Top 5 tips for choosing your next partner

There are so many partners, whether it be consultancies, agencies or marketing technology providers who can offer you a product or service in the world of digital. My experience of new partner selection is that it can quite often be a long and drawn out affair, impacting the day to day trading of your business and medium term performance.

So why even change in the first place? Brands are continuously in new partner selection mode for one reason or another. Here are a few examples of the scenarios that I have come across over the last 16 years:

None of these are bad reasons … in my opinion some are slightly better than others 😊. However it’s essential that there are really valid reasons for changing your partner. I have seen the selection process can take at least 3 months if not up to 6 months with onboarding and the typical ‘launch phase’ taking the same time again. Brands often see their performance take a nosedive during this period as your focus is less on the day to trading. What is required is a way for brands to identify and launch a new supplier more seamlessly.

To help with this, here are my top tips for pitching work to the market:

# 1 - Understand what problem(s) you are trying to solve before starting the process?

    • Understand the ‘what’ and ’why’
    • Get a second opinon from someone not close to the day to day
    • Determine whether you can get this from your existing partner
    • Ensure there is a clear consensus across all people involved

# 2 - Ensure all decision makers and influencers are involved in the process and you are aligned on the problems?

    • Ensure all key stakeholders are on board from the start - a common problem is that end users are not involved until its too late
    • Often the decision impacts on other teams within the business
    • Avoid the future friction by making sure that they are brought in at the start

#3 - Align the problem with the partner you select to pitch?

    • Understand who is best fit – you could ask your network on who they are current using, why and what benefits they see
    • Don’t look to brief your requirements out to more than 5 partners, as this will create decision making paralysis and will slow the process down

#4 - Write a clear brief, ensuring you have substance over volume?

    • This will ensuring you have created a fair process and create consistency
    • Be clear on what the problem is and what is important to you in a new partner
    • Don’t ask too many questions if you are looking for people to respond using a Request for Proposal (RFP) as a first stage 
    • Why not try something new and skip the RFP stage!
    • You could limit the amount of words ensure all responses concise. This will save you a whole heap of time in the evaluation process too

#5 Evaluate the partner using a mix of quantitative and qualitative in place

    • Face to face meeting time – this should be where you put most of the weighting
    • Have a clear scoring / evaluation criteria, weighting your needs to the key problems you are trying to solve
    • People buy from people – ensure those attending will be the people that you engage with (not the sales team)
    • Try to avoid being led by price (the cheapest option) – quite often this can seem the best short-term way of creating a better Return on Investment (ROI), however may harm your long term growth

In summary, the key is to be able to cut through the noise, understanding your reasons for change and quickly finding a partner who will deliver on this.

If you are interested in understanding how we can support in the new partner selection process, contact us today.

  • Brands often decide to re-pitch as protocol warrants it. For example, investor led businesses often request teams to review their suppliers every 2 years

  • Some do it as a beauty parade to understand the market and get new ideas, which they can implement via their in-house team or pass to their incumbent.

  • Others use it as the stick to get their incumbent in gear, whether this be to make them think or get more from them from a value perspective (e.g. more time and cheaper fees). This is not a bad idea as quite often I have seen and heard that after the first 6 months following the onboarding phase, that many agencies reduce the amount of time spent on a client, meaning what has been sold in is rarely what the brand actually get.

  • And finally, there are a group who have realised that the grass is maybe greener on the other side and that they are lacking something from their partner. Maybe linked to performance, level of servicing or lack of forward thinking

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