Not all clients are created equal.

My curiosity was captured by a question posed last week on LinkedIn… “Is the customer always right?”

I thought about it from a couple of other angles:

“Do vendors always have to act in a subservient manner, and do good and bad clients deserve the same level of respect and service?”


My day started yesterday with a call to present Ideba’s wide range of research, marketing, and consulting services. A relatively new relationship: the client was curious and engaging. Truth be told, we’ve only been working with this person a couple of months but can already tell she’s going to be a fabulous client. The one response that got my attention was “you’re a great partner to us, and I really appreciate your approach to the relationship.” Nirvana!

As in our personal world, business relationships are much stronger when there’s mutual respect, honesty, trust, and a sense of dependability — you’ve got each other’s backs. As a supplier, it’s in our best interest to invest time in all these areas… but the same applies to clients, who can derive far more value based on how they engage with suppliers, and on their efforts to set them up for success. A client that invests time in supplier relationships, and that fosters and promotes a spirit of partnership, versus treating the supplier as “just a vendor” will get so much more in return.

In 2001, I had the privilege of working with @brunogralpois at @microsoft in his role, Director of Global Agency Strategy & Management. Bruno recognized the value that motivated agencies could deliver. He partnered with MS Procurement, and Agency leads to build out an amazing supplier program that made their “partners” feel valued and appreciated. From collaboration in areas such as pricing models, contracts (promoting ease of doing business), to partner awards, Microsoft did an amazing job in recognizing the value of great partner relationships. Our success became their success, and vice versa. I always appreciated Bruno treating us with respect, delivering on his promises, and having our backs.

How companies treat their suppliers/partners often tracks back to company culture. If you’re not getting the most out of your suppliers/partners, is it always their fault? Are you set up for success internally? Are you setting suppliers/partners up for success?

So, for me, the questions I’d love to ask are…

Are you set up for success by your clients?

And are you setting up your suppliers for success in turn?

If anyone has any other examples of great clients or supplier/partner programs like the one at @Microsoft, or maybe wants to work together with @Ideba on a program to help improve their supplier/partner ecosystem, please drop me a line @ I’d love to hear from you. Thanks!

David Sly – President