“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” Steve Jobs said it years ago, but his quote is still as relevant as ever in today’s business world. In this episode of Expert Talks, we take a deeper look at the value of collaboration and co-creation when it comes to the working relationship between agencies and clients, with special guests Letizia Elia (Head of Partnerships, Swiss Tourism), Mathieu Fouvy (Managing Partner, Creatives SA) and Marine Hamou (Head of Global Business Development, LMS MCH Group).
Business success has always been a complex issue to define and implement, especially when it comes to experience marketing and live brand activations. Finding the right collaborators is key to developing innovative solutions as it’s impossible for any single person to have all the skills needed for a successful brand activation. “We live in a world that is very dynamic and fast changing, and where customers are empowered,” says Letizia. “You need a very broad skillset to respond to that. It’s crucial to turn stakeholders into partners in order to create value and new products that meet the expectations of our clients.”.
Mathieu agrees. “The level of expertise and the amount of talent you need today to produce a great project is incredibly high. Creatives is an agency of 28 people, and even then, we often need to find additional talent in order to really provide a solution for our clients.”
While collaborating with additional talent and providers is an essential part of ensuring success for clients, co-creation within the agency-client relationship is also of paramount importance. “We are a big group that’s active in experience marketing and live marketing, so we obviously have a large skill set that we bring to the table,” says Marine. “But in order to offer clients a comprehensive experience that really matches their business needs, we first have to collaborate with them and then potentially collaborate with other partners that have additional skills that we may not necessarily have. That collaboration process needs to be integrated into company-wide business processes.”
A 2018 International Work Perceptions study and the resulting report on collaboration, undertaken by Slack (1), reveals some clues about what drives successful collaboration: “It’s striking that people from around the globe, from teenagers to those in their 60s, agreed on what made for good team collaboration: easy communication, mutual trust, and clear responsibilities. Their everyday challenges may vary by location, industry, or company size, but they all seemed to crave simple things, namely, the right tools to do their job and the power to make decisions.”
Our experts agree. In their words, the keys to successful co-creation and collaboration are namely:
● Clear and flexible processes
“When you have agencies working together the partnership starts with trust,” says Marine. “If you have a trust issue in the beginning, for whatever reason, that’s not something you can work through later.” Finding the right partners and trusting them is key to ultimately driving value for clients and creating long-term partnerships. “Suggesting co-creation to a client represents having a long-term vision,” adds Mathieu. “The short term vision is when an agency thinks, ‘I’m not going to share the pie. I’m going to manage everything myself. I’m not going to open doors to collaborations and co-creations.’ But that vision doesn’t bring any value to your clients.”
Clear communication around goals and objectives is another crucial factor for successful collaboration. “You need to make sure that your partners also become project owners in a way,” Letizia explains. “In our case, we create products and we communicate about them, but as Switzerland Tourism we don’t actually have a physical product. Therefore it’s important for us to work with destinations, suppliers, and agencies that help us realize and create value for our end-customer. It’s a complex process that everyone needs to be part of and everyone has to have the same objectives. A crucial part of collaboration is to communicate in a very transparent way, and it’s important to be very transparent as a brand and as a client, with your external partners, in order to meet your objectives.”
In today’s ever-connected world, teams are often working remotely online, possibly presenting additional challenges to clear communication. Mathieu emphasizes that transparency extends to those teams as well: “We try to define very specific milestones so that the virtual team has real challenges. The way you organize that should not be fuzzy, especially because it’s not always internal, so you cannot simply fix things, you have to organize. Having a very clear structure helps.”
The clear structure that Mathieu referred to is communicated through agency and client processes that compliment those transparent (and pre-defined) goals and objectives. “Processes are key to really great collaboration and co-creation,” explains Marine, “and you have to be willing to make your business processes very clear, and make changes when necessary, when you are working with other people.” Marine adds it’s also crucial to have a certain amount of freedom within processes to ensure that innovation and creativity are not stifled. It may be a fine line, but navigating that challenge is something all three experts agree is key to successful collaborations. “That applies internally on the agency side and also on the client side,” continues Marine. “All processes need to be clearly explained with expectations, milestones, and accountability for the end result.”
Collaboration and co-creation continue to evolve in the face of new technologies, and have given rise to a new wave of social tools that help streamline the process. The Harvard Business Review Analytic Services partnered with Workplace by facebook to publish a pulse survey (2) about the power of social tools in the workplace. “Today’s social tools can also be used to create team goals and objectives, identify new opportunities, create and share business plans, cascade objectives, invite other people to work together, and then track their progress,” according to the report. “It’s this combination of features and functions that supports new forms of collaboration.”
As a truly global company, MCH Global understands the importance of effective cross-communication for successful collaboration. Our team works from around the world, and partners with additional providers as needed to ensure our clients receive the most diverse skill set necessary to ensure successful business outcomes. Find out more about our incredible team here, get in touch to see how we can help you take your collaboration to the next level, and stay tuned for future episodes of Expert Talks here on mch-global.com.”