More Tips for Good Client/Vendor Relationships
For this week’s Advisor, FS asked a number of agencies and other companies that serve the nonprofit fundraising sector for tips on making the most of the client/vendor relationship. Here are some more of their thoughts.
From Jon Van Wyk, director of research and strategic planning, Merkle (www.merkledomain.com):
* Great work happens from great relationships. Take time to have fun with your fundraising partner. Go on an outing, go bowling, play pool. Don’t feel guilty.
* Mind the big picture. Constantly harping on the minutia hinders the development of great relationships.
From Michael Mathias, senior vice president and group leader, Merkle (www.merkledomain.com):
* As a client, understand your buying model and be specific about what you need, but be flexible in entertaining different approaches and strategies. You retain outside help to get ideas other than your own, so lean on them!
* Designate a clear chain of command and authority within your own client organization. Many models work, but make it clear how decisions are made.
* Find time at least quarterly to ask your agency or consultant to give you a briefing on other “best practices” they are seeing with other clients, whether or not they can be directly applied to your business. One day they might, and you want to be sure your agency is out there trying new things and continually learning.
* Find time at least twice a year to ask your partners to evaluate you as the client, and ask them to be specific on how you can improve.
* Spend time creating a specific engagement model — a map of the meetings you intend to have with your partners, the objectives, the ownership and deliverables. It should cover everything from annual reviews to weekly or daily production calls. Publish it widely, but revise liberally and continuously until it suits your needs.
* If you use multiple agencies, don’t pit them against each other. Be clear on roles and responsibilities and hold all parties accountable. When agencies are competing all the time, they don’t want to share their best work if they think it will be torpedoed or stolen for another account.
* At least twice a year ask your agency or partners to come “sell” you whatever they have that’s new. It’s important that you as a client are aware of how your partners are growing and thinking (or not), and a great representation of this is a review of current and new offerings. Don’t hesitate to ask the hard questions!