No Black Boxes

Scott Heron
September 10, 2020

When we talk to our clients, interview a potential candidate or talk to someone in the industry, one of the things they point to that sets Sonar apart from our competitors, is our ‘No Black Boxes’ /100% transparent  way of working.  Here is what it means for us, and how it represents itself in daily life at Sonar.


What do we mean by ‘No Black Boxes’?

It means having an open partnership with our clients and having nothing to hide.  Our way of working is about working shoulder to shoulder with our clients.  Quite often, in sharing what we are seeing and doing, we gain deeper context on the client and their industry.  Ultimately, this allows us to do a better job.

Does this level of transparency leave us open to the client potentially taking the work in house or make it easy to transition to another agency/consultancy?  Absolutely.  All of the above:)  But we feel the transparency provides a much better working relationship, and the benefit of the deeper context, and doing a better job is worth it.  


What are some examples of how it works in practice?


Analytics and industry or client insight

We provide weekly and monthly reporting, and our clients typically have access to all of our data in real time.  While this isn’t typically that different from other companies in our space, we try to steer away from industry metrics and more on business metrics.  We will translate our work to ‘sales’ or revenue as opposed to ‘reach’ and ‘clicks’.  We will provide more insight into what we are seeing and what we are looking to do, than just providing raw numbers.


Training client teams

In the past month we had a conversation with a client where they were looking for help on their paid social management.  Instead of doing the work, we suggested that we train them how to do it internally.  They took us up on it, so we made some basic documentation and they followed it and asked us questions along the way.  They now have the documentation, and feel comfortable doing it themselves.  We are only a quick phone call away if they get stuck.

We do the same with our ongoing web dev and maintenance.  As part of our website launches, we typically train our client teams on how to update the content.


When we make a mistake

One of the best ways to figure out if you have a real value, is when it is tested.  Last year, one of our performance consultants made a mistake.  They had broken a piece of tracking of our media.  When the person realised they made a mistake, they told the client right away.  They then told the Sonar Directors.  We loved this.  While, we aren’t a big fan of mistakes (who is?), we know that they happen, and thought it was fantastic that our consultant knew that the Sonar way was to tell the client plainly what happened and to fix it.  We loved that they had the confidence that we had their back on this to tell the client first.  We celebrated this behaviour at our team meeting that Friday, to make sure everyone knew that this was the Sonar way.  


Transparency on working

We are also very open with the tasks we are working on and how long we think they will take, and how long they do take.  We share our estimate on the start of the month on what we are working on with our clients.  They have the opportunity to shift our focus based on their context and business priorities.  There is no bill shock or surprises, and their is flexibility on the work – both in terms of what is being worked on and how much time is allocated for the month.

Overall, we are proud to have ‘No Black Boxes’ as a core Sonar value.  We feel it is a great way to work.  By championing it as a value, we are creating a company that we want to work for, and clients want to work with.  That is where some of the best feedback has come from – seeing our people and clients embrace it – it shows us that it is a true Sonar value, and something that they appreciate in working with us.


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