Our industry is more collaborative than ever before. Boutique agencies partner with larger ones in order to best meet a client's needs. While it's important to take advantage of this new model where everyone brings something unique to the table, refrain from jumping in headfirst without a plan. Read on to hear stories from some of the best in the biz, and heed their advice.
Align early on expectations for the pitch
Adam Kleinberg, CEO, Traction
Years ago, we brought a partner on to pitch a multi-million dollar piece of business. Hours before the meeting, their team showed up to "integrate" their slides into our deck -- only they had barely started. Our head of accounts had to sit with them and write their entire portion of the deck. They were still making edits while we were waiting for a cab. Somehow, we won the business, but you can be damned sure we never made the mistake of just assuming another partner would be as buttoned up as we were.
Establish clear communication
Doug Schumacher, co-founder, product strategy and marketing, Zuum
When you're pitching as a marketing partnership, a big task is making sure the client senses a good working relationship between the different factions. One tough question in the pitch meeting could easily expose any cracks in the relationship. And that comes down to clear communication around roles and tasks. Working out scenarios of who would handle what in a given situation will lead to clearer responses in the meeting and the sense that the teams work well together.
Develop partnerships driven by existing relationships
Tom Edwards, chief digital officer, agency, Epsilon
When possible I like to have an existing relationship with partners ahead of a collaboration. The goal is to develop partnerships where there is an inherent trust and flexibility to the relationship that can adapt on the fly to the fluid nature of pitches. The key there is to ensure there is a fit both from a chemistry perspective as well as a match for value creation through a co-created solution. When I look to partner with third parties, I am looking for complimentary services, technologies and resources.
The goal is to provide a seamless solution or manifestation of a big idea. The co-created elements are highlighted in the context of the overall pitch. This normally starts with ideation sessions and use-case mapping that then leads to customized assets that support the theme of the pitch. In our pitches, we have an exec-led process that establishes the chain of command and key decision-makers for the ownership of the core theme, and then collaborate accordingly. This is where developing strategic partnerships driven by existing relationships can help as there is a baseline of understanding for the rules of engagement.
Establish your independence
Reid Carr, president and CEO, Red Door Interactive
We haven't partnered with anyone in many years in a pitch. Oh-so-critical chemistry can quickly breakdown with the first curveball thrown at you in that room. We have since embraced the philosophy that we won't pitch it if we won't be considered independent of others. That being said, it doesn't mean we don't partner with other companies and people -- partnerships are an important part of our ability to deliver the best possible work for clients -- but we directly take responsibility for those relationships and lead from the front rather than diffusing that responsibility at the front-line within the context of a partnership.
Play to your strengths
Jim Meskauskas, chief mediaologist and co-founder, Media Darwin, Inc.
One of the most important things to realize about partnering with another agency is that most of the time, only one agency is on point to manage the relationship. This can frequently mean that if you are at the secondary agency, you are at the lead agency's mercy. If that lead shop is very good, you have nothing to worry about. A strong, capable account manager/direct at the lead agency is key. This is true whether the work for the client is at one shop or several.
Additionally, in consulting, we frequently talk about MECE: Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive. When applied to talent sets, this means that each partner, each team member, is bringing something that the others do not. There are some exceptions to the MECE model, but in general: media guys do media, creative guys do creative, and publishers do publishing.
Check egos at the door
Barry Brooks, creative director, Netplus
A successful partnership requires collaboration from every side-- regardless of whether the partnership is formed to pitch new business, or to enrich existing business -- and there are definitely risks if you don't approach with purpose, plan, and thought. First, selecting a partner should be about how that partner complements you in terms of value and skill. That's what makes a partnership attractive and, more importantly, productive. Identifying complementary skills will help determine how you can play to one another's strengths, as well as help to determine whether they should present themselves or remain behind the scenes.
Secondly, be direct about how any redundancies will be approached and make sure the goals for your joint venture are clearly expressed. Most importantly, be transparent, share research and insights, and check egos at the door.