An Agency Holiday Wish List

The very first column I wrote for ClickZ was about how agencies should take better care of their relationships with publishers and technology companies. I went on about how we, as agencies, should eliminate the word “vendor” from our vocabularies. I suggested we should do things like treat our partners with dignity, return phone calls, show up to meetings on time, pay attention to their presentations, and exhibit other common courtesies.

I can only assume you all took my advice to heart and now enjoy wonderful relationships with your partners.

I started thinking about our partner relationships again recently as the annual onslaught of holiday gifts began to flood our office: a fruit basket, followed by tray of cookies, many buckets o’ candy, cheese and sausage, beer, and wine. Three weeks later, you look around and you’re 10 pounds heavier and loaded down with more coffee mugs, pens, and T-shirts than you can carry.

The first of those gift trays showed up this week. And I began to think, “You know, I’ve been more nice than naughty in the way I treat my business partners. Let me ponder these gifts we receive…”

So, as the title suggests, let me present you with this Agency Wish List, or what we really want for Christmas from our partners:

  • Butler for a week. I would love this gift. I’d have him do my holiday shopping. I’d have him announce my name at the office Christmas party. He could even accompany me to meetings and open my laptop before I sit down.

  • Plasma screen TV. I can imagine a lucky few of you have actually gotten this one from a partner. You must have really taken to heart my advice about how to treat partners. I know I’ve been nice to partners this year — I’m talking plasma-screen nice.
  • A timeshare. Nothing says “it’s a pleasure doing business with you” like a week on a tropical island. I’d tell my butler to answer the phone with, “Master Lerma is not available at the moment. He’s conducting vital company business on Bora Bora. May I take a message?”
  • A car. I’m pretty open to the type of car I’ll accept. Even a really fast motorbike would be acceptable.
  • A shopping spree. Why not let me decide what you’ll give me for the holidays? Just fork over the money.

By now, you’re wondering, “What’s up with this guy? He can’t be serious.”

I’m not.

When I wrote that first column about how agencies should treat their partners, I got quite a bit of feedback from agency colleagues suggesting I write about how those partners should treat us.

We’re not seriously hoping for big, flat-screen TVs or prepaid personal assistants. In fact, most of us in the agency world fondly wish for a stronger, more fruitful relationship with our partners, one in which we’re totally in sync, working together as true partners to make our online programs fire on all cylinders. We hope you’ll deliver everything you’re capable of. In other words, give us great service. We’ll give you everything you deserve in return.

So, here’s the real wish list:

  • Return our phone calls. You want us to call you back. So, when we call you for information or to request a proposal, show us you want our business by getting back in a timely manner.

    In that original column, I suggested agencies return calls within 48 hours. If you’re on the publisher or tech provider side, try to hold yourself to a standard of less than 24 hours. If we call you, there’s probably urgency in our request.

  • Don’t be pushy. Whatever you sell or represent can’t always be the thing our client should buy. We spend lots of time understanding our clients’ competitive environments, business objectives, and target audiences. Just because the target audience visits your site from time to time doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most effective or efficient place for our client.
  • Do your homework. Know something about the agency and our clients before you come in to talk with us. It doesn’t take a lot of time to get up to speed on this before coming in, but it means so much. It’s the thought that counts.
  • Respect our time. If you don’t need an hour, don’t ask for one. If you requested a half-hour, don’t run over the agreed-upon time.
  • Meet deadlines. This should be a given. We’ll do everything we can to provide an adequate amount of time to respond. When you get a request for proposal (RFP), don’t call the day before it’s due and request more time. We have deadlines, too.

These suggestions all boil down to common courtesy and working together effectively, the same practices I urged agencies to adopt in that first column. If we can arrive at a place where we’re treating each other kindly and fairly, well, just imagine the possibilities. We can actually focus on doing the best job for our clients (and when I say our clients, I mean our clients). We all want the same thing: great results for those clients.

One of these days, though, I will have a butler. Oh yes, I will…

Do you have other items on your partner wish list? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

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