A partner or a vendor – what is your relationship status?
It’s important at the start to acknowledge neither of these is right or wrong and both can be valuable business relationships, but it’s vital both the client and the agency know which relationship status they are in and that they treat each other accordingly. Here’s some questions agencies and clients can ask themselves and how to come together to form a lasting partnership.
Agencies ask yourself – Is your success the client’s success or is your success efficient and timely deliverables
Don’t get me wrong, you should always deliver quality work on time, but the nuance here is whether you are evaluating yourself, and being evaluated, solely on the fulfillment of what is asked (that means you are a vendor) or whether you aren’t happy unless the client’s business has grown (you are a partner.) If you are vendor, then your goal is managing your scope of work and building a relationship that leads to more work and the next project. If you are a partner, you may take occasional losses and provide unpaid added value because you are evaluating your decisions in consideration of growing the client’s business to build a partnership over many years and many connected pieces of work.
Clients ask yourself – do I trust this agency as an extension of my team and a partner in the process or are they filling a gap in my team and providing a service?
If your agency is a partner then you expect them to challenge your status quo, bring you differing perspectives and have a seat at your table for larger strategic discussions. In other words, you trust them and seek out their input and opinion. On the other hand, if you only turn to your agency to offload the volume of tasks from your internal creative team or manage a specific aspect of your department, like video production or digital marketing, then you may just have a reliable vendor. If you have a partner, don’t just throw assignments over the fence and spend status calls only going down the list of weekly to dos. They want to engage at a deeper level. Alternatively, if you are only asking a vendor to support you, then respect their time and always give them the assets and information they need to do quality work in an efficient way.
All relationships come back to the same place – communication.
Be honest with yourself and the mindset and needs of your organization or agency, and then address your relationship status in a simple and straightforward way. If you are an agency that wants to invest in a client’s business and play a larger role in their strategic direction, tell them. Don’t assume a client knows that is a depth of partnership available to them. If as a client, you already have strategic partnerships in place and you just need someone to help carry the load of the day-to-day, make sure your agency knows your expectations. Once you are aligned on what type of relationship you both want and need, then the business of contracts and scopes becomes surprisingly easy and straight-forward.
Jump Company prides itself on being a partnership-focused agency and we’re grateful for our clients who continue to trust us and give us a seat at their table.