I’m Not Your Partner?

There’s a discussion happening on a listserv I belong to regarding use of the term “partner” that many service providers use to cultivate client relationships.

It seems a marketing expert takes issue with use of that term because, in her view, it’s detrimental to our marketing and that all clients will be indignant and find it repellent.

That’s a really sweeping (and inaccurate) generalization.

What she’s confused about is that when we use that term in our marketing message, we aren’t talking about business partnerships in the legal sense.

We’re using it to convey the deeply collaborative and ongoing relationship we offer and seek to establish with prospective clients.

It’s also used to graciously make the point that we are not their employees or subservient, menial laborers. We are service providers who are engaged for our specific expertise and that this is a business-to-business relationship of equals working in collaborative partnership.

This isn’t a new idea at all, nor one that is the exclusive domain of those of us in the administrative support business.

I also have to say, I’m a little concerned about the knowledgeability of any business or marketing expert who isn’t familiar with the concept.

As a fellow business owner, my support and expertise complement my clients’ businesses and instill value.

In the relationship I’ve established with my clients, I become their best cheerleader, supportive confidante, objective sounding board, and trusted administrative advisor.

And I expect my clients to treat me with as much regard, professional courtesy and respect as I extend to them.

Being a boutique service, I want to connect with each of my clients on a person-to-person level.

Administrative support is an inherently personal service with an ongoing relationship. If I choose to work with a client, it’s because I feel a good rapport with him or her, and find their business and work interesting.

I also can’t separate my intellect from what I do.

I’m not running a secretarial service or selling a commodity. As a seasoned professional with considerable skill and experience and knowledge, I’m not in business to mindlessly take orders.

I become part of my clients’ trusted panel of professional advisors, and I’m always thinking on their behalf.

I have lots of business savvy to share, and thoughts and ideas to contribute. I want to work with clients who value and desire those qualities.

So the term “partner” fits perfectly with that message.

In fact, it attracts exactly the kind of people I want as clients.

If anyone is repelled by it, it’s an excellent indication that we wouldn’t be a good fit on any level so it’s also a great way to weed out un-ideal clients.

It sure isn’t hurting my business or marketing. Quite the opposite. 😉

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