Becoming a specialist agency: the 8 most important things we’ve learnt during twenty years of Maxwell Rogers

Last year, we celebrated our 20th year of business at Maxwell Rogers. As we reflect on our journey to a specialist agency, we’ve listed the 8 most important things we’ve learnt along the way:

1.Provide pain relief

Understanding client-side challenges and going the extra mile, usually at speed, is a valuable way to build lasting relationships. A fully baked project plan with timelines and gated process is often best, but that adds time and cost. A ‘no problem, can do’ attitude allows clients to move as fast as they need to. And, if you’ve asked good questions up front, there’s no reason for expectations not to be met or exceeded. Most of our clients have first used us while under pressure, waving a flag and asking for help. We’ve learnt that by supporting them when no-one else would, we’ve provided a valuable service and in turn, a credible reputation.

2. Relationships rock

We work for people more than we work for brands. The problems we solve and the outputs we deliver often add value to an individual client as well as their company. Our business is not simply transactional. For many who we work with, we’re a trusted partner in helping them achieve important business and career goals. The majority of our work comes from referrals and many of our oldest partners have introduced us to other colleagues and verticals. We believe this is testament to the trust they have in what we do.

3. When you’re inside the jar, you can’t read the label

There’s a lot of value in objectivity and having someone who is not a direct employee of your organisation helping to clarify communications. This is the essence of what we do as an agency. When you’re working for a company, you live and breathe it and are fully invested, with deep company and industry knowledge. But often you’ll need to communicate with people who don’t have that same level of understanding or background knowledge. That’s where we can help, using our twenty years of expertise to translate the client’s information into a message that is clear and engaging for everyone in the audience.

4. Listen, think and challenge

Clarity is the most important element when dealing with a client brief. It avoids the potential for confusion, error, and disappointment for all parties. So, we actively listen, challenge everything, and ask questions along the way to delve deeper into what is being said. Getting closer to the challenge and solution. We find it helps to repeat our understanding back to a client in our own words. This highlights that we’ve really understood. This opens up fresh interpretations of complex subject matter and can reveal the nature of the true challenge.

5. There’s no such thing as a stupid question

As previously mentioned, clarification is a critical step towards delivering great work and we aren’t shy about making sure the subject matter is clear to us and the intended audience. Many of our clients are accustomed to their company- or sector-specific language, acronyms, or jargon-heavy terms they’ve learnt over time. Asking a simple question like “what do you actually mean by that?” can be a route to developing clearer, simpler communications. Putting our hand up and asking those basic questions helps us to create content that is truly fit for purpose.

6. A great team is better than a team of greats

Although talent is important, it should not come at the cost of a good team player who contributes more than their individual successes. We’ve found that cross-functional teamwork, humility, and collaboration are what gets the job done in an independent agency. It’s important to have a strong team of like-minded and motivated people who work well together, understand the task, and perform to a high level. Our people have always been key to the success of Maxwell Rogers.

7. People beat Process

It’s vital to have talented, positive ‘can do’ people around you. Those who own each challenge as it comes and adapt their skills and experience to new situations without missing a beat. We do have processes to help us manage our work, but agency life is dynamic, and every new project is different from the last. So ultimately, it’s great people that deliver what we do.

8. Recognise your worth

Finally, we’ve learnt it’s easy to undersell your work, particularly in a niche industry. When Maxwell Rogers started business twenty years ago, there was hardly anybody else providing the same services as us. Few people realised the significance of what we do. We made sure we explained our specialism, remained confident about the value we could bring and let our skills do the talking. Nowadays, we work in a more competitive landscape as the presentation arena is becoming more crowded. However, we’re still aware of the value we add and make sure clients know there’s unparalleled expertise in our studio that they would be lucky to find elsewhere.

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