January 18, 2023

Avoiding the Vendor Zone

Kimberly Emrick-Bryan and Laura Lyeth

VP of Strategy and Group Account Director

We’re a relationship agency. Kimberly Emrick-Bryan, VP of Strategy, and Laura Lyeth, Group Account Director, write about avoiding the dreaded vendor zone.

Respectfully, we’d rather not be your vendor. 

Working at an agency, there is one  term that you never want to hear a client use when describing your relationship. The term is “vendor.” 

A vendor is someone who is brought in to do a specific, often prescriptive, task to check something off your to do list. A vendor just does what they are hired to do, doesn’t question the “why” behind the ask or fully invest in the outcome. Vendors are not strategic; they follow orders.

Anyone can be a vendor. 

At Genuine, we recognize the limitations of the client/vendor relationship and strive for something more. Something deeper and more effective — a true partnership.

Partners share a vision of success, and they work together to get there.

Relationships are hard work. They require full transparency, constant communication and meaningful alignment. But good relationships result in great things. 

When you engage as true partners, you are able to engage in hard conversations that inevitably come up due to the level of trust and investment in shared success. This may mean pushing one another to make difficult decisions about trade-offs around scope, budget or timeline, but it also brings out the best of both sides by combining the client’s internal business expertise with what we know about bringing their needs to life digitally. Often, it can translate into coming in under budget, or faster, or achieving something that none of us could have imagined at the outset.


Tackling complexity takes commitment. 

Any client engagement, whether developing a brand strategy, supporting a hybrid experience, or completely overhauling a digital ecosystem,  is bound to be complex most often due to the people as opposed to technology. 

We have found that the best way to minimize complexity and keep the focus on the end goal is to honor the relationship between the two teams.  We recognize that behind the project are people whose jobs will be impacted by how well the engagement pays off, just as we are a team of people who want to strive to do our best work and have something to feel good (and maybe even boast) about later.

The first step is to align on a shared vision of success, along with understanding expectations, hopes and concerns as early as possible. 

You won’t find that upon awarding our team work and signing on the dotted “Statement of Work” line that we immediately start to tick items and tasks off our list. Don’t get us wrong, we’re going to deliver the work we’ve promised, and often then some, but we’re not going to jump right into the details. We’ll take the time to get to know one another, including striving to understand what keeps you up at night, to find opportunities in which we might be able to overcome the challenge based upon what we know. Because that’s how relationships work, and how big work challenges get done. 


Are you ready for more than a vendor?

Then give us a call or drop us an email. Maybe slide into our DMs if you’re feeling bold. It all starts with telling us what you’re interested in. You already know what we’re looking for. 

By establishing our collective client and agency team as a partnership at the beginning of an engagement, we’ve found that above all else, it creates a healthy, safe environment that results in producing the best work possible. There’s a shared understanding that all individuals involved are focused on and pushing for the best possible solution. And that no matter the stage of the project, or what you’re up against, that the team around you has your back, will support you and will make sure that the work is a shared, team success that everyone can be proud of. 

Ready? Reach out.