A Moment Of Vulnerability: The Difference Between A Business Partner And A Vendor

“You’re fired.” It stings. Your Marketing Co. was recently fired from a credit union marketing client. It’s hard not to take it personally. But every failure is a learning opportunity (which if you learn something is not a failure).

We recently decided to perform an exit interview with clients if they decide to leave us, much like we would when an employee leaves us. I want to gain perspective, which in an exit interview is usually brutally honest, on how we can grow into a better organization.

After reviewing the interview of this marketing client who left us, I immediately became sad. This was one of the very first answers they gave:

“We’re in the service industry, and we treat our members with great care. And I think that YMC forgot that we were the client.”

I read that with sadness, feeling like a failure. One of our three core values is relationships. That one sound bite sounds horrible.

But the more I reflected, my sadness turned into pride. Digging in to gain perspective, I realized we did the right thing. This client was constantly in our bottom 5 for growth metrics, which frustrated both them and us.

“How can you help us grow members without spending any money?” they’d ask. That’s almost impossible in the competitive market the credit union is in.

“What are your other credit unions doing to grow like that?” the credit union would ask about our top credit union marketing clients, and we would share some new ideas, only to be rejected in favor of what the credit union had always done.

I’m sure you see the pattern: Keep doing the same thing, keep getting the same results.

If I’m accepting a check from your credit union, I want to put my head on my pillow at night and know that we’re doing all we can to deliver value back to you and your members. And as I reflect on that comment, “YMC forgot we were the client,” the executive meant that we weren’t simply acting as order takers. We pushed back, we leaned in, and we didn’t stop trying to show them how they could be successful. Our team spoke the truth when it was needed, showed tough love when it was warranted, and ultimately fought hard to help this credit union survive. We never forgot they were the client; we just didn’t play it safe and take the easy road by responding, “Whatever you want! Coming right up!”

I’m sharing this experience with you to highlight the difference between a vendor and a true business partner. A vendor will take your order and deliver what you ask for. A partner will ask the right questions and challenge you when it’s needed to help you get the results you want. Much like you, Your Marketing Co. also is in the service industry. And I’m certain your credit union doesn’t want your loan officers to be mere order takers. It’s the same for the Your Marketing Co. leadership team. Shame on those of us in the service business who don’t ask a freaking question to gain perspective and prescribe the right solution or idea to help solve your problem.

Gain Perspective!

From strat plans to rebrands, YMC President and CEO, Bo, is passionate about helping financial institutions come up with a winning formula. If you’re ready to go beyond the SWOT, you can email him at bo@yourmarketingco.com.

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