good-to-greatEstablishing strategic agency partnerships can be a great thing…

If they’re done and presented in the right way.

I’ve seen plenty of RFIs where it looks like the partner is really just an add-on to “check the box” of having the chops in the digital space, or social space….or whatever might be lacking from an agency’s roster.

What I tell our marketing clients on the RSW/AgencySearch side of our business is that when looking at firms that have strategic partnerships, look deep into the relationship.

They need to understand if there is real evidence of the two agencies working together.  I tell them they need to ask “how do they work together?”, “how often do they work together?”, “what kind of problems have they solved together?”, to get a better sense of the integration between the two firms.

I’ll never forget an RFI response from an agency during a search last year that wanted to showcase its strong media partnership.  In the RFI we asked for examples of specific experience within the industry the client operated in.  90% of the examples provided were examples from the “partner” without any mention of a partnership between the two firms.

It was painful to read because I knew darn well that the lead agency was a solid agency…but the fact that they didn’t think through the issue, caused pause and made us look at other agencies in the mix.

The other tell tale sign that there is a weaker partnership, is during the final presentation.

I was in a presentation recently where the social media “partner” was present and participating in the final pitch.  One would think all should be good because the social agency presenting brought a depth of experience hard to build up in the four walls of many full service firms.

Unfortunately, in this case there was no synergy between the two firms in the presentation.  Almost seemed as if they just cut and pasted the two pieces of the presentation together.

Part of what I evaluate during final pitch presentations is the cohesiveness and preparedness of the team.  If they’re working well together and their story flows nicely….then that says a lot about how they might work if you bring them on board.

So while strategic partnerships can be a darn good thing, they can’t be taken for granted, they need to be well planned and orchestrated, and there needs to be some well coordinated meat on the bone.

It’s real easy to tell when there isn’t….so keep an eye out for it and make sure you prepare well through the entire process of finding new business.

Mark is a 30-year veteran of the consumer packaged goods, advertising, and marketing service industry. Mark started his career at DDB Needham in Chicago prior to earning his MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Business School at Northwestern where he majored in Marketing and Economics. Prior to starting RSW/US in 2005, Mark was General Manager for AcuPOLL, a global research consultancy. Sneider worked in Marketing for S.C. Johnson and KAO Brands. Sneider has been invited to speak at numerous Agency events and network conferences domestically and internationally including the 4A’s, Magnet, NAMA, TAAN, and MCAN. Sneider has been featured in prominent industry publications including Adweek, Media Post, e-Marketer, and Forbes. When not working (which often seems like not often), Mark likes to run miles, go to church, and just chill with a hard copy issue of Fast Company.