ven·dor noun \ˈven-dər
- a person who sells things especially on the street
- a business that sells a particular type of product
part·ner noun \ˈpärt-nər
- someone's husband or wife or the person someone has sexual relations with
- one of two or more people, businesses, etc., that work together or do business together
- someone who participates in an activity or game with another person
In the web design/development/consulting world (and many others), we consistently talk about vendors and the client/vendor relationship. Accounting software uses the terms customers and vendors as well. Is this really how we want to be known? Is this really how we work? And as a client, do you really just want a vendor?
Vending Machines, and what you can get out of them
Most people are familiar with vending machines. Today you can find vending machines for a LOT of different items. The most common things we see in vending machines are soda/pop/soda-pop (for our diverse audience, I wanted to cover you all), chips and candy. The concept is pretty simple really, you put in some money, bills, coins, or credit and press a button or two and out comes whatever you wanted. Well, whatever was available that you settled on.
Unfortunately the vending machine really only works if you have a very specific product. A bottle of Diet Coke, a can of Sprite, a bag of Reese's Pieces, all of which may or may not be exactly what you were looking for when you approached the machine. Regardless, you take it because it is close enough to whatever drove you to the machine to begin with; thirst, hunger, need for some headphones, etc.
Take a step back and look around at the number of 'vending machines' you use every day; the grocery store, the car dealership, Amazon.com, the gas station, Binny's Beverage Depot and the list could go on forever. You go to these places to get product X, Y or Z and nothing more.
The more I've thought about this concept, the more I hate the idea of CHROMATIC being called a vendor!
Website Vending Machines, they do exist
Unfortunately (or fortunately) website vending machines do exist in the market today. For the most part, they are great, but the misconceptions that spill over into our industry are sometime hard to deal with.
- Squarespace (http://www.squarespace.com/)
- Shopify (http://www.shopify.com/)
- Weebly (http://www.weebly.com/)
- Facebook (do you really need a link?)
There are hundreds more, but above list are a few of the website vending machines out there. The products dispensed can be exactly what someone needs, but they create a sense that all web design/development/consult is an off the shelf solution / product that can neatly fit into a row and column within a vending machine. Sometimes it can be hard to explain why that isn't the case.
These vending machines and their products are not evil, and they have place in the market. Even my wife's website wasn't built with Drupal and was dispensed from one of the vending machines listed above.
The problem: vending machines just vend
So why do I think the classification vendor is bad? Because that is all they do: vend. A vending machine doesn't tell you why you might not want to have that third Diet Coke today (Google: caffeine+aspartame) or suggest a healthier alternative, the vending machine just takes your \$1.25 and gives you the Diet Coke.
A doctor, lawyer or mechanic are not vendors, and you wouldn't ever want them to be. If you went to a lawyer and said 'I want to start a company, give me the "new company product"' and if the lawyer didn't say 'What are you planning to do?' and just gave you the 'Main Street Bakery' company product that probably wouldn't be what you need or want.
See where I am going with this?
Partners are better than Vendors
In a sense, I don't think that I need to argue the cause for partners over vendors. But what I think may be helpful is to highlight what you should be getting out of your partnerships (strictly in the professional world).
- Partnerships are two ways! Each person or company in the relationship should get something out of the partnership, and that something really needs to be valuable. The value could be financial (getting paid to do the work), the value could be new ideas for your company (getting what you paid for), website or brand, the value could be top tier Drupal development (getting what CHROMATIC delivers). Or it could be something as simple a partner that is always there, always on time and always professional, something that has a value beyond the money (another thing that CHROMATIC delivers).
- Partnerships are long term. The goal of a vending machine is to dispense a product and be done. The goal of a partner is to deliver a product with the other partner and grow it, raise it, and nurture it. The success of each partner is impacted by working together over the long haul. The longer a partnership lasts the more intimately the partners can know each other and the better quality work together becomes.
- Partnerships are complimentary. Partners should play off of each others strengths. This doesn't mean that each partner can't have similar strengths, but where one is weak the other should compliment them with strengths. Within CHROMATIC, Chris will always be a better developer than me and I'm happy about that, I balance him out in other areas.
- Partnerships aren't exclusive, but should be respectful. This point is a bit tougher to explain, but the point is simple, don't be a partner with two competing organizations in the same industry. There is a lot of grey area around around this and it should be evaluated on a case by case basis. A good example for CHROMATIC would be our partner ATI, we wouldn't take on a project with Athletico (their direct and exact competitor).
Why you should find a partner for a website
Perhaps I've already made the point clear, but a successful website is pretty hard to find in a vending machine. We get calls and contacts all the time that start out the same way: "I need a website." If we were a vending machine, we'd be able to respond instantly with, "Ok, it will cost \$1000 and it will be done on Tuesday," but no one would be happy with the product they received. This is a website, but my guess is that anyone who says to CHROMATIC, "I need a website," is looking for something more than that (pun intended!).
This is where CHROMATIC acting as a partner and NOT a vendor really matters. As a partner, the response becomes, "What are you expecting the website to do for your business? Do you currently have a website that you are looking to improve or are you starting from scratch? Do you have specific goals that you'd like to achieve with your website? Have you considered mobile access to your website, if not here is why you should.", etc. etc. The list (discussion) can go on for hours. This is why we never give a cost on the first call (more on this in a future post), there is no way to know what someone is looking for right off the bat. By establishing a partnership, we are able to provide a better recommendation for both partners, ourselves included.
I hope this makes sense and that you think about this as you look for a partner!
Interested in being a Partner with CHROMATIC? Reach us on the Contact page.