I ran across an AdAge article recently, thanks to @ThomasJArmitage, that provides interesting insight into how 10 renowned brands improved their marketing agency relationships and how they plan to improve even more in 2012.
This article doesn’t represent some sort of “how to” for me. In fact, Bob Wright Creative is blessed to have wonderful clients that are strong leaders committed to creating excellent work in a positive environment of collaboration. The reason why I resonate with this article is because it re-affirms my belief in the practice of making someone else’s life a little easier.
No matter our organization’s offering, or our role within the organization, when we consider ourselves to essentially be service providers committed to helping others, I believe the output of our endeavor will always be as strong as it can be.
The article also reminds me that as an agency we are clients too. We have vendors such as printers, photographers, web hosts, landlords, accountants, and others. Just as our clients will ask themselves “how can we be more effective in our role with our agencies?” we continually ask a similar question of ourselves: we’re all pulling for the same level of excellence in our collaborations, so what can we do on our part to achieve the desired result in an ideal manner, where everyone involved ends up in a better place?
So, while the season of resolution is still new, I resolve to strengthen my commitment to helping make things a little easier for others, inside the office and out.
A few years ago a vendor approached us with an opportunity. They’re a large printer in town and their customer base stretches well beyond our local market. They had a customer in New England, a national financial company, that wanted to redesign a magazine. A great opportunity.
The idea was that we would go to New England with our vendor. Together we’d pitch their customer on using Bob Wright Creative to do the redesign and creative and our vendor would print the mag.
Simple enough, right?
We like to be prepared. We do presentations and pitches all the time and we win a lot. The reason we win is we come prepared. We take time to learn what problem our client or prospect is facing and we develop real solutions. It may sound simple but you’d be amazed at how many times our competitors have not done their homework and don’t correctly understand the problem.
I met with my contact at our vendor to talk about the opportunity and to begin to prepare how to approach our joint pitch.
“Oh, I can’t help you. Our owner is going to handle this one and he’s in NYC and is going to meet you at the customer’s HQ. Just go do your thing and it’ll be fine,” I was told.
A sense of dread mixed with panic started to set in, followed by a flurry of phone calls and emails on my part trying to get this thing nailed down, all to no avail. “Just do your thing.”
Like any smart business owner, I decided to take both my creative director and my senior project manager with me. If this baby was going south I was going to be flanked by the best. Of course, a smart business owner would have bailed and told our vendor “good luck.” Believe me, I thought about it, but felt like I was already committed and had to see it through, even if our partner was unresponsive.
So, my creative director, project manager and I drove eight hours to the hotel ready to ‘do our thing’ in the morning, whatever that meant. When we got to the hotel there was no sign of our vendor, so we went out and found a BBQ joint and had dinner. When we got back our vendor and his team of five employees were waiting for us, perturbed.
They were upset that we were not there to show them the presentation we had prepared for tomorrow.
Presentation? You’re kidding, right? We’re just going to wing it and “do our thing” like you told us. Besides, this is your customer and your presentation right? No, it’s all riding on me and my guys. Nice.
Back in my room I felt despair. What are we even doing here? We’re getting an attitude from the vendor who refused to give us any direction and now they want to know where our presentation is? Well, I was ready to go to bed, wake up the next day, skip the meeting and head home.
Fortunately, my creative director and project manager jumped in. We pulled an all-nighter and put a smashing presentation together. We had it nailed and ready to go. We crashed for a couple hours and then got ready for the day.
We met with the client and their team, about six women, and got to work. We put our presentation on and hit a home run. Lots of great dialog, great questions and thoughts from the client on how we would work together. It felt like we were winning the job. I was ready to close and ask for their business; get it done.
Then the owner of our vendor jumped in and shot it all to hell.
He said our two companies, Bob Wright Creative and his company, were like two fighter jets in a war, fighting on the same side. The Iraqi War had just begun. I knew at that moment we were doomed. But, just to make sure, the owner continued. He told all the women there to think of this as our first date. We would spend some time to get to know each other—over a figurative dinner. And then … then we could get more intimate, figuratively, of course. I was horrified.
I looked at my guys and I looked at the faces of the women in the room. We were going to bomb their village, my vendor and I, and we were going to make off with the women and have our way with them, after a nice dinner. It was stunning.
20 hours in a car, hundreds of dollars in hotel rooms, meals, fuel and tons of lost revenues for my top guys to be involved and this man was killing it all with just a few words. He was the Anti-Midas, turning everything he touched to turds.
We didn’t get the job but a legend was born that day. I can laugh about it now, but that printer doesn’t get our work anymore for fear that they might have another great opportunity for us.
Note: This story was originally published on www.mikegastin.com