How to maximize business potential through agency partnerships

Today’s small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have a surplus of choice when it comes to tools and service providers to solve their problems. This creates a preference for agencies that can meet as many of their needs as possible. But if your agency can’t be a true one-stop-shop, there is a way to meet your client’s needs without overburdening your capacity: agency partnerships.

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Given that even small SMBs have complex digital marketing requirements, partnerships are an effective way for agencies to build their client roster, stay focused on their strengths, and become an invaluable resource to their customers.

What are agency partnerships?

Agency partnerships are agreements between agencies offering complementary tools or services, aimed at mutually benefiting both parties by providing access to a wider customer base. By pooling their capabilities, members of a partnership can create more robust offerings without having to develop their in-house capacities.

These partnerships are common across a broad range of industries, for example:

  • Real estate: Sellers typically require staging services, high-quality photography, and digital marketing to showcase their properties. A partnership between visual production, interior decorating, and digital marketing agencies is well-suited to meet this need.
  • Multichannel marketing: Partnerships between digital marketing agencies and those specializing in live activations can help businesses meet their multichannel marketing needs.
  • Public relations (PR): PR agencies working with B2C clients may partner with content creator management agencies to deliver reputation-boosting campaigns.

Why are agency partnerships important?

Agency partnerships play a significant strategic role for growing digital agencies by providing access to greater expertise and resources, exposing them to new customers, and mitigating some expenses associated with delivering services.

Increased expertise and resources

No matter how skilled you are as a digital marketer, you can’t realistically be an expert in all areas relevant to your niche. By participating in agency partnerships, you can tap into the expertise and resources of your collaborators, and deliver better solutions to your clients in the process.

For example, imagine your client is a pre-launch restaurant. Between your in-house team and your white-label agency partner, you can deliver top-notch social media campaigns, custom websites, content marketing, and paid ads. However, you lack the experience and relationships required to successfully manage public relations for a new establishment. In this scenario, a specialized PR agency could become a valuable addition to your collaborative efforts. By leveraging their industry-specific knowledge, media connections, and PR strategies, you enhance your overall service offering.

Access to new markets and customers

Agency partnerships expose both parties to the other’s network of contacts, without the costs typically associated with acquiring leads and closing new customers.

Cost-effective solutions and shared expenses

Collaborating with specialized agencies allows for a more efficient allocation of your joint resources, reducing the financial burden on individual entities. Whether it’s sharing technology platforms and tools, or jointly participating in marketing initiatives, the cost-sharing aspect of agency partnerships makes them an appealing choice.

Types of agency partnerships

Agency partnerships can take different forms depending on the goals of the partners involved. Let’s take a look at four approaches you can take when entering this type of partnership.

Strategic alliances

The idea behind a strategic alliance is to create a long-term collaboration rather than a one-off partnership. Guided by shared or compatible goals, agencies in strategic alliance with each other might pool resources, share expertise, and align their lead-generating strategies to achieve joining success. This type of partnership aims to leverage one another’s strengths for a fruitful relationship.

Joint ventures

A joint venture can be thought of as a more formalized type of strategic alliance. The idea of a mutually beneficial long-term partnership remains, but in the case of a joint venture, the parties involved legally formalize their agreement through a merger or creation of a new co-owned legal entity. When it comes to agency partnerships, this is the most rigid and requires a high level of commitment.

Referral partnerships

Referral partnerships are based on mutual recommendations between agencies or service providers offering complimentary solutions. For example, two agencies with different specializations might refer clients to one another to fill gaps in their service offerings. Similarly, your design agency might have preferred partners for things like signage printing. Since a print shop doesn’t directly compete with your services, you can recommend them to your graphic design clients, and they can recommend your agency to those who require design services.

Another type of referral partnership involves one partner offering payment in exchange for successful referrals. For example, check out Vendasta’s affiliate program:

Co-marketing partnerships

Co-marketing partnerships are generally time-restricted and involve joint promotion of a campaign or project. Like other agency partnerships, the aim is to tap into the audiences of both partners to expand reach and amplify the visibility of both. Collaborators might engage in multiple co-marketing partnerships over time.

Benefits of agency partnerships

The pooling of resources can help parties engaged in a partnership reach their goals faster, serving as a shortcut to agency growth and success. Let’s dive into what you can expect to gain by participating in partnerships.

Enhanced credibility and reputation

Building trust and establishing a positive reputation takes time, but through partnering with other reputable agencies or businesses, you can tap into the goodwill audiences have toward them. This improves the perception of your agency by association, providing a fast track to brand equity, an invaluable soft asset. If you’re an agency startup, it can be an effective way to build reputational capital faster.

Increased market reach and customer base

Getting in front of new prospective audiences and filling your sales pipeline comes at a cost, whether it's through running paid ads, creating lead magnets and content marketing, or performing SEO optimizations. By participating in partnerships, you can reduce the costs typically associated with increasing market reach by tapping into the customer base of your collaborator. The result is boosted revenues without the typical price tag of growth.

Shared knowledge and expertise

Benefiting from the mutual sharing of knowledge and expertise makes agency partnerships more than the sum of their parts: by combining their know-how, partners can create more effective campaigns and projects with the potential to deliver goal-smashing results.

Risk mitigation and shared responsibilities

Collaborating with trusted partners allows for a distribution of tasks and challenges, an all-hands-on-deck approach that makes it easier to navigate obstacles. By pooling expertise and resources, agencies can collectively address potential pitfalls and enhance their ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.

How to choose the right partner for your agency

Choosing the ideal partner for your agency requires a solid understanding of your goals, strengths, company culture, and experience. Keep these factors in mind when selecting a collaborator for your next agency partnership.

Alignment of goals and values

Unaligned partners will pull each other in different directions, negating the benefits discussed above. Both partners should share fundamental core values to ensure messaging and strategies don’t violate those tenets. Similarly, they should be working toward a common goal, otherwise they risk expending resources and effort on ineffective, directionless projects.

Complementary skills and expertise

The key to any successful partnership is complementary offerings, skills, and expertise. Just as the suite of tools and solutions offered by each party should have minimal overlap and should work synergistically, the skills and know-how of partners should be distinct enough that the partnership enhances their collective ability to deliver results.

Reputation and track record

Reputation has a way of rubbing off, so your digital agency should be careful to associate only with partners who are trusted and respected. It’s also important to do due diligence and ensure they have a commendable track record of quality work that you can feel confident being associated with.

Communication and collaboration

Company culture and working styles should be compatible enough that your teams can happily work together when needed. Ask questions like:

  • Do you prefer to hold virtual or in-person meetings?
  • What communication tools and platforms do you use?
  • How frequently do you expect progress updates and reports?
  • Are there designated points of contact for specific aspects of the project?

Tips for forming agency partnerships

If forming an agency partnership is a compelling next step for your agency, keep these tips in mind before signing on the dotted line:

  • Clearly define roles and responsibilities: all parties involved should know precisely what their responsibilities are, along with the scope and timeline of the project.
  • Establish open and transparent communication channels: Teams involved in a partnership should agree on which communication channels to use and feel confident that they can reach out as much as required to ensure the success of the project.
  • Develop a mutually beneficial agreement or contract: Don’t leave things up to interpretation. Contracts should address all areas of the collaboration, such as the goals, roles, scope, and timeline.
  • Regularly evaluate and reassess the partnership: Schedule regular check-ins to ensure goals are on track and both parties are still content with their participation in the partnership.

About the Author

Lawrence Dy is the SEO Strategy Manager at Vendasta. His career spans from starting as a Jr. Copywriter in the automotive industry to becoming a Senior Editorial Content Manager in various digital marketing niches. Outside of work, Lawrence moonlights as a music producer/beatmaker and spends time with friends and family.

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