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Wanna Partner?

  |  January 14, 2003   |  Comments

People spout the word 'partnership,' but what do they mean?

My day job is heading up a small online media group out of the Boston area. We just won some business, which makes us the object of attention of a wide variety of sales reps. It's a small town, so most of the folks seeking to meet with us are from the New York area. Since they're making a trip, they tend to schedule meetings around a few industry events here. You know the event drill: Too many phone calls, meetings, and requests for meetings, lunches, dinners, and so forth. What's a gal to do?

Seriously, though, I've met with a lot of folks lately. I'll spare you my rant on dog-and-pony shows. But let's face it, if you are a sales rep meeting with senior-level media people, why spend a half hour talking about your "reach," page views, and traffic? Duh, we already know that. If a media person doesn't know that information before walking in, he doesn't deserve the job he has, as far as I'm concerned.

Doing the Wrong Things

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let me tell you these meetings have left me sadly disappointed, shocked, disbelieving, nodding from boredom, and rarely impressed. (I promise this won't be all bad; I'll get to the "nice" stuff in a bit.)

I've been disappointed that almost everyone who has scheduled a meeting with my team has been late. I've been shocked at the rudeness many outside vendors show toward others working in our offices -- such as the receptionist, the mail guy, and so on. I've sat in disbelief as my retinas burned from staring at PowerPoint slide after PowerPoint slide of @Plan and Nielsen runs illustrating numbers and page views of each site.

About 75 percent of the presentations I've sat through in the past month or so seemed to be duplicative. No matter the sites or the people presenting them, the presentations all sounded the same. Few talked about our business aside from including random logos and dropping clients' names. Even fewer took a stab at peeking under the tent and tying into a target audience.

Almost all threw out the word "partnership." Immediately I nonchalantly looked around at my team to see if they were thinking what I was. I truly believe it's not what you say, it's how you say it. From rep to rep, in just about every instance, the tone in which they said the word sounded the same. It lingered in my ears so long I missed a few slides. It sounded, well... expensive. And they didn't just say it once; they said it repeatedly. I wanted to get a word in edgewise. I wanted to find a way to politely ask their definition of a partnership. I just couldn't. I sat with a smile painted on my face, bit my tongue, and waited for each to finish.

Don't get me wrong; we love partnerships. But like anything else in this crazy online world of ours, definitions abound. Is a partnership a financial commitment for a given client, a long-term deal, a multiplatform agreement, a costly pact, an affordable arrangement, a customizable contract, a one-of-a-kind situation?

Doing the Right Things

I was highly impressed with someone who called me the other day. Right off the bat, he did all the right things:

  • Quickly identified himself (in a non-script-like way)

  • Asked me if it was an OK time to chat for a few minutes

  • Told me he got my name from one of my planners

  • Told me he was meeting with members of my team in a week or so

  • Asked if I could spend 30 minutes thereafter talking informally with him and his boss

  • Acknowledged he knew we had problems with his predecessor

  • Informed me he checked out our Web site but assumed not all clients were active online media spenders

  • Wanted to know if there was anything in particular we needed or wanted to see from him

  • Thanked me

  • Followed up with a nice email giving his contact information

Sales folk, I certainly don't want this article to seem one-sided. I'm more than aware of the nightmares you face. But you always write in and ask me how to get into agencies and want to know what it's like from my side of the desk. All I can tell you is to take note of the guy I mentioned above. He's headed for a partnership.

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Seana Mulcahy

Seana Mulcahy is vice president, director of interactive media at Mullen (an IPG company). She's been creating online brands since before the first banner was sold. Her expertise includes online and traditional media planning and buying, e-mail marketing, viral marketing, click-stream analysis, customer tracking, promotions, search engine optimization and launching brands online. Prior to Mullen, Seana was vice president of media services at Carat Interactive. She's built online media services divisions for three companies and has worked with clients spanning financial, telecom, high-tech, healthcare and retail. Not surprisingly, she has taught, lectured and written about the industry for numerous trade associations and publications.

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