But what does working with a strategic partner mean for your business? How do you stop working with vendors and seek out a strategic partnership? What’s the difference? These are the kinds of questions we will answer during this three part series.
Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with many vendors. Occasionally, I am pleasantly surprised to find a vendor that thinks outside of their own box.
You know the box I’m talking about – where the problem solving is limited by the boundaries placed around them by their industry, their manager, a quota line item or a list of “packages” that they can sell.
I began my career in media in 1998 as an Account Executive in the radio industry, working for CBS Radio. I never fit in the vendor box of selling just radio schedules. That is, I couldn’t help myself but see outside of the limitations of radio and seek out new ways to meet my client’s needs. Because of this, I became one of the top producers of what is called “non traditional revenue” or NTR in industry-speak.
When you close business that is in the Non Traditional Revenue category, it means you’ve found new ways – non traditional ways – to meet your client’s needs. You’ve invented. You’ve created.
It was because of this experience in the radio industry that I realized, with the sound advice of people close to me, that I could be a part of what is now Edge Multimedia.
Not having the limits of selling inside the box – being a vendor – was exciting for me. Being able to truly solve problems, utilizing any resource available, or creating my own resource, was the world I stepped into – and I’ve never looked back!
In Part One of this series we will cover three of the seven main characteristics of a strategic partnership and look at how they differ from a plain old vendor-style relationship. Then, in Part Two & Three, we’ll continue our theme as we dive deeper into how your business can set it sights on developing more meaningful, strategic relationships.
SIGNS THAT YOU’RE WORKING WITH A STRATEGIC PARTNER
1. A Strategic Partner Cares Most About Your Success
A strategic partner cares about the success of your organization – not just a campaign’s success. Their goal is to make you look as good as possible and help you grow. A vendor cares most about the campaign success. They’re facing mounting pressure from people that don’t know you to get the deal done no matter what, whether it works or not. There is a quota to meet and a bonus waiting to be had!
To a strategic partner, your success is their success.
You’ll know you’re working with a strategic partner when they are willing to tell you when something isn’t working – even if it’s something that they initially recommended. And, rather than try and save face and defend it, they’ll provide solutions and fix whatever the problem might be. To a strategic partner, your success is their success.
2. A Strategic Partner Is A Holistic Thinker That You Trust
A strategic partner works to understand your business like it is their own, investigating as many areas of your business that you’ll give them access to – developing a well rounded, holistic worldview of your needs, which better enables them to truly solve problems and meet goals. They have their eye on the prize and are able to effectively build a strategy to help you get there. They think big picture and recognize the steps needed to meet your key milestones.
On the flip side, a vendor is near sighted – thinking about the immediate benefit to them – not about the long term needs of YOU, the client. They skirt the parameters of your business and gather just enough information to be able to close the deal. They need the payoff to happen today, because in 6 months or 2 years they don’t know if they’ll even be working at the same place. This provides little accountability to the vendor and the least amount of long term strategy to the client..
Accountability and relationship building go hand-in-hand with a strategic partner because they are focused on building something meaningful through nurturing long term relationships. This partnership between your business and theirs takes the investment of time, is a give and take on both sides and requires trust, which is critical in order to truly see big picture and build long term.
3. A Strategic Partner Is Open Minded
Providing an unbiased third-party opinion is one of the most valued attributes of a strategic partner. Because they’re not being asked by their corporate owners to sell a certain number of packages in order to make their bonus that month, they’ll tell you straight what they really think will work for you – they’re not limited by the bounds of what “Corporate HQ” can offer, plus they’re aware of and educated on a larger variety of options than any one vendor. There is no motivation for a strategic partner to recommend one ad medium over another – other than what will purely get you the best bang for your buck (this goes back to investing in that long term relationship, accountability and building trust).
We’re experiencing a time where marketers are really freaked out. They’re they’re stretched thin and the things that worked five years ago don’t work so well now. Adding to the confusion is the volatile business models of old-school marketing vendors that are trying to adapt in order to survive. Suddenly, you have a 165-year old newspaper selling SEO and digital marketing.
A vendor is biased. They tote the company line. They are motivated to push their “solution” to your marketing woes and get the sale no matter what, even if that solution is a bit of a head-scratcher from an outside perspective. Buy CPC digital ads from a TV station? (You know they’re just contracting with a third party and marking the cost up about 10x what it truly is, right? And a TV rep is no expert with digital.)
Adding marketer angst to these factors is the current aggressive marketing climate where folks are being bombarded by more vendors than ever… knocking at your door… pinging your inbox… calling you… harassing you… we have this widget, package, app, service, etc. It’s a noisy, crowded space without any clear standout winners.(I mean, when was the last time you heard someone say “radio is just killin’ it for me!”)?
Sound overwhelming and confusing? It is. A strategic partner helps you see through the muck and finds real solutions that work for today. They are open minded, objective problem solvers.
Come back next month to read all about how a strategic partner’s actions