How to build trust in a business partnership

Andy Bolter
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US President Barack Obama (L) shakes han
Source: Getty

Trust, one of the most important words in the business vocabulary, has gone missing.

We don’t trust our politicians, global brands, or the media. In the world of advertising and marketing we’re currently witnessing an age where trust is at its lowest ebb within the client-agency relationship.

To create high quality work that can build brands, change lives and help shape culture, we need to find a way to put trust back at the heart of the relationship ahead of chasing every pound and penny.

Here’s a number of ways to help put the two in balance and build a successful partnership.

Allow access to decision makers

As a client, there are so many different agencies to liaise with: advertising, social media, design, digital – you name it. A marketing team usually handles this large pool of external expertise because the decision makers are often too busy for the agencies.

It might be worth reviewing this process, giving more opportunities for key stakeholders to interact with their agencies and start building relationships and trust.

Share the bigger objectives

The brief for a project can come from different people or departments that handle a variety of issues and budgets. If whoever commissions the work isn’t aligned with the company’s marketing objectives, agencies might end up being briefed on areas which don’t help the broader business.

Always question the wider purpose of the work and make the agency part of that mission to speed things up and increase efficiency.

Let agencies sell their campaigns

You can never be too sure how work is being sold upwards. After it leaves the agency, marketing managers are often the ones pitching the idea internally.

There are very few people out there who are thinking about the brand first; most junior staff members are focused on keeping their managers happy and keeping their job, factors that skew the idea when presenting upwards.

If everyone wants to stand out but no one wants to be different, staff could be driven to say “no” to many things. This could either be because they’re second-guessing what the management might like, or they benchmark the new idea with the last one to make sure it’s likely to be accepted.

If it’s impossible for agencies to get in front of the key decision maker, then an alternative way to ensure that staff are emotionally attuned with the idea, is to collaborate and build ideas with them from the very first stage of the project.

Get the basics right in procurement

If you couple all these risks with the rise of procurement’s involvement in the creative work, you might understand better the challenges the creative industry faces.

Normally, this department is in charge of saving the business money, so it’s looking to cut costs wherever possible. If you can change its goals or perceptions to adding value instead, you can have a completely different outcome.

This team might understand the role of marketing but might not be equipped yet with the right criteria to judge its value, so make sure the agencies are focused on the right direction.

As with any relationship, it helps to become fully aware that you’re not living in a bubble and that flexibility is key for development. This way, you could be making the most out of any partnership, especially the creative ones.

Ideas are a valuable resource for your business but they need to be built for the right reasons, with the right people, in the right mindset.