The Art of Vendor Collaboration

Vendor Collaboration

Vendors are an essential component for creative success – and as a designer in a busy agency, I have learned the value of growing these relationships.

Good vendors are specialists who teach and guide – they’re problem solvers who have an enormous influence over an end product, be it a billboard or swag.  A good vendor is part of the agency formula that drives more business to our clients and helps us deliver the impact we promise.

It’s a win-win scenario.

Occasionally you may find yourself partnering with a vendor who over-promised and underdelivered.  The impact on your project is significant, and stress levels escalate. Could you have done something differently?

Here are some key practices that we have learned from collaborating with vendors:

1. Take Your Time Searching

We often get so carried away with our research for vendors that we forget to analyze their work and if they match the expected quality. Depending on how you arrived at their website, always search for testimonials from previous customers in different platforms. Remember, they have full control of their website’s content, but on social media or other platforms it’s harder to control, and you see a scope of their years in business and projects.

2. Do a Culture Compatibility Test

Set a meeting and discuss your interest and the project scope of work. Consider each other’s values, quality standards and commitment. For a vendor-client relationship to be successful, these three characteristics need to closely match.

3. Communicate Regularly

Commit to a communication plan and be brutally clear on expectations. It is essential that we can rapidly adjust to new circumstances and together, find solutions when problems arise. Follow up all communication in writing. This promotes organization and becomes a reliable reference.

4. Balance Commitment and Competition

For the vendor’s work to be successful and meet your expectations, provide a thorough and necessary background brief. Document details like scope of work, time frame, standards of quality and how they will be measured, communication between parties, how decisions are made, and what to do in case of contingencies are some of the ways the vendor knows what is expected of them and vice-versa.

5. Create a Long-Term Relationship

Relationships are a two-way street. Create opportunities to learn more about your vendor and how they prefer to operate. The more you know about how your vendor operates, the better aligned your collaboration will be. Partnerships take work – and reliable vendors are an agency’s best friend.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Back Out

It’s inevitable that some relationships will not work out. When that happens – make a swift decision and move on. Time is money. Cut your losses. If your vendor can’t supply what you require, you need to find someone who can.

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