An Open Letter to Partners and Would-be Partners

Dear Partners,

I need you. Desperately.

I need you to help us invent the digital future. Together we can create consumer experiences for the new marketing age. I need your audiences. I need your ideas, your passion, your innovation, your solutions, and your differentiating factors, whatever they may be.

This agency has long held the belief that we’re only as good as our partners. We’re fortunate to have some incredibly talented people working for us, and they are driving a ton of innovation. But the harsh reality is that we can’t do this alone. No one can. There’s no one agency, brand, publisher, technology, or content producer that has figured this all out yet. Nor will they, at least not anytime soon. It takes a team that spans the valleys that used to separate client, agency, and publisher. The new world is so chaotic that we flat out can’t do it alone. Or rather, we could. But we know for sure that we’ll get there faster with your help. We need you, partners.

We pick those allies carefully and we hold them to the same excruciatingly high standard our own clients hold us to. Yeah, we might beat you up on rates, and we may constantly ask for more at no additional charge, and we might demand seemingly impossible quality-assurance standards. But know this: we do that because we understand exactly what our clients want and we believe that those flaming hoops we ask you to jump through, those final details, are the key to unlocking the potential we see bottled up in your products and services.

Because these partnerships are so important, we also need you to understand how best to work with us. In my current role, I have the often-enviable job of navigating uncharted territory and uncovering partners who can help us execute in emerging channels, such as mobile, advanced video, gaming, social media, and digital out of home. Part of my job is to vet new technologies and companies and separate the wheat from the chaff. I’ve been at it a long time, and I’d like to share some thoughts with you about how best to reach us and get us up to speed on your offerings. And I’d also share a few pet peeves along the way.

Don’t Play Buzzword Bingo

There’s a reason buzzwords quickly become cliché. They get so abused and casually tossed around that their definitions begin to broaden to the point of uselessness. Lots of buzzwords on a site or in an e-mail or pitch deck create a signal-to-noise ratio that makes it difficult to quickly figure out what you actually do. So do what you can to drop the buzzwords and create a crystal-clear description of what you offer in less than 200 words.

Know Your Competitors

Differentiating yourself from others in your space, of course, is crucial. And it can be challenging when business lines are so new that companies are still rapidly evolving. But it’s incredibly frustrating for an agency to hear a pitch claiming XYZ as a differentiator when three other companies were in last week claiming the same thing. Do your research and really find that key differentiator.

Don’t Call. E-mail

This one is a personal one. I’d much rather get your details via e-mail. We may ultimately schedule a call, but my calendar tends to be so packed with meetings that I’m never at my desk anyway. Practically the only way to get me on the phone is to schedule something via e-mail.

Don’t E-mail More Than Once Without a Reply

There are a lot of you out there, and my inbox is flooded with pitches and requests for meetings. I pride myself on getting back to nearly everyone. But it takes time. Lots of time. The only thing you succeed at doing when you send multiple e-mails (or phone calls for that matter) is adding to the already insane clutter in my inbox. We will get back to you; just understand the volume of requests we get is through the roof, especially during hard economic times. No matter how hard we try, it just takes time to get through all of that.

Know My Clients

Do your research and get to know who my clients are. They tend to be big Fortune 100 companies frequently in the public eye. So you can get to know them and what their biggest business problems are with a little research. Put yourself in the CMO seat and help me help him or her.

But don’t chase just the sexy brands on the roster. There are a few brands on the roster that everyone tries to pitch against. They’re the easy ones to map your solutions to, but everyone else is chasing the same thing and it makes differentiation difficult. So go a step farther and get to know all of my clients.

Solve Business Problems

This is perhaps the most important one. Don’t pitch technologies. Do your research and get to know the agency. We’re in the press frequently and we publish whitepapers, columns like this, and blogs. We’re honest about what we’re seeing and what our challenges are. Read up on us, and come in not to pitch your products but to solve our (and our clients’) problems.

I really do value your partnerships, and I look forward to working with more of you. I need you to understand my challenges, and if you follow these best practices we’ll succeed together.

Best of luck.


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