Don’t Worry Vendor, It’s Not You; It’s Me
Edward Shannon, Chief Revenue Officer
Today, one of the hardest things to do in adtech is break into a brand’s trusted ecosystem of partners. Some brands have been with their agencies in some form or another for over 80 years. Think about that…do you have an offering that can even compete with 80 years of trust? In digital, there is a continued push for responsibilities to go in-house. Suggesting that brands should “move away” from the agency or “take control” are all perspectives I agree with, to a point. I also live in the real world and accept that daily reality. For every Netflix, there are 10 brands locked into their agencies and not taking that leap of faith. At least not today. So, the question is, what do you do? Is every effort hopeless?
No, it’s not hopeless, so don’t go all Don Draper Season 7 on us and run off to a commune.
You need to remember that agencies are a bit defensive these days; they know if they allow a vendor to work direct, it sometimes exposes their shortcomings. All agencies have their trusted providers, and working with those partners never got anyone fired! Even though everyone knows the games that are played in our ecosystem and in some cases, the agency-to-vendor relationship can be the biggest star of those games. It doesn’t matter that the people in that inner circle turn a blind eye because these relationships are non-threatening and show all of them in a good light.
To break through to a brand, you have to identify yourself as a complement and contributor to your client’s self-preservation and career advancement. CMOs, VPs of Digital, and AMDs at agencies aren’t going to risk their jobs for your PowerPoint, and I wouldn’t either. Work within your relationship first and if the product says what you say it does, your efficiencies will naturally emerge. Like any friendship, you have to build a little trust before you can have deeper conversations.
Finally, remember this quote from when Mad Men were cool? “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” (Sorry, too much Don? I do miss that show.)
Keep your eye out for the “Change Agent.” They can exist on media teams, procurement teams, or technical teams–anywhere in the organization really–and it’s your job to identify this person. Change Agents are like the perfect friend in that they can change your fortune and are hard to find, but they exist.
If you live in this reality, remember these two keys:
- Agencies are not going away. They are also not the enemy.
- Relationship building is a critical part of your job, and there is always one person who wants to institute change.
Following these two ideas will help you reach success in converting new business into recurring business into long-term relationships.