As someone who is currently seeking opportunities, I’ve been surprised at the number of agencies who ask the same interview question. “Which companies do you have relationships with, that you could bring on board if we were to hire you?” Of course, we all recognize that marketing is indeed a relationships business, but in some cases, this question might point to concerns about an agency’s overall business health. Here’s why.
- Talent valued on their network, not their skill
- Weak pipeline reliant on buying new business through talent acquisition
- Agency value proposition not attractive to clients
- New business approach not based on strategic inbound / outbound process
This has implications for both talent and agencies.
For talent, it means that your network has tremendous value. Potentially more value than your talents in some cases. Make sure that you build and nurture your business relationships all the time. Above all, protect them. Do not be the person who exploits your network for agency or personal gain. This thinly-veiled approach often leads to the diminishing and devaluation of your network. Certainly, if there is authentic agency value that will honestly help a client solve business problems or exploit opportunities, you should foster that partnership. However, without that, you risk destroying this highly-valued asset. It also means, you should work to ensure the agency you are working for values your skills and contributions beyond your network.
For agencies, it means you might need to evaluate your value proposition, culture, and business development approach. It’s important to understand and clearly articulate your unique value and selling proposition. Secondly, make sure you are hiring talent that contributes to the growth of your business beyond the relationships they hold. This will build a culture of long-term sustainable growth. Finally, evaluate your business development process to ensure it is not based on a dude with a rolodex. This is short term, self-destructive thinking. This experiment ends after a year to 18 months, with some new business won, but that business quickly exiting along with the talent, or frustration with a partnership built on a relationship only, without business value backing it up.
A sustainable approach to business development matters.
I have been fortunate to have a number of clients who have indeed followed me across agencies. More importantly, I’ve followed them through their career. Not to leverage their business for gain, but to find new ways in which I can help them. So how do I answer the question, “Which companies do you have relationships with, that you could bring on board if we were to hire you?” All of them, provided there is an authentic way the agency can solve their problems and add value to their opportunities. Now, let’s talk about what I can do to improve your new business approach.