Collaboration is Not a Dirty Word

July 8, 2018

It happened again. A client contacts me with a request for a service we specialize in like influencer marketing in the home and building markets. They ask us to work with their agency of record on this project. We reach out to their agency and BOOM! the agency does everything in its power to scuttle the deal. We see this happen time after time. Agencies are afraid of collaboration.


I have been competing my entire life. Blue ribbons, merit badges, honor roll, college basketball, dating (yep), and, of course, business. Competition is a part of my DNA.

I loved (past tense intended, read on) competing with other businesses particularly when they would recognize you for your efforts. One of the best compliments I received from a competitor was when he called me “the most hated man in the window business.” Interestingly enough that same window company offered me a position two different times in my career.

I took the same approach in the agency business. Acquiring new clients was my new competition and I was good at it. The agency grew seven fold in eight years. I was recently told the agency was THE player in building products. Then everything changed.


Have you heard the saying, “What is our strength may also be our weakness?” The drive to win and our success in doing so was both our strength and our weakness. We were winning accounts and overwhelming the team that was providing the services. Our weaknesses were the limitation of resources to fulfill the demand of these new clients, not to mention the escalating costs of more people and larger offices.

Then everything changed as we realized our weaknesses can be our strength. We recognized there are 4,000+ traditional ‘dog eat dog’ agencies in the market with the same drive and limitation of resources. This was the genesis of Draper DNA, an agency built on working in collaboration with the most talented, independent subject matter and skills experts in the industry on an as needed basis. No longer will we be limited in quality or capacity, knowledge or skills of a dedicated employee pool. We changed our focus to helping clients experience the new marketing strategies and tactics our innovative team can create. We also look for the challenges that clients have which their agencies may not be able to tackle. The introduction of influencer marketing is a great example of something new we introduced that is a challenge for a dedicated AOR.

One Step Further

From day one we have chosen to embrace collaboration as a part of our business. Obviously, we collaborate with the independent partners we have in providing our services. We collaborate openly with trade publishing companies developing and supporting white label programs, in house creative teams with new branding and agencies to help their clients meet their objectives across mediums. It is the work with other agencies that is the challenge.

The Challenge

The biggest challenge is working with the traditional full services AOR. They appear to view collaboration as a threat to their relationship with the client instead of an avenue to deliver results. We all know agencies refer to themselves as being full service but typically have a specialty as the foundation of their business. Nevertheless, most agencies covet all of their clients work and do not like interlopers.

Clients are beginning to embrace collaboration because they know their AOR are not specialists in everything. A few senior agency people are becoming comfortable with collaboration. The new generation of agency folks are still protesting and competing so there is much more work to be done.

The Moral of the Story

Collaboration is often the key to success for both the client and the agency, so we need to holster our egos and trust our relationships to begin working together for the common good.

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