How to Form Strategic Agency Partnerships to Grow your Business
- Partnering with other agencies can help you expand your service offerings, but it's important to choose the right partners.
- One way to find potential agency partners is to look up suitable agencies in online diractories such as Clutch and DAN.
- Successful agency partnerships require clear communication, shared goals and values, and a willingness to collaborate and adapt to each other's needs.
The explosion of digital tools, technologies, and channels has been a blessing for agencies—no doubt about it. It’s easier than ever to carve out a niche in your industry and position your agency as an expert.
However, starting an agency from scratch, and thriving in a market with many competitors, isn’t easy.
When it comes to scaling an agency, there’s one opportunity many owners miss: the strategic agency partnership. It allows you to offer new services to your clients without having to build them from scratch, and it gives your new partner a ready-made base of potential clients.
In this guide to agency partnerships, I’ll be sharing everything you need to know about finding and collaborating with companies. By the end, you’ll have a clear framework for assessing potential partners and a plan for how to create successful partnerships.
What are strategic agency partnerships?
An agency partnership is a relationship between two agencies (or an agency and some other business) in which they agree to share resources, knowledge, or skills to deliver joint services to clients.
For example, let’s say you’re an social media marketing agency that targets café owners. You might partner with a web design agency that specializes in the same niche. Together, you could offer a social media and web design package to your clients that appeals to their need for both marketing and a great-looking website.
There are all sorts of agency partnerships—from informal relationships between agencies in the same city to global networks with hundreds of members.
Why should you consider strategic alliances?
There are many ways to grow an agency. Some cost money, others only require patience. If you’re still not convinced about partnering up with other companies, let me give you three key benefits that you could benefit from:
1. Risk reduction
Whenever you add a service or target audience to your agency’s offering, you’re taking on new risk. You need fleshed out systems, expert talent, and intuitive processes in place to deliver the new service. These take time, money, energy, and experience.
Partnering with another agency can help you mitigate some of that risk by allowing you to draw on their existing systems, talent, and processes. You can hit the ground running with new services without having to start from scratch.
2. Lead generation
Anyone who’s been in business for a while knows that generating high-quality leads is a challenge.
A strategic partnership makes it easier for two key reasons:
Offer additional services: Reach new segments of your target market who are interested in your services. No more turning away clients who ask for services you can’t provide in-house.
Access your partner’s client base: They can promote your services to their clients and vice versa. This gives you a ready-made source of new leads, allowing you to benefit from your partner’s client list and marketing efforts.
As you can see, it couldn’t be easier to acquire new clients as an agency owner.
3. Renewed focus
Last but not least, agency partnerships allow you to excel within your niche.
When you’re always trying to do everything, it’s easy to spread yourself too thin. You end up with a lot of low-quality work that doesn’t really showcase your agency’s strengths.
By focusing on the services you’re good at and partnering up with another company to fill in the gaps, you can create a more impressive work portfolio. This helps you attract new clients who are looking for the specific services you’re known for.
Types of strategic partnerships for agencies
As I mentioned earlier, there’s a wide range of companies out there willing to work with an agency. The partnership opportunities you pursue will depend on your agency’s needs, goals, and resources.
Here are some of the most common (and profitable):
1. Software vendor partnerships
This isn’t an agency to agency partnership; agency owners would form a mutually benefical cooperation with a tech company.
Here are a few ideas how this could work:
Reseller partnerships: You recommend the vendor’s software to your clients and receive a commission for every sale. For example, Podblade resells their services to podcast editing agencies and consultants in the same niche. The resellers need their own workspace license, bringing in valuable revenue to Service Provider Pro.
Implementation partnerships: You build a service around the implementation of a software and offer it to your clients. In return, the software vendor sends leads your way so you can start your agency onboarding process. For example, New Breed is a marketing agency that specializes in teaching businesses how to implement HubSpot’s Marketing Hub.
Collaborative partnerships: You work with the software vendor to develop joint marketing campaigns and new features for the software. The digital marketing agency NP Digital technically owns the SEO tool Ubbersuggest, but they essentially act as separate companies in a collaborative partnership.
When it comes to collaborations, there are many more ways to set up mutually beneficial agreements. For instance, the software provider could build an integration with their software that sends data to and from your client portal, such as the one we built for The HOTH.
2. Cross-border partnerships
Language and cultural differences are two barriers that digitization has yet to fully tear down—although it is getting closer. For now, cross-border partnerships are one way to overcome these barriers and tap into new markets.
In a cross-border partnership, agencies from two different countries could partner up to offer their joined services across multiple countries. This type of partnership is often used to target new markets or expand existing service offerings.
3. Complimentary service partnerships
This is the most common type of agency partnership. Two agencies with complementary skill sets team up to offer a full-service solution to their clients.
While there aren’t any rules which kinds of agencies can form partnerships, some tend to work better than others, including:
web development agencies and SEO agencies
content creation agencies and SEO agencies
PR agencies and social media agencies
Tip: If you’re wondering about other potentially complimentary services, have your sales and account management teams start making note of any services your clients request that you don’t currently offer. Do any patterns emerge?
Best practices for successful partnerships
Now that we’ve gone over the different types of partnerships, it’s time to talk about how to find the right partner.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet for finding the one. However, there are a few steps you can take to increase your chances of finding a good match:
1. Define your goals
The first step is to define your partnership goals. What do you hope to achieve by teaming up with another company or an influencer?
Are you trying to fill a specific service gap? Are you looking to expand your geographical reach? Are you trying to tap into a new market?
Whatever your goals may be, you need to have a clear idea of what you’re looking for before you start your search. This will help you weed out partners that aren’t a good fit and focus on those that are. For instance, some agencies want to keep their partnerships purely B2B.
2. Create an ideal partner profile
As an agency owner, you’re (hopefully) familiar with ideal client profiles (ICPs). The same concept can be applied to the ideal partner profile (IPP).
Your IPP should include information about the type of agency you’re looking for, their location, their size, their core services, and any other relevant details. This will help you narrow down your search to a manageable list of agencies that fit your criteria.
3. Find potential matches
Now it’s time for the hard part: finding potential agency partners that fit your IPP.
There are a few different ways you can go about this:
Tap into your network: Ask around to see if anyone knows of any agencies that might be a good fit. If your current network is a bit thin, you can always join group such as Ramen Club or Indie Worldwide.
Check out online directories: There are plenty of online directories that list agencies by location, service offering, and size—perfect for finding potential partners. Clutch, DAN, and G2 are great places to start.
Use Google: A simple Google search can turn up plenty of results, although you may need to do some digging to find the best matches.
4. Craft a compelling proposal
Now that you’ve found some perfect candidates, it’s time to craft a proposal for your partner program. A compelling proposal should include two things:
Demonstrate value: No agency enters a partnership for the fun of it. They want to see a return on their investment. When crafting your proposal, focus on how partnering with your agency will benefit them—and make sure to double down on the value proposition. If possible, include statistics or estimates about how much their business could grow as a result of partnering with you.
Demonstrate awareness: Research your potential partner’s brand. What are their core values, what is their mission, and who is their target audience? The more you know about their brand, the easier it will be to create a proposal that resonates with them. Plus, it shows them you’re serious about the partnership from the get-go.
Grow your industry knowledge
Beyond these two points, your pitch should introduce potential partners to your agency, give them an overview of your services, and explain how you can help them reach their goals.
5. Draft a partnership agreement (optional)
If everything goes well, you should have no trouble entering a new partnership. However, there’s always a risk of things not working out. In such cases, having a partnership agreement in place can help protect your interests.
The contract should outline the terms of your partnership, including each party’s responsibilities, the length of the collaboration, and how disputes will be resolved.
6. Make it easy to track conversions
With the contract in place, think about how you’d like to track all the movements your new partnerships will bring. There are dedicated apps with integrated analytics that allow you to track referrals, for instance Service Provider Pro.
Many agencies rely on our referral management function to track partner recommendations and their payouts.
Better together—this is a great slogan that agency owners should take at heart. Instead of seeing every other agency as a competitor, think of ways you can collaborate. Strategic partnerships not only reward you with increased revenue, you can provide clients with new services while strengthening your relationship with them.