You Don’t Really Partner With Your Clients

Blair Enns writes on the Win Without Pitching blog:

Many agencies like to boast on their websites and in their pitch decks that they “partner” with their clients. It’s bullshit of course. What they mean is they aspire to have their clients treat them like partners instead of vendors. I get it. It’s good to have a goal. But putting it on the website doesn’t make it true.

[…]

As an industry, we need to let go of this need to claim partnership with our clients and embrace the fact that some of these relationships are purely transactional. At the same time, however, we should keep an eye open for those wonderful but rare opportunities for true partnership. 

You Don’t Really Partner With Your Clients | Win Without Pitching

Also his observation about client mix is worth mulling over:

A Normal Distribution of Client Types

In a healthy client roster you will have a mix of client types. On the left-hand tail you will have a small number of transactional price-buyers to whom you are effectively selling excess capacity, and once-good clients on their way out.

In the middle you will find the bulk of your clients, made mostly of value buyers who, though they might be price sensitive, understand they need to invest in your services to generate value in the marketplace.

And out on the right-hand tail you might possibly have a coveted partner. Maybe even three.

Once you get the hang of this performance pay thing, you may decide to be more selective about your clients with the goal of one day having all of your clients be partners. But that’s a path few firms will choose and fewer still will be able to master. Most will choose instead to spread the risk across many engagement types with the bulk of their engagements being in the low risk, low reward category.

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