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Strength in Networks: Tapping Your Network for Vendors

By:   Date posted: May 24, 2013

collaborationLet’s face it: Agencies rarely play nicely in the sandbox. In fact, they’re infamous for their inability to collaborate — sometimes even stealing each other’s clients. So when your agency needs to call in project support from a vendor or outside agency, the vulnerability can be tough to deal with. Enter the networks-as-vendors strategy. This approach allows you to maintain quality control while minimizing vulnerability. Here’s why.

The Trust Factor

By bringing a vendor into the picture, an agency is adding a new perspective to its mix. An outside entity may have history with a client that can help the agency sidestep potential roadblocks; a vendor can also be called in because a client admired a particular campaign the vendor created. At other times, incorporating a third-party viewpoint simply helps an agency shake the cobwebs loose and create something innovative for its client.

Some vendors will take advantage of the edge they perceive this gives them. They may take it as an opportunity to go after your accounts — or they may interpret it as a cue to do the project however they please, without regard for your strategic plan or prior work.

On the other hand, when your agency is a member of a network like TAAN, AMIN or Magnet, you have access to different resources — from Web development to design and consulting — that come with a level of comfort. These agencies don’t belong to a holding company; instead, they have voluntarily chosen to enter into an alliance with other agencies they can collaborate with. Ideally, the agencies in your network are close-knit enough that you can enter this alliance with confidence.

One Wins, All Win

In a network, agencies generally don’t compete in pitches against one another; instead, they are expected to support each other. For example, let’s say a full-service agency in a network competes in a pitch, but realizes its expertise in PR and digital isn’t up to snuff to win. It can tap into its sister agencies to help pitch — and win — the business.

Come Together

With a network, the sum is truly greater than its parts. Different agencies have different strengths and experiences in a variety of markets, industries and capabilities. A network allows everyone to benefit.

For instance, networks often send out internal emails asking, “Does anyone have experience dealing with this type of situation?” Whether it’s a legal issue, type of client, specific conflict or financial situation, a network provides ongoing support and resources.

Exposure for Everyone

The benefits of a network go beyond resources to knowledge, events, information and advice. Some networks bring in speakers that no single agency could afford on its own. Others bring together representatives from around the globe, giving all members constant exposure to like problems and opportunities. There is empathy in relational openness, and it allows all parties to learn and grow together.

Ready to join a network? Before taking that step, be honest about how — and why — you want to enter it. Are you seeking advice, exposure, perspective or wisdom? What is your long-term goal? Finally, it all comes down to a cultural fit. Can you see yourself being in a business relationship with the people you would join? If the answer is no, then find another network.

A network can be a fantastic resource, whether your agency is looking to outsource a specific type of work, expand into a different market or collaborate on a project. In a world that tends on the side of dog-eat-dog, networks allow agencies willing to play nicely to not only find success together, but to flourish.

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For nearly 30 years, Doug Austin has been studying the “art of observation” and filtering out the human truths. Whether digging for key customer/consumer insights or preparing the next national retail promotion, it’s all about the ability to “hear and see” what others may not and asking the hard questions that get us to the possibilities. Austin is the SVP of Growth & Innovation and leads product and brand innovation sessions for Marlin Network.

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