This article is for agencies curious about the overall strategic benefits of partnering with software.
Before you begin to expand services, your agency must have a few boxes checked:
Each of these areas can be benefited by partnerships. That’s another conversation, but just for sake of setting the tone – consider these:
Now your agency may have all of those boxes checked, but may not be working with any technology under any sort of alliance or formal ‘partnership’. So, let’s talk about that for a moment…
Firstly, a partnership is built on mutual benefit and support – helping one-another grow and succeed. This is why we say partner and do not use the term “affiliate”. Affiliates are simply those who share links in return for a share in the revenue those links bring to the seller.
Secondly, a partnership does not (and often should not) have to be transactional. We see more and more tech-agency-partnerships built on top of non-compensatory incentives like co-marketing campaigns, increased support, pass-through discounts for those they refer… This is the best type of partnership because the value is intrinsic in the work they do together and not any financial compensation. We predict you will see more and more partner programs with zero commission offers in their partner incentives in the future.
Finally, if it is a true “partner,” you would reach out to them to grab a beer or coffee if/when you are in their city for even a day. This is something I learned from Lucas Walker at Gorgias on a podcast interview. It simply means they are friends. And the data we gathered in our agency-partner research study supports this argument.
I hope this all makes sense so far. The important thing to discuss now is exactly how you as an agency can grow faster and increase your value per retainer by deepening your alliances with technology.
“We deliver what we sell from end to end. This means we rely on partnerships.” – Agency founder
“If we’re going to leverage a tool, we’re going to want to work closely with them to ensure we have the support as a partner and not just a customer. This is imperative because we do a lot of business with each marketing technology.” – Agency founder
“As a young agency, having a program that provides industry and product knowledge, training, and support is critical. Additionally, white labeled infographics, data sheets, and other marketing collateral go a long way in supporting the sales process.” – Agency founder
Of the total interviewed, the smallest agencies reported the highest expected annual revenue attributed to their partnerships with tech companies.
Of those interviewed, 100% of the largest agencies are partnered with at least one tech company.
Interestingly, 86% of companies with 11-20 employees and 77% of companies with 2-10 employees are partnered with at least one tech company.
*Note: We know the majority of tech partnerships offer commissions and opportunities for leads from their site or sales/CS teams, but we are going to focus this discussion on the strategic value of partnering to bolster new service retainers.
This is not as easily-understood by most of the agencies we work with. The main concern – ‘partnering’ implies bias and a lack of flexibility.
But what we know now after speaking with and researching hundreds of top agencies is that those with the most success have been heavy on partnerships in one form or another.
Take Hawke Media, for example, they are one of the most profitable marketing agencies ever. And they have a robust tech partnerships team and strategy. They even have a partner directory.
Partnering with your stack means your agency can now;
Each of these benefits apply directly to the services you offer.
Consider the an example that’s not so obvious – the lead gen agency – you would assume this agency type must be software agnostic. But, let’s look at what can happen if they offer each client a strategy built on top of a well-tuned machine;
Example: A very large (100+ employees) ABM agency we work with was very much software-agnostic for much of their growth, but learned they cannot support their growth the way they were going about it (hiring more staff with each new enterprise client) and are now trying to formalize their services around key partnerships so they can maintain profits.
To illustrate this example, consider a PPC agency which has been utilizing their clients’ website pages and CMS for campaigns. They have always sent traffic through the funnel and phone numbers their clients had prior to their involvement. Maybe, they offer some consultation on CRO for those pages, but for the most part they have left all of their work inside Adwords and social site ads dashboards.
That same agency can add services on either side of those campaigns to increase the average retainer value. Landing page builds and optimization, call tracking and analysis… to name a coupld.
But, adding more to the setup and support of those retainers would be difficult without partnerships – especially during the first few implementations or campaigns. Here’s a great example:
A full-funnel PPC retainer using CallRail and Unbounce on top of your ads dashboard.
You can ramp up quickly if you are a partner of theirs ^ by using the additional support.
This refers to an agency which is currently providing a specific value proposition starting to offer more services relevant to the client at that moment in their business lifecycle or moment of change.
A perfect example of this is in web/app development – why stop at developing the site when your client is going to need that site to have:
These are all opportunities for increased profits through partnering with providers who can ensure your clients’ site/app is ready for success. And they handle the heavy-lifting for you – sometimes even through a white-label dashboard.
And most importantly, with tech partnerships, widening your offering to clients does not mean you ‘need’ to become the expert in management or even implementation of said technology. The best tech partners will make you look like a hero to those clients you refer to them. They will provide you with a dedicated support technician, an agency dashboard to manage your clients’ accounts, and even product insights your clients could never have as end users so you can maintain your agency value in the relationship.
Leads should not be the main reason you partner with the core technology you build services around, but it can be the reason you stick with a dated technology or onboard into tech you otherwise wouldn’t have.
As you progress through tiers of the education and referrals sent, you will become closer and closer to your tech partners’ sales and CS teams which will, in turn, bring about referrals from them. You can work harder to increase lead flow by making sure you are keeping their team up to date with your case studies and service expertise.
One of our agency partners does an amazing job of this and shares strategy in the agency-partner course.
And, of course, discussing the lead-flow opportunities with partners during your vetting process is recommended.
Some partners with have agency-directories to help funnel traffic to their partners, and others will build referrals into their user onboarding SOPs. Your job as the agency partner is to (a) weigh overall benefits of the partnership before you even onboard with the tool, and (b) when you decide on a partnership, make the most of it.