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The 14 Rules of One CEO’s Proposed Brand-Vendor Treaty
Today is March 31st, the end of the first quarter.
And whether you're a tech company executive or an enterprise leader, you know what that means — it's the end of quarter (or month or year) sales push.
It's a long-standing ritual made worse by hyped-up valuations and intense pressure by investors (even in private equity-held or venture capital-backed companies). And it can bring to the surface the great, mutual frustrations that exist between a tech company and the enterprises to whom they are trying to sell their tech.
All of this came up during a conversation I had not long ago with Charlie Cole, the CEO of FTD.
Charlie is a true innovator in the eCommerce industry and one of the most forward-thinking executives I've ever met. After we talked, he sent me what you are about to read. It's a "treaty" that he proposed should exist between vendors and "brands" (which I think is really any enterprise). And while he wrote it specifically in the context of eCommerce vendors, I think it applies to every single purveyor of technology in the ExTech Market.
Most importantly, it's a wildly valuable perspective that every tech and enterprise executive should take to heart. Enjoy — and then put it into practice (and please don't spam Charlie!).
The Brand-Vendor Treaty
By Charlie Cole, Chief Executive Officer of FTD
I got an email from a good friend of mine recently. He recently started a sales job for a company that had apparently reached out to me for a call and there was a Slack Board talking about how much of a jerk I was — clearly, he thought that was hilarious.
My crime? I answered a cold email with: “Hi. Thanks for the note – I forwarded this over to our director of digital marketing who will reach out if interested.”
I must admit — it hurt. I don’t want to be a jerk (at least 10 people read that last sentence and scoffed). I make it a point to try to reply to every single cold email (that doesn’t go straight to spam) or LinkedIn message I receive. But that doesn’t mean the answer is always affirming. 98% of the time it’s probably a polite decline (or at least I thought it was polite).
This made me realize: there is a fundamental breakage in the relationship between brands and vendors in the eCommerce space. Here are the two most typical scenarios:
Vendor cold emails brand. Brand doesn’t respond.
Vendor cold emails brand. Brand responds and says they’re not interested. Vendor’s contact management system automatically adds brand email to chain mail (Can someone explain to me how this isn’t a spam violation?). Brand receives chain mail – gets mad – curses vendor under breath while moving on with their day while a subconscious vendetta against both sales person and sales person’s company brews in their brain.
Here’s the thing – and this may be hard for some of my brand brothers and sisters to hear: WE. NEED. VENDORS.
We need vendors to innovate for us, to invest more in Research and Development then we ever could, to solve problems that are way too complicated for our companies to even fathom, and to tackle things SO hard that they must burn money for YEARS before a viable business emerges.
The reason I try to read every one of these cold emails is because every once in a while, someone is doing something truly different and exciting. As a brand, if you can find one of these early stage companies there is this symbiosis:
The vendor needs a key client to legitimize them in the market place
The brand gets favorable terms and the ability to influence the product road map
It’s a beautiful thing.
In an effort to make this whole relationship sustainable and productive I would like to propose a Brand-Vendor treaty of sorts — things we can all agree on that will make each other more successful, wealthy, and, most importantly, will stop us from being so damned annoyed with one another.
Usually treaties have cool names based on where they are signed (The Treaty of Versailles, The Lateran Treaty, etc.) but I’m virtually positive this treaty is going to be signed by one person…me. So, without further ado, I present to you the proposed terms of the Treaty of Charlie’s Porch (which is where I am so dutifully writing this):
There they are — fourteen rules we can all sign up for. To give you some perspective, the constitution’s first fourteen amendments lasted 92 years. As my Generation Z friends would say: #goals.
I’m totally open to suggestions on things I’ve missed, things that are stupid, or things that you think are awesome. Have at it.