Everything I Know About Partnerships, I Learned From Mean Girls


Len Lamberg is an Interactive Account Manager here at Top Floor, responsible for matching up Top Floor capabilities with clients' needs.  We've asked him what it takes to make this kind of partnership work - to make sure the clients are happy and their businesses are growing.  He told us he could tell us everything, and then he proceeded to tell it to us four different ways! This is part one in his series on partnerships.

Gretchen: Regina, you're wearing sweatpants. It's Monday.

Regina: So...?

Karen: So that's against the rules, and you can't sit with us.

Regina: Whatever. Those rules aren't real.

Rules are great for traffic intersections.  In business, they're also OK for getting suppliers aligned with your business practices:  rules for delivery, for packaging, for running an efficient operation.  But, when it comes to driving sales and growing your business, rules might be more of a problem than a help.

Once I got out of high school, I realized something: you get ahead by being just a little different.  Smarter, faster, more responsive.  Most businesses start with a new idea,  a new technology or maybe a new take on customer service or logistics.  You can't compete by following the herd.

Here's what happened when Marketing graduated from High School

In the Old Days (actually, just a few years ago!), marketing was built on a static model where things didn't change very much.  A company made something, or provided a service, then they hired an agency or a marketing firm to find people who were willing to buy.  There were ads and mailings and industrial directories, but it was a pretty established playing field.

Marketing was an expense like any other, and trust came by following a set of rules to make sure agencies did it exactly the right way.  There were rules for billing time, rules for marking up space and services, rules for turning over deliverables.

Then everything changed. 

Old School marketing worked because customers were content to have stock answers handed to them.  They knew that they didn't have that many choices available to them.

Now the business world is filled with stock answers, with products available from offshore suppliers and service providers.  Savvy customers are bypassing the old advertising venues and working hard to research problems facing their business (and looking for ways to grow their own business!).  They go online to look for content and solutions.  The business leaders who are succeeding are those who are comfortable with sharing their knowledge and expertise, the unique ideas that got them into their business in the first place.

That's a leap of faith that not every business owner can make.  Old school players who want to hold back on what they want to make public, and double down on the traditional techniques of advertising.  Those are the dinosaurs that feel like they still need to saddle their digital agency with a stacked-up cafeteria tray full of rules. 

The truth is, the future will be owned by the ones who know those rules aren't real.  These are the successful who will find a digital agency they trust to share that passion and those ideas and translate it into something that works in a digital world.

It's easy to tell when a real partnership exists:  there is an online destination that defines a brand and contains a call-to-action.  Websites answer questions and provide solutions.  Social media facilitates a community of ideas. 

Google knows, too. The search engines reward sites that provide a credible, quality experience that benefits everyone.

It's a little like the end of Mean Girls (the lecture from Tina Fey, not the part where the Queen Bee gets hit by a bus).  If we drop the rules for a minute and start trusting one another, we can make this a fun, profitable place for every person.

And, unlike high school, a successful business partnership will last for more than four years!

Stay tuned to read Len's next post: Everything I know about Partnerships, I learned from Breaking Bad. 

If you would like to leave a comment sign in with your Facebook, Twitter, Google or Disqus account and submit your comment below: