Vendorships Vs. Partnerships.

I lost a client today. I'm upset. I'm not happy about it. But it happened. This particular client was fun. They had live events, they had some great photo ops, they had some amazing social media food that was actually fun to generate and my team took an immense amount of pride in everything we did to more than quadruple their social media presence.

The call came after two months of negotiation to re-sign another annual contract. This client asked us to give them more for less. We refused. You see, we've been killing it for this client. Weekend work, after-hour work, off-site work, miles and miles of wear and tear on our cars, countless emails responded to and acted upon within minutes. We were on point. We went WAY above and beyond AND we killed it,  so when renewal time came up, we, especially after we were told we would get one for this year, asked for an increase in our retainer. We did it to prove ourselves. We did it because its what we do at On Target. We go all in. We play to win.

You would have thought that we had asked to move a mountain. This client came back on the defense. They tried to tell us that we did not perform and that we should discount our services as a result of that decline. They told us that they expected MORE results for less money. They needed to go bigger, but didn't want to increase the budget. More for less. What a concept. The relationship changed REAL fast when we said no.

I held my ground. I realized that I could lose the client. I realized that things could go south quickly, but we had to stand firm. The truth: We were losing our ass on this client. They had dangled a carrot because of their name, they dangled a carrot and stressed that we would get the RIGHT retainer after 15 months. I am stupid for falling for it. Here's the bottom line, this client wanted a vendor and didn't want a partner. I'm not saying that partners always deserve more money, I'm not saying that partners are always the best, I'm not saying that we're ENTITLED to being treated a certain way, all I'm saying is that we Care. We go all in. We don't stop. We are wired to win for the client. That's what a partner does. But partnerships need reciprocity. The drive to be a partner is directly proportionate to how well the other partner treats us. We want to be a partner, NOT a vendor.

Partners care about the cause. They are passionate about getting each others backs. They are passionate about delivering a great service and doing their absolute best. Partners VALUE the relationships that they have because they ultimately know that working together will move the needle. Partners know that there are rough times, that their are times where we may need to burn the midnight oil, that the job HAS to get done and its understood that that job WILL get done and done with precision.

Vendors get treated like dirt. They aren't valued. They aren't seen as vital. They aren't seen as mission critical NOR respected for the great work that they do. They are a commodity, easily replaced by the next lowest bidder. Vendorships suck and its not even close to what we want at On Target. This particular client, despite amazing quality, despite amazing customer care, despite amazing response rates and expertise, despite an amazing job that my team did wanted a vendor. A vendor to beat up, to use, to exploit and to spit out again in 12 months when they want another cheaper option.

So... While I wish these folks the best of luck, its time that they learn that the grass isn't always greener. That treating people like partners with dignity and respect will always trump getting the cheapest vendor who could give a rats ass about your success as an organization.

The lessons learned:
- Stand up for yourself and your worth. You run a risk, but the ones that leave you aren't worth it for your organization.

- Don't be lured by false promises or carrot dangling when taking on a new client. Either they buy into your true value and pay what you ask for (within reason) or they can shop on price and get what they pay for by the bottom feeder service providers.

- Don't be afraid to walk away from a dysfunctional client relationship. If its sucking the life out of your organization, move on and replace that client with a partner.

Thanks for reading.


Thomas JelneckComment