It Takes Two to Tango: Five Tips for Getting the Most from Insights Supplier Partnerships

At the Quirk’s event last year, Jessica shared the stage with a longtime Southpaw Insights client, Tiana Badillo from Macy’s, to talk about what’s made their 5+ year partnership work. Most insights teams have had “flings” with a number of different vendors, but Jessica and Tiana dove into the perks and how-tos of settling down with a supplier partner for the long haul. Here’s how Macy’s and Southpaw have made it work:

  • Take Time to Build Trust: A trusting foundation is the the name of the game. Building it takes time, and actions always speak louder than words. 

Tiana says: “Some red flags that might warn you a vendor is distrustful (and, some things us clients should remember NOT to do on the flip side): misdelivering or underdelivering; missing a deadline or being dishonest about how long something will take; changing the goalposts mid-project.”

  • Be Honest and Vulnerable: Being real is key. What do you need from your research partner? What can you handle yourself? Admit when you’re in over your head, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

Tiana says: “Make sure your SOW is honest and straightforward (it’s kind of like a prenup!).  What are the actual budget constraints you’re working with? Be HONEST up front – is the schedule crazy?  Tell your vendor so they know what you’re dealing with! “

  • Share the Load and Commmunicate Your Needs: Talk it out! If you want project updates twice a day or once a week, just say so. A lack of communication is a red flag – no one wants a partner who ghosts them.  

Tiana says: “As a client this is so effective – by telling your vendor what you need, you’ll be able to have the involvement you want (and can handle), while also being able to handle the other requests you get every day.“

Image of Southpaw team members at an event holding signs.
  • Play to Each Other’s Strengths: Recognize each other’s strengths, and let trust build naturally, but don’t rush it. Over time, you won’t need to micromanage every detail. Communication is still key, even if you’re giving each other some breathing room.

Tiana says: “As a client, remember that sometimes you do need your supplier to take the lead on some things because of your own bandwidth, experience, or confidence.  And if you have that trust, you’ll be able to make it work.  But you also need to remember that you need to give and get.  You have to give your vendor the information and tools they’ll need to succeed for you.”

  • Don’t be Afraid to Spice it Up: Once you’ve built that foundation, take some risks together. Experiment with new methodologies or collaborate to dream up something new. A good partner can be your secret weapon, helping you grow and think outside the box.

Tiana says: “Spicing it up is about learning and growing together.  A good partner can be an extension of your team, and elevate your own thinking and capabilities.  One of the reasons I love working with the Southpaw Insights team is that they are really immersed in new tools and technologies in the insights industry– so when we have a problem we’re not sure how to solve, they always have suggestions in their toolbox.”

Above all, remember to be good to each other. You’re dealing with humans, not just data wizards. Be kind, learn from each other, and enjoy the journey. After all, finding your “supplier soul mate” is built on commitment, effort, and a shared vision for the future. 

Contact us to learn more.

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