7 Elements of Great Strategic Partnerships
The environmental design. The messaging and the activation strategy. Staffing and the integration of digital and social media. All of these are important elements contributing to an effective and successful event. An equally important factor that contributes to a successful event is the strategic partnerships between brands and their event marketing agency. A great relationship can mean the difference between a good event and a great one.
As a strategic partner who creates powerful event experiences for some of the world’s most iconic brands, we’ve found the best agency and client relationships are based on these seven elements:
1. Great partners give one another adequate time.
I’ve seen it too many times to count. No one does their best work with four days to respond to an RFP. Great strategic partnerships begin with the gift of time – time to understand a brand and company culture, and time to develop a strategy and creative that makes sense for your company’s mission and goals. Neither of these can be accomplished to their fullest extent in only a few days.
Recognizing the importance of selecting the right agency partner, brands are finally starting to shift how the RFP process is handled. Pages of open-ended questions emailed to anyone and everyone are being replaced by briefs with detailed goals, objectives and budgets sent to a small, select group of potential partners. And instead of fast turnarounds and short deadlines to respond, agencies are being given ample time which they use to meet with the brand team to learn more, and to develop strategic recommendations and ideas.
The gift of time is a key foundation to great work and great outcomes.
2. Great strategic partnerships have deep knowledge.
One of the best compliments we hear on a regular basis is, “I can’t believe Sparks understands more about our brand than we do.”
This isn’t by chance. When partners give each other adequate time, it’s possible to attain deep knowledge. With a rich understanding, agency partners can truly work as an extension of your company – creating a powerful brand experience that enables better connections with your audience.
3. Great partnerships are aligned on outcomes.
A partnership won’t be as successful if one team member is more focused on winning an award or using the latest shiny technology. In great collaborative partnerships, both partners diligently work toward the same shared goals and success metrics.
At Sparks, we firmly believe in the power of events to drive results and business impact. And that’s one reason why we’re successful partners: we align with our clients’ needs to demonstrate successful outcomes from their events.
4. Great partnerships are a cultural match.
For a brand and its event agency team, many, many hours spent strategizing, producing and working on-site add up to an tremendous amount of time spent together – frequently more hours than some families spend together in a typical day!
It goes without saying that one key intangible quality of great strategic partnerships is that both parties share a similar culture. A good cultural match means everyone genuinely enjoys spending time together.
5. Great partnerships have open communication.
Sure, it’s nice to receive all the kudos when everything about an event went right. But both partners must also be willing to share news that may be hard to hear – like that part of an event that fell just a little flat, or a different idea needed to improve engagement next go-round.
Both partners should offer, and be willing to hear, honest feedback. An open line of communication builds trust and leads to the exchange of new ideas – both of which are critical to a strong partnership.
6. Great partnerships focus on continuous improvement.
It’s easy to sit back and ride the wave of success. But even when everything is going right, great partners don’t stick with what’s comfortable. The best partners constantly push each other to find new ways to raise the bar and constantly grow and learn from each other.
Sharing this attitude of continuous improvement is one of the best ways to make a good partnership into a great one.
7. Great partners provide a safe environment to take risk.
As T.S. Eliot said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go.”
Great partners must be willing to take risk and must exist in an environment where it is safe to do so. When agencies feel comfortable offering new ideas outside what’s typically done and brands are willing to go beyond safe boundaries, that’s usually when the most exciting innovations happen.
The cornerstone of any client-agency relationship must be honesty, respect, trust and understanding. But even those relationships can become even better, when given the gifts of time, knowledge, communication and alignment.