Closeness, Not Costumes: Building Successful Marketing Partnerships

Just how clichéd is it that nearly every single human emotion can be conjured up by a song?  Why do any two entities enter into a relationship with one another?  Some do it for reciprocity.  Some do it to fill a void.  Some do it out of obligation.  If this were another sappy love song, I’d point out that some fall in love with the mere idea of being in love.  Thankfully though, this isn’t a love song, and if I had to speak for the countless marketers that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, I’d venture to say that they entered into the relationship with their current agencies of record, email service providers or other like entities for the sake of closeness, not costumes. Let me explain.

Note to readers: The opinions expressed from here on out will remain appropriately vague in an effort to disguise the unscrupulous and shield the jilted.

We’ve all heard of rogue acquisition horror stories where mom-and-pop types of shops come out of the gate like the Wild West, trying to secure every customer at any cost – even if that means engaging in acts that they inherently know are just shady.  What kind of relationship does that precedent set?  It sets one of false pretenses, of course: a costume



Take this actual statement that I heard from someone trying to get a start-up off of the ground: “I have several thousand personal contacts in my network.  Certainly I can just add them to my database and begin marketing to them.” We could all place bets on how quickly ties would be severed in the “relationship” that this individual thinks he/she has with his/her personal network.  This reminds me a bit of tainted love – no? 

It goes without saying -- but I will anyway, of course: a better way to approach a personal network (if it is in fact a personal network) is to start a dialogue, opening the lines of communication, and setting the appropriate expectation of things to come.  It’s about nurturing closeness.  There’s a level of respect that should be adhered to here that doesn’t bastardize an already established relationship.

This brings me to a scenario where a colleague (experienced on the brand side of things) walked into a situation with multiple creative agencies being used separately for email, mobile and social, along with a couple of different ESPs.  If you’re a football fan, you know that’s just a “house divided.”  Out of obligation, everyone in this relationship, aware of the overlap, wore their very best costume for the sake of championing respective agendas.  There was no closeness

As Sting would say, “I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier – I know that clubs are weapons of war – I know that diamonds mean money for this art – but that’s not the shape of my heart.”  I heard this Sting song as I was writing this, and the breadth of the lyrics struck a chord with me, because of the many analogies and correlations that can be made to email.  So many brands count on the relationships with their vendors to have reciprocity.  As validated by an RFP process, these relationships aren’t entered into lightly, and brands are not expecting too many faces.  At the end of the day what a brand wants and needs to be successful is a partner who is willing to enter into the relationship as an equal, putting aside the costume for the sake of closeness.

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