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Monday, November 1, 2010

All Else Being Equal, Chemistry Unlocks the Door to a Long-Term Partnership

A pro golfer always assumes their competitor is going to make the putt -- the putt that's going to keep a match alive, or win it, or send it to extra holes.

Of course, pros miss key putts on occasion.  But the truly makeable clutch putts that may mean the difference between a first place finish and a four-way tie for second place, well, the pros make those much of the time.

I have the same attitude when it comes to pitching new business against other PR and marketing agencies.  And it's been my attitude for the 13 years I've been working for first a $40 million tech firm, then a $150 million multi-practice agency and now a relatively new boutique.

This attitude of mine is that most agencies pitching the same piece of business are going to do many of the same things to win it.  If you read David Kean's "How Not to Come in Second," which was making its way through agencies everywhere four or five years ago, you know about his eight ingredients for pitching:  be organized, know your audience, solve the problem, price properly, deliver a great presentation, generate unstoppable momentum, and demand feedback (win or lose).

Kean's ingredients for winning will likely always be relevant.  And all great agencies adhere to guidelines like his, albeit customized to suit each agency's differentiators or "secret sauce."

So assume for a moment that a business prospect is meeting with five agencies.  And during the pitch phase, each agency demonstrates proven experience in the prospect's industry; the ability to generate meaningful online and offline awareness and coverage; creative, breakthrough program ideas; strong media and client references; and, in general, the ability to be an excellent business partner to the prospect.

How does the prospect decide on a new agency in this situation?

I think the answer is "chemistry."

When I was the client and involved in agency reviews, I would visualize what it would be like working with the various pitch teams day-in day-out, during good times and bad, for better or worse...until...

When I meet with prospects today, I always advise them to do the same.

The importance of great chemistry can't be underestimated when it comes to selecting a business partner and cultivating a relationship that maximizes value for both parties.

I'd be interested in hearing what role you think chemistry plays in a business partnership.


  1. Speaking for the B-to-B world, 1-on-1 customer relations still reigns supreme. As much as ebusiness has optimized business transactions, if anything like a mission critical solution is being sold the right chemistry, e.g. trust, is a must.

  2. Thanks for your comment. We couldn't agree more.