Strategic Partnerships. Are they all that and a bag of chips?

July 22, 2009

What do you think of when you hear “strategic partnership”? Do you envision Coke and a movie theater franchise? Or a mattress manufacturer and a chiropractor? Or even a spedometer design firm and the local traffic enforcement brigade?

Whatever the alliance, it’s easy to see how some complementary arrangements develop. The same holds true in social media marketing, but the lines are a bit blurred.

Does it make sense for ad agencies to partner with social media trainers? Perhaps. Especially if the agency is still developing its menu of services.

How about a restaurant and a social media marketing agency? Maybe if the agency has some traditional background as well.

And what about similarly skilled pro’s in this social media space? Would you want to form a collaborative with folks who are blessed with the same skills? Isn’t that the same as putting 12 dentists in the same medical building or Quizno’s, Subway and D’Angelo’s side by side in a strip mall?

Maybe not.

In this evolving space, people bring a lot to the table that’s beneath the surface. My friend Mike Langford could teach businesses how to use social media tools as well as my friend Gradon Tripp. They both know the tools and both have the same exposure. But Mike brings a financial services and investing utility belt to the table while Gradon puts design acumen on the table.

Who’s better to teach Fidelity? Maybe Mike.

Who’s better to teach IKEA? Maybe Gradon.

Then what about the fish in this bowl who don’t have a background? Those gurus who are only versed in the tools? Are they worth hiring?

It’s an interesting question. Unlike employers who were on a “hire any liberal arts graduate” kick a few years ago because they were looking for balance instead of tunnel-vision, the market has swayed the other way. The more quills in your quiver, the better poised you are to deliver value to any client.

If four of us know the tools equally well, but only one of us has experience in multiple other fields, who would you pick to do your work or conduct your training?

Isn’t it in a company’s best interest to take a harder look at the entire package they’re purchasing than to jump at the shiny new object?

Hey, I like the $1000/hour gigs as much as the next guy, but I’d be dishonest if I told you I knew the history of Fred Olmsted and his contributions to local and national open spaces. And I’d be doing everyone in this social media specialty a disservice if I still went forward and bungled a job that would have benefited from that knowledge.

Maybe it’s time for every guru to look around and ask what else they bring to the table before they jump at the chance to talk to anyone who will pay them to explain ‘the twitter’.

And maybe it is time for us to start collaborating and forming the partnerships that allow us to offer more robust services. The rising tide is bringing all boats higher, but that could change pretty quick if we don’t share some of the wealth.

Because if you go it alone and scare off enough companies with your incompetence or narrow skillset you make it hard on the rest of us.

I’m not worried about me, I’ve got a finance guy, some political people, a printer, designer, CFO and some CMOs and agency people in my camp. But wouldn’t it be great if everyone were happy?

What do you think? Should we just let the market decide by chewing up and spitting out the idiot gurus? Or is it time for the partnerships to begin?

I welcome your comments.

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