You’re ready to start a project — whether a visual communication campaign for the year, a multi-year marketing campaign, or a single infographic, motion graphic, or interactive piece. From there, you quickly find that it’s one thing to know that you’re ready … and another thing to know how to start.

This is particularly true if you’re working with a creative vendor for the first time. You may be feeling uncertain about how to kick things off and establish your goals. Your vendor may ask strategic questions about the project that you don’t have the full answers to yet. Worse, if they start work immediately after talking with you for the first time, you may be hurtling toward a deliverable that doesn’t meet your needs.

If this has happened to you, or if you worry it might, you can prevent misunderstandings by asking yourself 3 key questions prior to any kickoff meeting with your vendor.

What is the single most important message I want to convey?

We live in a multipurpose, multitasking world. We don’t want to waste time or efforts on unnecessary extras. But when it comes to communicating to key audiences, dividing diverse efforts across multiple projects is actually key to success for each of those projects. That’s because the result of trying to use 1 piece of collateral to talk to 4 audiences and tell 6 stories is that your project will most likely:

  1. Fail to tell those stories properly
  2. Lose the interest of every audience

Imagine trying to appeal to investors, C-suite execs both inside and outside the company, and consumers, describing what your company does, the history of its revenue growth, why working for the organization is inspiring, why investment in the company is valuable, why people should purchase your product/service, and how consumers can get in touch with customer service. Each audience will only find 1-2 sections relevant, so they’ll skip the rest — if not the entire piece. To avoid this, focus on 1 message for 1 audience per piece.

How do I measure — and define — success for this project?

First, we’ll attack the method of measurement for success.

Take infographics as an example. In the early days of infographics, backlinks were the ultimate goal. Killer Infographics’ clients wanted visual communication to generate numerically measurable results like such-and-such number of links or xx% higher conversion rates. The ways you measure success are as unique as your business, so a metric focus is still the right thing for some — but as the world of visual content changed, so did the way many of our clients answered this question.

“Hmm … I suppose it’d be great if we got 1,000 leads at the trade show, but really I’d just like to see people excited and telling their colleagues to check us out,” they’d say, or,

“As in metrics? We aren’t really tying metrics to this initiative — we just want to know that we’re generating real awareness.”

Those aren’t wrong answers, just as metrics aren’t wrong either. Simply be clear about how you’ll judge whether the visual content was a hit or not, and your vendor can proceed with confidence.

As for defining the scope of success, you may have heard the adage that of the 3 main aspects — speed, cost, and quality — only 2 can take priority on any single project. This is known as the project management triangle or iron triangle. It’s so engrained in the project management world that there’s even a widget to show its impact on a project.

It’s not a perfect model; there can be flexibility in more than 1 area, or compromises on all 3. However, when you know upfront which of these qualities are top priority to your company and which can flex, your vendor can confidently make decisions they know you’ll agree with. Communicate your priorities and the right vendor will not disappoint you.

Speaking of communication …

What’s my preferred method of communication during this project?

You may not consider this question to be vital — it doesn’t immediately seem to impact your end result. However, the experience of working with any vendor (agency, freelancer, or otherwise) is highly dependent on communication to reach your ideal outcome. And in the end, it’s unlikely you’ll be truly happy with your content if the process of getting there was difficult or just plain unpleasant.

There are many components to this, so think deeply about:

  1. Who will be the point of contact on your side, and whether they’ll be available throughout (they should also be on the kickoff, by the way!)
  2. Whether email, phone, or in-person (when that’s an option) is truly where you shine — sometimes we like one thing but communicate best on another
  3. Whether you like to get all the details to stay assured while your project moves along, or if high-level summaries keep you sane

Thoroughly considering each of these questions helps to ensures you and your vendor are both set up for success — and that you share the same vision of what success looks like.

Lucy Todd

Author Lucy Todd

Lucy Todd is the Chief Process Officer at Killer Visual Strategies. She is a Seattle native and Western Washington University graduate. Her degree in Creative Writing and her customer service background both inform her work daily. A Killer employee since 2011 and executive since 2014, Lucy has researched for, written, and/or project-managed over 4,000 projects for the company, affording her key insight into our processes and projects. This experience is invaluable in allowing her to lead and empower Killer’s content and project management teams to success. Lucy enjoys managing the day-to-day at the office, offering a unique perspective when a team or colleague feels stuck, and learning from her peers and clients each day.

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