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Together as one

Olly Warren Senior Director, EMEA 06/10/2020

Fostering partnerships in research

The modern era is one that champions customer satisfaction

Brands and businesses are expected to go above and beyond the point of sale to ensure that customers are ultimately satisfied with their products.
With research, a service-driven industry, this “product” is just as much about the people involved in the process as the insight gained from it. This is where the adage “people buy people” rings true – by approaching client relationships as a partnership, rather than a transaction, both parties stand to succeed.

All parties in a well-founded partnership benefit from working closely together and the results are clear to see.”

Why should agencies and suppliers develop partnerships?

The quality of collaborative work produced by an agency and a supplier is heavily dependent on whether the two exist in a transactional relationship, or a partnership.

Relationships, in this sense, are extremely basic, involving a passing knowledge of the business or person. You may not know what the other party looks like and you’re probably one of a few suppliers consulted for projects.

On the other hand, in a partnership, you are the go-to supplier, a trusted resource, often consulted for expert advice on briefs and proposals. Over time in partnership, agencies will begin to build proposals without speaking to you because they fully understand your capabilities. As a result, the supplier’s service becomes an extension of the agency’s.

Ultimately, all parties in a well-founded partnership benefit from working closely together and the results are clear to see. There is an enhanced level of trust between companies who understand each other’s needs better, this, combined with the consistency that a partnership provides results in smoother proposals and projects, with quicker turnarounds. In turn, end clients receive a higher quality, more consistent service, increasing the likelihood of repeat custom.

Who stands to benefit?

Everybody, from project level consultants to the MD, stands to benefit from a harmonious supplier-agency partnership. For the boots on the ground, a trusted partner cuts out the time-consuming back and forth of new relationships, reducing turnaround time on tasks such as: feasibility, project set up & management, reporting and so forth, which allows both parties to focus on achieving their common goal.

Whilst at the board level, a consistent, quick, high-quality service leads to happy clients, meaning more business for the agency and therefore the supplier. Whilst greater time-efficiency on both sides, allows more time for new-business and other activities that move the needle.

However, investment in the success of a client is only one facet of building a partnership in which agency and supplier are truly working together as one.

Working together as one ensures the smallest details are taken care of.”

Maintaining an open partnership in the absence of face-to-face

A level of personal connection is essential – email and instant messenger have been the death of the face-to-face relationship, and whilst a call is great for introductions and proposal updates, nobody portrays their best self over the phone.

Regular face-to-faces not only makes for easier communication, they give teams a chance to socialise, after you’ve talked shop, and develop an understanding on a personal level. This approach facilitates open lines of communication and greater transparency, which is probably why 95% of people say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business partnerships.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly put a spanner in the works when it comes to building up a level of personal connection. A whopping 95% of people say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business partnerships – though we all know that the claws of email and instant messenger are firmly stuck in – especially during this time.

But the rise of video calling, brought to the forefront during lockdown, has given us significant opportunity to adapt the way we go about our face-to-face meetings. They’ve made for easier communication, give teams a chance to socialise after talking shop, and help develop a shared understanding on a personal level.

Nothing can replace the face-to-face meeting, but until safe rules are in place to pick up where we left off, video calling has provided us with a relatively sure-fire way of building strong connections and deeper relationships.

This open partnership puts everyone on the same page, allowing for an open and frank dialogue about what the objectives are and how they can realistically be achieved. In doing so, we empower their success, whether that’s impressing internal stakeholders, developing key insight or becoming the preferred supplier for an end client.

Working together as one ensures the smallest details are taken care of, a factor imperative to the future success of the partnership.

What does success look like?

It goes without saying that the perfect scenario is one where everyone’s a winner.

The end client will recognise the value of the partnership through the consistency of results, and continue to use the agency. Ultimately, they recognise the value of receiving a more polished product, rather than something that’s different every time, this also makes producing a bespoke output for that client much simpler.

The outcome is a more rounded solution, with complimentary products, an attractive proposition for current and prospective clients, and therefore in everyone’s interest.

Furthermore, the partnership opens opportunities to network and explore more difficult avenues through pooling capabilities, expanding their ability to pitch for future work.

You work with people, not robots

We began by acknowledging that “people buy people” and no matter what you might think, behind the façade of their working image, everyone is a person. Don’t get lost in numbers of your work, for many, an enjoyable work life can take the stress out of private life.

In short, the key to developing consistent, productive partnerships is taking the time to get to know each other after you’ve talked shop. In the long run, it really pays to view the people you’re working with as more than just a business connection.

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