Important Things that Prospective Clients Should Know Upfron

Should strategic alliances be mentioned to prospective clients when presenting capabilities?

  • How many of you face the same dilemma?
  • Are 2D+3D Alliances a turn-off for prospective clients

0 voters

For the past 10 years working in the consultant side of the design industry, I’ve found myself in many situations where large companies hire my firm’s ID services to complement their 2D (AKA “Branding”) expertise. When doing that, they do not mention this arrangement to their clients upfront and often times things get “funny” once you start a work relationship with the client (considered for legal purposes their client).

I am curious to know how many of you, specially the ones in the corporate side, think of these types of arrangements (Alliances). After so many years working under the shadows and seeing others taking credit, I am now in favor of forcing my Branding counterparts to present my company as an alliance, which is not also responsible in delivering the work as promised but most important, in showing transparency to the client other than handing out fake business cards, phone extensions and client tours to “virtual desk spaces”.

Aren’t we in the age of collaboration, information and transparency?

I know you call the relationship an alliance, but if it is thier contact or client then I can understand them not mentioning anyone else. Is this the case?

well, this is the case. But when the questions is not about stealing the client but making sure that they are aware of this arrangement. An example:

  1. You start working with their client and are ok with the fees and conditions.
  2. The client engineers and team members start interacting with you and your own team on a daily basis until they:
  3. Visit your “supposed to be office” and want to see the shop, the ambiance, the in-house process…bla…bla. What would you say?
  4. They start calling your own office number, e-mail…etc.
  5. They realize at the end that they could have come directly to you instead of paying 50% going through a broker who in first place told them that they had IN_HOUSE ID capabilities.

Money and client account ownership aside (and secured via contracts and non-compete docs), don’t you think it would be best to set things clear from the beginning?

Thanks for keeping this discussion alive…

I don’t think it is a good idea to lie to clients… I’m not sure, but saying you have in house ID, then subcontracting it out and loosely enforcing a gag order on the subcontractor to pretend to work you has got to be some kind of contract violation…

As a client I would be very disappointed to find out something like that was happening, I wouldn’t mind if it was all up front like “We have the ability to do the research and branding and we have an ID firm that we partner with to get the product design done”, but to be mislead into thinking it is all done by one group is no good.

it is their client, they choose how to structure the business relationship for that project. Your’s is a common complaint in the consulting trade, unfortunately usually traced to the amount of money being spent that you don’t get. You entered into the relationship, it now sounds like, from long term familiarity, you want it all instead of those that got you the job.

What is good about such situations is that you should have little to no risk, it’s all on them. From a professionalism and branding perspective, if they offer you as in house talent, you and they should maintain the situation and not use obvious other office numbers, business cards, etc.

Some contractual situations, RFP’s and RFQ’s, may stipulate tendering alliances, in which case going in as a ‘consortium’ of independents is best.

As always, reverse the situation. Would you be upfront about subcontracting something on your own design project, or would you present “my colleague…”

This is bait and switch. A technique I simply don’t agree with. Many follow it. It’s one of those “it is only wrong if you get caught” kind of things.

As the company that is put in the cellar. You work hard (damn hard) to establish your company’s reputation. Having someone else fronting that reputation is a risky proposition, IMO. I wouldn’t ever do it if I knew what was going on…but then again…everyone has a price.

Not a cut and dry scenario.

Sounds like a sub-contractor…not an alliance.

I have worked in a firm that did have an alliance of complemeting service providers. We did the ID and engineering, another company did the market and consumer research, as well as facilitated innovation sessions for us, and to finish the process we partnered with a large (25 facilities) chinese manufacturing company.

This was a real alliance, each part of the proposal was bidded by each of the respective firms and brought together as on program. The client was well aware of the individual firms, employees and roles. The program manager was selected based on which specialty was the most dominent in the overall process, and selected from that company.


You got to the point I was trying to describe as ideal scenario. Unfortunately my contractor most likely is afraid to loose their commissions and prefer to go the “smoking-mirror” path. I do recognize their effort to bring me to the business and I am willing to spend $$$ for that. But I am having a hard time to understand why pretend I am an employee and everyone that works under my umbrella are also their staff.

For all the corporate design managers out there, does it matter to know who is bossing who or to get the best job and expertise in the same room and get the work done and awarded?