No innovation without collaboration

The strength of the extended enterprise

I have become convinced that a purely transactional relationship, between client and agency, limits the agency’s mission to non-critical tasks and is characterised by a low level of interdependence and engagement, which is ultimately unsatisfactory for both.

Conversely, true collaborative relationships are differentiated by longer-term perspectives, information sharing and a willingness to work together to improve joint performance. Everyone will have to make their contribution to obtain the best result. That’s the strength of the extended enterprise! Whether subcontractors, suppliers, franchisees, consultants, experts, the close cooperation between the different parties, based on commitment and collaboration, leads to much more spectacular and convincing results than working in a simple executing relationship. Because today, most of the added value is created outside the company!

Successful collaboration between a company and its partners enables innovation to emerge, itself a source of increased benefits for both parties. Industrial and commercial success is increasingly based on co-innovation and co-development between customers and suppliers. Very few companies can continue innovating on their own and, moreover, they are not mistaken: by resorting, for example, more and more to open innovation, large groups gain in agility, and capitalise on the know-how of their partners. This collaboration enables them to accelerate their growth, by relying on strong expertise, by multiplying the field of possibilities concerning innovation, by gaining access to new skills and new profiles and thus achieve their objectives.

As marketing becomes more innovative, targeted and technology-driven, it is inevitable the skills required to execute these activities will need to come from more than one agency

As an employee of a BBN partner agency, I’ve already experienced the benefits internally of high levels of collaboration with other partners. With diverse and expanding demands from the client, we at BBN have noticed that while our partners are separately branded and commercially independent, they have become increasingly collaborative. Our partners have learned to leverage expertise from within the BBN group to meet increasing client demands.

Many of our agencies invest heavily in understanding their client business to provide the consultative support they need, therefore fostering longer-lasting partnerships. As marketing becomes more innovative, targeted and technology-driven, it is inevitable the skills required to execute these activities will need to come from more than one agency; This will, therefore, demand greater collaboration or projects and campaigns could become fragmented and inconsistent. Many clients have said they have a desire to work with a lead agency that can work with other specialists and optimise relationships with them. Very much like our partners already do under BBN’s ‘Rules of Engagement’ model.

No commitment without trust: the strength of the company liberated

Generally speaking, a company based on collaboration and entrepreneurship – and this applies both internally and with its partners – encourages employee commitment and is in this sense a competitive factor. Indeed, the trust and autonomy granted to internal or external collaborators, a collective vision or even moments of sharing between all are factors favouring commitment and responsibility. Unsuspected direct benefits? Companies with a high level of employee and partner engagement generally experience increased productivity, higher customer satisfaction, lower absenteeism, lower turnover, stronger team spirit, more employee loyalty and dedication, and better innovation and risk-taking skills.

In the end, “the best contract is the one we forget”: each party carries out the missions for which it has committed itself – and even more – in full responsibility.

Finally, as for any close association, a durable and high added value agency/client relationship implies respect, trust, good coordination and mutual dependence. Today, as a strategic partner of my clients and a share-owning partner of BBN, I can affirm that our relationships somewhat resembles that of a happy couple, proud and celebratory of the projects accomplished together. A couple united by a mutual and sincere commitment, regular efforts to collaborate, transparency, a good dose of complicity… and the common concern to “look together in the same direction” as St Exupéry liked to say.

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