more ideas flowing through the process.
As our Senior Account Executive, Jeff Quinn put it, it takes a unique creative to make this kind of client strategy work: “We learned to understand that there’s a certain type of person who works at Luminus. It’s someone who owns their own shit, is in charge of their own career, and is prepared to take the client through their work and flow.”
Agencies play a vital role for our clients to communicate with your audience. Thus, client-agency relationships must be strong. Agencies are your right hand and we share your goals. When you get more time with each of the team members, we hope it helps you feel well attended to. You can rest assured knowing there’s three, or ten of us weighing in on things. With an entire team dedicated to your project, not just one person, it allows you to trust that every decision has been vetted from all perspectives.
You get to feel like our agency is an ‘extension of the team.’ It is truly a partnership; so building trust allows you to bring issues to us, knowing that we can solve them. Additionally, you get to feel like you have a hand in the projects and you’re not just putting in the orders.
These kinds of relationships allow you to actually get to know people as, well… people. You get a sense of how people prefer to interact and you find ways to connect that are not just about the work. As Jeff puts it, “It’s way more genuine because we’re formally relaxed over here. We know when to be ‘on’, but we also know when it’s okay to make jokes and poke fun at each other. I hear all the time in meetings where people will not take credit for everyone else’s work. We own up to our mistakes as well.”
“We actually pivoted back to Luminus after trying out another company… 😬 😅 We thought the work would be faster, but we gave up the relationships, the value add, the trust. The relationship I have with Tim and the team is really good. There’s a ton of history, trust, and proven success.”– Mark Wolbert, Vice President of Business Development, Excelsior Orthopaedics
We spoke to a long-time client of Luminus, Mark Wolbert with Excelsior Orthopaedics about his relationship with us over the last nine years.
Q: What is the value of being able to interact directly with the agency’s creative team?
A: “It’s two-fold: It’s a lot easier to get on a phone call with someone and brainstorm a concept or a need when they know the brand. They understand the nuances of things, especially when it comes to our industry, the medical field. Inevitably, there are going to be issues. But to be able to pick up the phone and talk to somebody that you know is an easier conversation.”
Q: How would you describe your experience getting to work with the team in such a collaborative way?
A: “It’s just easy. It’s familiar. There’s a tremendous amount of trust there. I’ve got 32 bosses I report to, so knowing that I have an agency in my corner that I can go to about things makes my life easier. I don’t worry about the product. From a business and budgetary standpoint, Luminus has always been fair in regards to the time and overall costs of projects. From a cost and ease perspective, I’m not sure the bigger shops can compete.”
Q: Are there any potential drawbacks to working with a team like this?
A: “In this case, more minds in the room is generally the better for creative projects. The relationship is strong enough where we can push back with the things we don’t like. Everyone has a voice in the conversation. The only concern has been the bandwidth of the Luminus team. But Tim has hired appropriately to help the bench and help with bandwidth. Jeff has done a nice job setting realistic expectations for timelines and deliverables. And we’ve done a better job of planning on the front end.”