May 03 2016

Collaborating Around a Human Cause

Why partnering with brands is more effective than working for them.

Creative agencies come in many different flavors and sizes and typically are not one-size-fits-all. For organizations seeking a new or refreshed ecommerce site, there are a lot of components to take into consideration. How much should we spend? How much experience does the team have? Are we aligned on a cultural level?

Site design and development is not a short-term project, so it’s important to ensure the two teams can align on more than a financial and time commitment. Collaboration and communication, not transactional, will lead to more than a successful launch, but also achieved business goals such as revenue, conversion rates, and even site traffic. During a recent conference, this was a relevant topic of conversation.

Collaborating With Clients

Last week the downtown Charleston area was taken over by the annual DIG SOUTH festival. It’s a time to celebrate entrepreneurialism, startups, and businesses throughout the southern region. Several of our team members were in attendance or participated in speaking sessions, including our Creative Director, Victor Bejar.

During Victor’s session, he broke down the importance of collaborating with clients, rather than a typical transactional project. Transactional projects result in delivering work and often not much else, leaving behind important human characteristics that could have been identified early on in the process.

On the other hand, collaborative partnerships are an emotionally-rewarding relationship, which improves the overall health and happiness of those involved with the project. As partners, two teams rally together in a joint effort to achieve the same goal. Not only is there improved communication, there is a stronger sense of understanding of who each organization is and the roles they play. The two teams will often escape the office environment, get to know each other while sharing meals and drinks, and aligning culturally as well as professionally.

When our team began working with Insect Lore, this is the approach we took when building their site. Rather than simply building a site that sells products, the ultimate goal was around developing for a human cause. In this particular case, Insect Lore’s site was about creating an experience that teaches children about life. More specifically, the life of a caterpillar and how it transitions into a butterfly and is then released into the world. At completion, that’s exactly what we did. For Victor, he began to use their products with his children and saw the spark as they connected to and began learning from the experience.

Collaboration With the Entire Organization

There is a common myth in creative industries that designing by committee is a bad idea. In fact, if you search for the term, not only is there a Wikipedia page, but there are just over 10 million results. However, Victor challenges that notion and even expands on it by suggesting that the entire organization should be involved in the process.

One of the components of a collaborative approach is around the sharing of ideas. In transactional efforts typically there is one solution to the task at hand; however, in collaborative efforts there are many ideas given to a solution, and then the list is narrowed.

There is a caveat, though, which comes down to convergent and divergent thinking. Just because an idea is presented doesn’t always make it the best solution. On a separate panel later in the day, Blue Acorn CMO Chris Guerra discussed a similar problem. The highest paid person’s opinion, or HiPPO, can often result in a single, convergent thought process, and it’s not always the best solution. When you include others, a divergent thought process typically occurs, which also adds positivity to the work atmosphere.

Along with divergent thinking also comes the need to include ideas from outside of your team. Hard data is a great place to start, but talking to your target audience is even better. You can’t just make assumptions about who will be buying or using a product, you must actually talk to them. When building a site about selling wine, you can’t just sit in an office and build a site. Victor suggests going out to your local wine store, standing in front of it, and talking to the store’s patrons. These conversations add a human element into the conversation.

“Don’t make assumptions when doing user testing, become the user.”

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Transactions End, Partnerships Grow

As these factors converge and the site is officially launched, a collaborative partnership doesn’t end there. Beyond minor tweaks and polishing a few lingering bugs, organizations who collaborate continue to share the same goal. The teams will ensure conversion rates are up, as well as revenue. In the end, a collaborative approach is the convergence of the user, the client, and you; ensuring each segment fulfills their intended desires or goals.

Elliot Volkman

Digital Marketing Manager

Elliot is Blue Acorn's Digital Marketing Manager. He hold a master's degree in communication from Gonzaga, and has several awards for journalism and digital marketing. In his spare time he is a long-distance runner and triathlete.

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