Vendor vs. Partner (does it really matter?)

Customer partnerships is a topic our team finds ourselves discussing often. With some blood centers facing the reality of less staff, less money, and increased focus on collecting the right types at the right time, it’s important to regularly evaluate all areas that impact business. It’s very likely that a big chunk of your budget dollars are dedicated to recruitment, marketing, and driving donor behavior. How can you know you are working with the right promotional products vendor?

The opposite of a partner is a vendor, and here is how we differentiate the two. A partner is a relationship that is valued. A vendor is someone waiting to take your order. A partner evaluates your project and determines where they can provide added value and expertise. A vendor does what you ask, nothing more, and sends an invoice. Vendors fear conflict and won’t push boundaries. Partners engage you and challenge you to think differently about projects.

While working in my blood center, I often thought about how many “yes people” there were in the business, people who feared change in an industry that was constantly changing. I felt the same about our vendors. Where were the new concepts? Where was the innovation? Where were your programs that could contribute to us being better? Certainly not the job of a vendor…but definitely the job of a true partner.

So how can you determine where you stand with your vendors…and if a more layered relationship is something that could benefit your center? Here are 3 tips to help you learn if your supplier is as invested in your goals as you are.


Above and Beyond, Dedicated Customer Service Assigned to Each Client

You shouldn’t have to work with a hundred different people for one project. Understanding the importance of a lead person as the primary point of contact is paramount for a supplier. And this person should be available and have in-depth knowledge of your industry. And timely response? Extremely critical in today’s world. And if something happens that wasn’t planned? We will do whatever it takes to make it right.

Added Value and Supporting Services

Does your supplier offer more than just the product they are trying to sell? Is there a bigger picture view of your donor programs and goals? What products could have the biggest impact on your target audience? With decades of experience, our team works with you to develop strategies and campaigns to help you get the biggest returns on marketing ROI.

No Hidden Fees

Is your quote from your current supplier always different from the invoice? A solid partner will be upfront and honest. There won’t be additional fees tacked on…like art charges, setup, or screen charges.


Our team reminds each other every day of the value of our clients. Without you, we are zero. And in some ways, we hope we’ve started a revolution in the way “vendors” should treat their customers. Take control of your current vendor relationship….drive the agenda. It takes a while, but eventually, you will reach the stage where you will be very happy with the result.