Joining forces with another agency to win business

How to get collaborations right so that the client gets results -- and everyone profits

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Sometimes you may come across a client who wants more services than your agency provides. Or maybe it happens quite often.

How do you know when it is a good idea to pitch for business in partnership with another agency? What should you be looking for in that collaboration? What are the red flags you need to look out for?

That’s what Chip and Gini talk about in this episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast, leaning on their own experiences to help you avoid the pitfalls and reap the rewards.

Transcript

The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

Chip Griffin 

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin.

Gini Dietrich 

And I’m Jenny Juju. Oh,

Chip Griffin 

I forgot that you were gonna do that. Yes. The, the automated transcripts system that we used, decided last week that it was going to transcribe your name as Jenny Juju.

Gini Dietrich 

I like it. That is what I will be known as from now on. Maybe that’s, I don’t know, maybe, maybe, or maybe it’s just silly.

Chip Griffin 

It’s, you know, it is what it is. It’s 2020 and so what it is, you know, the the system likes to call you Jenny anyway. But ever since I was able to put vocabulary into the the AI, it generally has improved, but not last time. But in fairness, that was when you tried to race through saying your name to so the name Yeah, even close a new It was a name.

Gini Dietrich 

No

Chip Griffin 

kudos to otter for for being able to to handle totally fair, craziness.

Gini Dietrich 

My craziness, just reacting to what’s going on in the world right now.

Chip Griffin 

There is nothing going on in the world. As we record this, we are, we are definitely not in a limbo period, where we do not know who the next President will be even though voting is. Anyway,

Gini Dietrich 

it is what it is,

Chip Griffin 

you know, and, and so, today, we are going to be talking about when two agencies partner together to serve a client and in particular, the whole business of agencies joining together to pitch business together and harass because sometimes people need a helping hand kind of like your daughter does with her current class. Yeah,

Gini Dietrich 

she’s, she’s asking me for help, which I’m trying to do at the same time as talk here. But you know, sometimes

Chip Griffin 

it’s not so easy. We’re just we’re just keeping it real here, folks, this is there’s, there’s there’s no magic about this podcast, there’s no, there’s no serious level of professionalism. It’s how we show up in front of the camera and the microphone, and we record a video and a podcast, and maybe it’s useful to hear

Gini Dietrich 

maybe it’s not, and I often I often, she’s often in class when we are recording, so it’s not that big of a deal. But right now she’s asking for a username and password for her science class, which I do not have. Well, would you like me to be in all capitals? Be Here, I’m gonna give everybody the password to the science class.

Chip Griffin 

And if I’m really ambitious, I edit this out, but I probably won’t be ambitious. So you’re probably actually listening to this. So,

Gini Dietrich 

okay, I’m done. I’m finished. You’re finished. You’re welcome. Sorry. Okay.

Chip Griffin 

Excellent. Nice, nice little sidetrack there. Yeah. You know, a lot of times agencies are specialists in one thing, but a client or a prospect may need a broader set of services. So sometimes agencies will decide to team up you typically see this, for example, with a PR and a digital agency often coming together to offer a full suite of communications services to a client. But it happens in other areas, too. I’ve seen web firms and video firms come together. Sometimes you’ll see an advertising and a PR firm come together, it’s, you know, it’s any time that you’ve got two sets of services that are really adjacent to each other complimentary to each other, but not competitive in most cases.

Gini Dietrich 

So I relayed the story to you, but I’ll relay it on the podcast here. And I have a friend in we’re working with their agency for one client, and that what they do is they bring their sort of the matchmaker, I guess, and they bring all the agencies together for a specific client. And I was on their, their new website the other day, and they have their partner agencies listed. And I said to her, Well, that’s interesting. And she said, you know, from a client perspective, we’re trying to be as as transparent as possible, and I said you, but then they can just cut you out of the middle, right? And go and directly to the agencies, as she said, maybe, but we hope that we provide enough value in bringing it together, and then they only have us to work with and we work with all of them. That it’s that they’re willing to do it this way. And then she goes, so I guess we’ll find out. But, you know, we we’ve talked about this a little bit from the perspective of to get clients care, and I don’t think they care, as long as the work gets done, and it gets done well, and it gets done on time.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, I mean, it you know, I think that there are a lot of things to think through here when you’re doing these kinds of partnerships, but they absolutely can work. I think, from a client perspective, you’re right that they want to just make sure that things are done at the same time. A lot of times clients would prefer to have a single throat to choke. So they’d, they’d like to see, one of the agencies take the lead one of the agencies handle billing, so that, you know, you don’t have two contracts two invoices to two primary contacts. So to the extent that you’re doing these kinds of things, it’s generally better if one agency is technically the lead in. So that it simplifies the whole process. That doesn’t, that doesn’t always work. There are sometimes reasons you may not want to do that. But more often than not, when I’ve seen it work, it works, because you have one agency that is taking the point position, and handling all of the overall management.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, um, you know, I’ve actually seen it work better this way, then having the different departments inside an agency. So having the PR department in the design department, and this, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, because what I find internally is you fight for budgets, and you start to when people start to undercut one another, because they are they’re there. But their bonus, and all of their results inside the agency are dependent on how profitable they are, and how much revenue they make. And so they start to undercut one another and don’t do what’s best for the business for the client. Right. And where I find that when you’re bringing in partner agencies, you give them a bucket of money, and you say, this is your budget, and this is what what we need to achieve and they go do it, there’s not that that same kind of undercutting. The only time I do see that when you’re using a partner agency is if they have if you have similar a similar skill set, then you may see some of that, but you tend to typically see that people are pretty willing to work together to complement one another when they’re external like that.

Chip Griffin 

Right. And generally, I mean, particularly if you’re bringing the match to the table, you want to make sure that there’s not overlap in the services, because you know, that just you’re just setting yourself up for potential disaster if the other agency maybe specializes in something else, but still does what you do. Because then at some point, you may end up losing the business. And so this comes into play more, particularly if you’ve got two PR agencies coming together, maybe one has a national capability and one is more localized. If the national one also has local or vice versa, that can become a problem, because at some point, the client may say, Well, I don’t really need that level of expertise, let’s just simplify this down to one of you guys. So you need to think, like think those things through. And if you’re going to be pitching this directly and openly to the client, then you need to make sure there’s a huge level of trust between those two agencies. So I would generally not suggest that you go out and try to pitch jointly, before you’ve even worked with that other agency. So work with them in some capacity first, whether it’s because you happen to be working together for another client that brought you both in independently, so you know what it’s like to work with them there, or maybe they’ve been a subcontractor to you, on some work. In the past, you know, there, there are a lot of different ways that you can test the relationship. But generally speaking, the first time to test it is not in a pitch to another prospect.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, and you know, that’s a really good point from a pitching perspective, too, because you don’t want to oversell and we’ve, we’ve talked about this on on on another podcast, but you don’t want to overwhelm the prospect from the perspective of bringing, let’s say you have four or five partner agencies, and you bring in four or five of the lead account leads into a meeting and that it’s just the one prospect, I think you have to think those things through as well. And we definitely have talked about that.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, and you need to, you know, to the extent that you’re pitching together, you need to make sure that you’re well coordinated, so that it tells a cohesive story, you don’t want to go in where you make your usual pitch, and they make their usual pitch. And it’s disjointed. Because everybody has their own style, you really need to come together, you need to, you know, if you’re doing it in person, you need to have one deck, you need to I mean, it really needs to be a cohesive presentation, in every respect, whether that’s just on a phone call, or in a formal presentation, because otherwise, it just confuses the client. So, you know, and in some cases, you may be better off just having it as more of a behind the scenes partnership, you know, where, you know, you may even mentioned that, that that agency is partnering with you, but they’re not actually there. So it’s a, you know, it’s a little bit of a tiered relationship. There’s a lot of ways that you can do this and make it effective, but you really need to think it through what are the pros and constantly approach you’re taking?

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, I mean, I have a really good example. One of the things that that we do really well is we build a PESO model program, of course, and we do it using content marketing as the hub. And we have a cadre of writers that we use but I don’t introduce the clients all the writers what you know, what we do is we say okay, we have a bench up we have been bench strength writers and You know, they’re here, we may include four or five of them based on their experience and what we think the client, the prospect needs, you know, here’s a sample of them. But when we get into it, and in writing begins to happen, content creation starts to happen, then we’ll bring in a couple of them for you. And sometimes we let the client interview and you know, decide that Yeah, there or sometimes we just assign a topic and get them to do the work and see what’s going

Chip Griffin 

on. So part of it is trying to figure out, you know, are they are you pitching things that are of equal stature within the solution that’s being proposed? Is it that one is really feeding the other? You know, you want to think those things through you want to think through, you know, if you’ve got a writer or something like that, behind the scenes, are they ever going to be present to the client, once they become a client? Are you just going to completely keep them behind the scenes, and I’ve been in plenty of different agency partnerships over the years. Sometimes it’s transparent, sometimes it’s not. I’ve had even had situations where I’ve had business cards from agencies other than my own, to sort of make it appear more seamless, you know, back when we used to use cards, because we got together in person. Now, of course,

Gini Dietrich 

who needs a card? Right.

Chip Griffin 

But they’ve been falling out of fashion, generally. But now, if you’re not meeting in person with someone, there’s really not need to have them.

Gini Dietrich 

But there’s not mail it to them. Yeah,

Chip Griffin 

but I mean, I mean, I have in the past, I have had business cards, and even phone number extensions for some of the agencies that I partnered with, because it just gave them a more seamless experience to the client. And at the end of the day, the client didn’t really care, right, they just care that the work was getting done. So you want to do this in a way where you’re expanding your capabilities. And if you’re a small agency, which is mostly who’s listening to this show right now, is a useful way to increase the breadth of the services that you can provide to provide a complete solution to the prospective.

Gini Dietrich 

You know, that’s interesting, because we used to do the same thing where we would have we would kind of, I guess, for lack of a better term white label, some of the agencies or freelancers that we use, and I had a nominee for Gemara dress and caboodle. Now, we don’t do any of that, because I don’t think anybody cares.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, I think I think it is much less of a big deal today than it used to be. I think the main thing that you want to think through anytime you’re doing really any kind of partnership, but you know, let’s address this kind in particular, you need to think through, you know, what are the bad things that can happen? How would you deal with them? So, so think them through in advance? So, you know, what happens if your relationship with this partner agency starts to deteriorate? How do you make sure that the client continues to get what they need? You know, how do you make sure that you’re protected so that one agency isn’t trying to steal the client from the other? So you should have some paperwork between the two agencies? Yes, yes, yes, yes. Yes, those kinds of things? And yes, and so you really, anytime you’re entering into any kind of a partnership, whether it’s just to solve a particular project problem, or it’s, you know, longer term, bigger picture, or it’s even a merger, at some point down the road, you need to think through, you know, what happens if things go wrong, because those are the kinds of things you always ignore up front, you always get excited about what’s possible, get excited about how you can give the client the best possible solution, but you’re not thinking about, you know, what happens when what happens if you need to think through things like if the client doesn’t pay you, you know, what are your terms with the other agency? Right? If you’re going the same route, you know, you don’t want to be on the hook for that, you know, if you’re tying it back, the clients payment because you’ve pitched it jointly. So subcontractor relationship, it’s harder, you’re probably going to be on the hook to pay. But if you’re, if it’s a transparent Partnership, which suggests that your paperwork should clearly say that they don’t get paid until you get paid.

Gini Dietrich 

Well, we had an episode on that as well, which goes down the whole road of, you know, you’ve got to create paperwork that in the event that you get divorced, what does that look like? And we’re all excited at the beginning. And we all assume it’s going to work out and sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. So, we should link to that episode as well. Because we did talk we we spent a good amount of time talking about

how important that is,

Chip Griffin 

right? Yeah, in absolutely every kind of relationship paperwork paperwork paperwork.

Gini Dietrich 

Not funny, not prenup, prenup,

Chip Griffin 

yeah, because that’s basically what it isn’t. And in some of these partnerships, you could be talking about substantial sums of money. And so you know, you don’t want to be in that position where the client stiffs you and and now you’re still on the hook to pay the other agency. So that’s, you know, and don’t just assume that you don’t have to pay them, make sure that you’ve papered it in advance because that’s, you know, people are funny about money and and they can, they can really turn relationships around quite quickly. So you may think that you have the best relationship with someone until you owe them a lot of money and don’t pay it.

Gini Dietrich 

Don’t let that happen. 100% Yep. And and it’s true. You have to it has to To be on paper, because you can’t make the assumption that they understand that they won’t be paid. If you’re not paid, right, and they can’t make the assumption that they will be paid if you’re not paid. So you have to definitely outline that on paper for sure. And get the attorneys involved in that.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, and look, and you need to think through, you know, what happens if they don’t deliver at the level that you need in order to keep the client happy, right, because at that point, now, you’ve got an issue with the client. So that’s, I mean, that’s the downside to having to going the single contract, single invoice route, right, is that any failure of your partner, you know, that lands on you from a contractual perspective with the client. So while the client may want a single contract, you may be better off having to particularly if you don’t have a good way to replace that agency, so if they’ve, if they’ve got a certain specialty, that, you know, that’s very difficult to replicate somewhere else, or very difficult for you to subcontract quickly to someone else, if you need to, you may want to have two contracts in that case, because, you know, otherwise, you may be on the hook to deliver something that you just can’t,

Gini Dietrich 

can’t, you know, I always, always, always prefer that the client paid for, I mean, it’s, they may want a single invoice and you may go get through procurement with some big companies, and they say, we’re only you’re, you’re the only agency that’s, that’s approved. But in most cases, I try to say, listen, so and so’s going to invoice you, you know, you’re going to get five or six different invoices, because I don’t want to be on the hook for that. So it for the most part, but like I said, there may be big, big, big, big, big clients who, you know, they have the procurement process, and that you have to get approved, and they’re not going to approve every single single partner that you use. So in those cases, you are on the hook. But I, if I were any other, if it were any other client relationship, I would just have, have the partner send invoices directly to them to get paid,

Chip Griffin 

right? Well in it. But those are the the important things you need to think through when you’re thinking about pitching business, because most clients, if it’s a joint pitch, most people, most clients are not going to want to have two contracts to invoices. Now, if it’s if you’re already working with them, and you’re bringing someone else to the table in a partnership, that’s that’s different. But when you when you’re sitting down with them and trying to present a cohesive single solution, most of the time, they don’t want to have to deal with two different people. It’s not that’s not always the case. But yeah, you know, but there are, there are certainly some negatives to that, that you need to think about just as we’ve talked about here. At the same time, if there are two contracts, you want to think through, well, what happens if, you know, the agency or the client lets you go but but keeps the other agency? So you know, are you then oh, you know, particularly if you’re the one who brought the business to the table, you may want to work out with that other agency that in that case, you get some sort of a referral fee or something like that, particularly if it’s early on in the relationship that they are with you things like that. So, you know, just just try to think through the what if scenarios, I mean, you may not be able to capture everything and your experiences in the past will influence what you do in the future. So if you got burned on one kind of partnership, you’re unlikely to do that the exact same way again, hopefully, hopefully.

Gini Dietrich 

Yes. mistakes.

Chip Griffin 

It’s fine to make mistakes, just don’t keep making the same ones over and over. Right. That’s that’s when you have a problem.

Gini Dietrich 

That is the definition of insanity.

Chip Griffin 

Actually. It is. And this this is the year of insanity because it does feel a bit like Groundhog Day. And we do the same thing over and over and over again. But most of those things are outside of our control. So that’s a little bit

Gini Dietrich 

direct. Yes, no,

Chip Griffin 

it’s if we were voluntarily doing these things to ourselves, then we did some serious therapy, which we may need anyway.

Gini Dietrich 

We need anyway. I was gonna say I need therapy. I don’t know about you, but I need therapy. It has it has been Yeah, nowhere near over yet. No, it’s not.

Chip Griffin 

2021 is looking an awful lot like 2020 right now.

So listen,

Gini Dietrich 

last year you are last week you told me that 20 january first comes and everything is going to be fine. So that is what I’m banking on. That is the light at the end of my tunnel.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, it’s it’s possible. I may have just been saying what you wanted to hear.

Oh, shoot. But you

Chip Griffin 

could always move to Oregon. I understand that they have legalized psychedelics in Oregon. In the election? Really? Yes. Because pots not enough. We really need to go to psychedelics.

class,

Chip Griffin 

and I believe that the District of Columbia may have decriminalized them as well. So yeah, yeah.

I mean, we could all I’ve never, I mean, for the record,

Chip Griffin 

I’ve never tried psychedelics, so I can only tell you based on what I’ve seen TV and read that kind of stuff. But, you know, I might be inclined to try if I lived in Oregon right now because it can’t be any worse.

Gini Dietrich 

You know? We’re the generation that you say no to drugs. I’m having a very hard time. Yes comprehending this in my brain right now.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, I know. I mean, I, I didn’t inhale I haven’t even tried pot. So you know, I’m get out I had. In fact, I think about 10 years ago, I was at a Jimmy Buffett concert night and I said to my wife, I said, What is that? smell? She said to me? Oh, honey, that’s pot. Don’t you know what it smells like? I’m

like, I had no idea.

Gini Dietrich 

Really? Yeah. No college or like, did you didn’t smell it in college or anything?

Chip Griffin 

I didn’t remember it. At least. I mean, I was. I certainly knew that that I was at parties where where people had smoked pot, but it didn’t. It wasn’t prevalent. Interesting was if i was i was very cautious back then. I know that that’s gonna shock listeners.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, it really surprises me. Yeah,

Chip Griffin 

cuz cuz back then I thought I was gonna run for political office. And, you know, back back in the early 1990s. You know, the use of marijuana, even in college was, you know, a disqualifier for a lot of high offices. And so it was I was extra cautious, not even because of stuff. I’ve subsequently decided that I have no desire to hold political

Gini Dietrich 

No, or smoke pot, apparently. Although it

Chip Griffin 

is legal now in New Hampshire.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, I saw like five or six more states legalized it. So there you have it.

Chip Griffin 

Why in a case, I think we’ve wandered a bit far here. So we have we wander back on the path and say, you know, partnerships can be good. Just thinking through and

Gini Dietrich 

just do crisis planning, scenario planning. Do that with this with your business partnerships.

Chip Griffin 

Like this. A great partnership.

Gini Dietrich 

We don’t have any favorite or No, we don’t. Yeah. Yeah. Well, whatever. You know, would you like a podcast? I’ll do as we say, not as we do.

Chip Griffin 

You can have it you can handle the recording and the editing and all that kind of stuff.

No, I’m good. I’m good. I’m good. I’m good.

Chip Griffin 

At least at least we don’t have to compensate our third host here. You know, so

Gini Dietrich 

fair, right. The third host in and the hamster.

Chip Griffin 

Oh, and the hamster hamster number two. Oh, those of you watching on video. You are. You’re seeing hamster for those of you not on video. Oh, my co host now has a rodent on her shoulder. Yes. I think this is what they call jumping the shark. So

Gini Dietrich 

I think it is to

Chip Griffin 

jump on the hamster and get out of this one. So this episode is coming to a close. I’m Chip Griffin.

Gini Dietrich 

I’m Gini Dietrich, don’t like on my head.

Chip Griffin 

And it depends

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