“The secret is to gang up on the problem, rather than each other.” Thomas Stallkamp
Recently I picked up my Cincinnati Business Courier and was disturbed by an opinion piece, Client Overlords Take Toll on Ad Firms written by the president of a local marketing communications firm.
She was exasperated by capricious client approaches, unreasonable attitudes and demands, and “failure to honor values that can’t be measured, such as morale and motivation”. The author was clearly frustrated, but don’t ask me about the main points of the post.
I was struck by the tone.
It made me wonder, why have they let these frustrations get so big, that it impedes progress on moving the business forward?
I used to buy marketing/agency services for one of world's the largest marketers. It's normal to have tension between the creative process and client pressures.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about these relationships, it is:
If either party is focused on frustrations, your business results are headed south.
It’s time to change the tone.
Here are 3 tips to changing the tone of your business interactions:
Totalitarianism doesn't work, clarity does.
“Overlord”… really? The author thought hard about choosing that word for the title of this piece. The word connotes ‘ruler’ more than decision maker. History teaches us that people rebel against this approach, and it certainly doesn’t unlock their creative best.
I’ve seen a lot of important business relationships unravel because the client/customer comes from a position of “do what I want, when I want”. They can appear to have a deep-seated need to be the smartest person in the room.
It’s much more effective to keep the objective the main thing and find a process to vet options that meet/exceed delivery of the result.
Collaboration thrives with positive pressure, But not in a pressure cooker.
Business relationships are battle tested under pressure. As with any relationship, it’s your experiences together along the way that really build the capability of the team to win.
Transparent sharing of information is a cornerstone for being able to win together. This is why effective collaboration includes consistently communicating ‘Why’ (the context), sometimes more than ‘What’. This practice helps everyone establish and maintain a clear definition of winning.
Honor is worth striving for.
Some supplier relationships are purely transactional, and some are much more integrated. By definition, agency relationships are an extension of your organization and your agencies should be fully committed to achieving your objectives…or you need to find another.
This type of integrated relationship requires a high level of following ‘the golden rule’. Transparency, fairness, integrity, consistency, congruence, and honest exchange - these behaviors foster a productive integrated relationship.
It’s not about singing campfire songs together, it’s about getting the most out of your collective resources to exceed your objectives.
At the end of the day, changing the tone of your business relationships will indeed set the stage for business success.
Toi, in my 6 words, "Achieving goals through partnerships, not tradeoffs."
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