A Complete Guide to Building Successful Agency Partnerships: 5 Tips from Agency Owners

Agencies Jan 5, 2023 15 minutes read

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    The increasing number of businesses wanting to leverage TikTok to expand their reach and make more sales meant agencies needed to add another channel to their list of services.

    But, what to do when it becomes impossible to handle everything on your own—cover every channel where a client wants or should be present?

    For small or specialized agencies, not being able to offer a service usually means losing a client. Few agencies can afford this— therefore, most of them will try to do everything on their own and ultimately end up with unsatisfactory results.

    The solution? Agency partnerships.

    Agency partnerships are a lot like high school/college group projects — everyone contributes to the area they excel at. For example, if your strong suit is SEO and content marketing, another agency can offer brilliant web developers and designers. Together, you can create superb websites for your clients, optimize them, and fuel them with amazing content and more. It’s a win-win(-win, if you count the client). ?

    In this guide, you’ll learn why you should form a partnership with another agency and get valuable tips on how to ensure it stays stable and healthy.

    What Are Agency Partnerships?

    An agency partnership refers to a mutually beneficial business relationship between two agencies. This partnership is established when two agencies offer complementary services (they specialize in different niches) and see value in partnering because that will allow them to create a more extensive client base. At the same time, they don’t have to drop clients or try to bite off more than they can chew by promising results they can’t deliver.

    Agency partnerships allow both agencies in the agreement to combine their expertise to provide a more comprehensive service and achieve goals for their clients.

    Related: 18 Marketing Agency Partner Programs You Should Consider Joining

    4 Reasons Why Agencies Should Consider Partnerships with Other Agencies

    There are four key benefits your agency could experience from partnering up with other agencies. Let’s break them down.

    Focus on Your Agency’s Positioning

    In a sea of agencies, you need to find a unique selling point that will help you position your brand and differentiate it from competitors. If you decide to specialize in email marketing, SEO, or web development, you don’t have to move away from that to keep your clients.

    An agency partnership allows you to keep your focus and work on building your expertise further while keeping your clients by sending them to your partner agency for services you don’t provide.

    James De Roche of Lead Comet agrees because “it’s not possible to be an expert on everything”.

    “Partnerships are critical for agency success because they allow you to focus on your crucial offerings while working with experts who can better serve your clients in fields outside your service niche. It also allows agencies to refer quality leads to businesses that better match their needs”.

    James De Roche

    James De Roche

    CEO & Founder at Lead Comet

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    De Roche proceeds to give an example of how his agency works:

    “We cater specifically to B2B organizations. E-commerce, Local, and other forms of SEO aren’t a great fit because our systems, strategies, and relationships aren’t designed for those businesses. Instead, we refer those businesses to agencies we know and trust.”

    Related: To Niche or Not to Niche? The Benefits and Drawbacks of Niching Your Digital Marketing Agency

    Identify Skill Gaps in Your Team

    Small agencies might not always be able to bring full-time experts to their team, but partnering with other agencies might reveal when such a move is necessary. During a collaboration with another agency, you may also be able to identify if your current team needs training to improve in a certain area. 

    “Another reason why agencies should consider partnerships with other agencies is that it helps them identify skill sets that they may need to fill in a certain position,” says Maria Ivanova of Mastermaid and provides an example:

    “If an agency is looking to hire someone who has experience in marketing, they could partner with another agency that specializes in marketing and provide them with some shared resources such as software tools or templates that would make it easier for their employees to function efficiently when working on projects.”

    Related: When Should Marketing Agencies Make Their First Full-Time Marketing and Sales Hire? 60+ Agency Owners Share Their Tips

    Get an Additional Lead Generation Channel

    The lifetime value of a referred customer can be up to 25% higher than the CLV of other customers, according to research. Partnering with another agency is a great way to create a new lead generation channel. You’ll get more referred clients, which can directly impact your overall revenue and help you grow your business.

    Jeremy Woods of FaithVenture Media confirms that a mutual lead generation strategy is one of the best outcomes of two agencies partnering up.

    “This can be through suggesting the other agency’s services or through partnering together in webinars. For smaller agencies that focus on one core service (such as Google Ads, social media management, or SEO), this can be vital to their growth. They can partner with an agency working with the same niche (for instance, dentists) and help with Google Ads while partnering with an agency that gets them at the top of Google organically (through Search Engine Optimization). The agencies would give each other a percentage of that sale,” elaborates Woods.

    On top of that, people are more likely to trust a company someone recommended than one they’ve found on Google on their own. Acquiring new clients will become easier and trust in your brand will grow.

    “We get a majority of our leads through referrals over the years and this includes other agencies. If you build strong partnerships and follow through with your promises, people get comfortable referring to you and this will help you grow. Sometimes it’s as simple as just liking to work with you,” says Benjamin Dankiw of NAV43.

    Gain Reach to a Broader Audience

    Building brand awareness from scratch is a tough job and takes a long time. When you partner with another agency, you cut this process short because you get instant access to a broader audience and, more importantly, to your target customers.

    With an expanded reach, you have a chance to get referral business from your partner agency and acquire new clients on your own.

    “Partnering with another agency can be a great way to gain access to the resources of another agency. It also enables you to gain access to their customer base,” Khalid Hossen of VentCube comments.

    “If you partner with other agencies, you can leverage their expertise, and you can benefit from their customers. Your partnership can be focused on a specific area of the business or you can work together to create new services or products. Both sides gain something from the partnership,” concludes Hossen.

    Related: How Many Clients is Too Many? The Ideal Client Number Agencies Should Have to Optimize Their Profit Margins

    Clients Share the Biggest Benefits a Partnership Between Two Agencies Has Brought to Them

    Agencies that partner with other agencies acquire new clients more easily, expand their reach, and are able to make use of their billable hours specializing in what they do best.

    But, as we mentioned, clients also benefit from agency partnerships, as this type of business relationship can almost always guarantee some impressive results. Our survey results show that, for clients, agency partnerships bring higher expertise, increased efficiency and time and cost savings.

    Clients usually save time and effort they would otherwise have spent looking for another agency, checking their references, having multiple calls to ensure they’re the right fit, and later ensuring multiple agencies have their work aligned. If you recommend your partner to a client, they can skip most of these steps and usually get right down to business.

    “The most important factor in forming a partnership is trust in each other’s ability to deliver for our respective clients,” confirms Shane McEvoy of Flycast Media. “We generally partner with creative agencies. Often they deliver exceptional design work, but do not want to get involved in the sort of research and data you need to deliver PPC or SEO.” The partnership allows both agencies to create outstanding results for the clients.

    Clients also get twice as much knowledge and expertise in one go.

    “As a client, the biggest benefit of a partnership between two agencies is that you get to work with two teams of experts who can bring their knowledge and skills to your project. Each agency will likely have its strengths and weaknesses, so by combining forces, you can create a team that is stronger than the sum of its parts,” says George Harrison, of PKG Maker.

    Agency partnerships can also provide more efficient and cost-effective solutions for their clients, optimizing the whole process of marketing strategy creation and execution.

    “When two agencies partner, the biggest benefit to a client is the streamlined process,” explains Rajat Chauhan, Ace Infoway. “Time is valuable, so when a partnership can save me from doing the same thing twice, I appreciate it.”

    Related: 5 Ways to Calculate Profitability for Your Agency Clients and Projects

    Types of Partnerships Agencies Form With Other Agencies

    To learn more about what kind of partnerships agencies form and how successful they are, we surveyed a number of agencies and found they are mostly experienced in partnering with other agencies. The total number of participants was 44, of which 29 identified themselves as agencies and 12 identified themselves as B2B or B2C companies (other than agencies). Three respondents did not identify themselves.

    partnering with other agencies

    Most respondents in the survey offer four to seven services, followed by those that offer more than seven.

    services that agencies offer

    Of agencies that have partnered with others, nine said those are long-lasting, strategic partnerships. This means they didn’t only partner up to complete a specific project, but worked together to create a mutually beneficial strategy and invest in long-term lead generation for both sides.

    types of partnerships

    Six of our survey respondents say they form partnerships per client or project to satisfy a short-term need for services outside of their scope.

    Nine survey participants have a mix of both long-term and short-term partnerships.

    For most agencies, the partnerships they formed were successful. Agencies that have formed such partnerships state that communication is one of the most important factors in establishing and maintaining this kind of business relationship.

    successful partnerships

    On average, agencies partner with three agencies, but most of our survey participants said they have partnered with over three agencies over time. Partnering with a higher number of agencies allowed them to offer a wide range of services.

    average number of agency partners

    Most Important Factors in Forming and Maintaining Partnerships Between Agencies

    A successful partnership requires effort from both sides. We asked our survey participants to share what they believe are the most important factors that help you form and maintain a fruitful partnership that makes everyone involved happy with the results.

    1. Clear and Consistent Communication
    2. Aligned Goals
    3. Transparent Roles and Expectations
    4. Value for Everyone Involved
    5. Clear Approach to the Partnership

    Clear and Consistent Communication

    You can easily prevent misunderstandings by communicating openly and clearly. From day one, it’s critical to communicate your needs and ideas clearly, and let your partner know if your priorities or strategies change. 

    “Having boots on the ground at the white label agency that can have their finger on the pulse of everything going on is probably the most important aspect of a successful partner relationship,” says Maciej Fita of Brandignity.

    Samuel Zientek of Encite International adds that frequent communication can also lead to two teams coming up with more and better ideas. 

    “Maintaining partnerships with agencies is made easiest when you both engage in consistent communication. This communication doesn’t have to be every day or even every week, however, the more you can be in contact with your partner agency means the increased potential to stumble across new ideas, insights, and connections,” says Zientek.

    Aligned Goals

    Chris Gadek of AdQuick quotes Aristotle’s famous saying to illustrate how important it is for teams in two agencies to be aligned on what they want to achieve.

    “What’s key to creating a solid working partnership is remembering what Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Working toward a unified goal takes teamwork, whether working with people from your own company or another agency.”

    Chris Gadek

    Chris Gadek

    VP of Growth at AdQuick

    Want to get highlighted in our next report? Become a contributor now

    That said, when choosing a partner agency and establishing your collaboration, it’s critical to assess whether you share the same values and have the same goals.

    A partnership won’t work if your priorities are misaligned—you’ll just lose months trying to agree on something with a partner who doesn’t see the world the same way you do. One side doesn’t necessarily need to be right, while the other is wrong. You can just have different approaches. This is why it’s a good idea to have a test period or at least do a smaller project with an agency before you establish a long-term strategic partnership with them.

    Transparent Roles and Expectations

    Just like with open communication, it’s crucial to establish clear boundaries, roles, and expectations before your first project together starts. This way, everyone will be on the same page and know what to do at any given moment.

    Each team and employee should know what they’re expected to do within this partnership and what the teams’ priorities need to be. Nurture collaboration and an ideation process where everyone will participate.

    Chris Gadek says “agency egos can sometimes get in the way and blindside efforts”, which is why you should “create safe spaces for collaboration, both online and in-person. Bringing the right expertise into the room to define briefs or discuss strategy ensures both agencies bring their unique value to the table. It also allows everyone to achieve more together,” explains Gadek.

    Related: 9 Ways Agency Reporting Can Help Create Transparency with Clients and Boost Client Retention

    Value for Everyone Involved

    A partnership means both parties will have certain benefits from working together (and, of course, the clients). Both your and your partner’s agency should clearly outline “what’s in it for you” and determine whether you find these benefits satisfactory. If one side feels the partnership is more beneficial for the other, the business relationship won’t last.

    Samuel Zientek explains that clear interest for both sides needs to exist for a partnership to be successful, but that they also need to contribute to this partnership with unique knowledge or skills. “The most important factor in forming a partnership between agencies is if that particular partnership is going to be fruitful for both agencies,” says Zientek.

    “An ideal partnership with another agency should feel like a win-win for both agencies, and each agency should be able to bring something unique to the table. This could be a certain area of expertise, skillset, or knowledge.”

    For Rachel Escio of Thrive Agency, “the most important reason to partner with other agencies is “the collective value to be gained.”

    Escrio clarified that, ”when a product manager decides to push for an interagency group, various expertise are on the table: a good balance of objectivity and creativity is always served, delivery is faster, and you maximize clout for your brand and business.”

    “While there are higher costs in engaging more agencies, there is also efficiency in it as each agency expands the reach to different audiences within varying scope,” concludes Escio.

    Clear Approach to the Partnership

    You need to establish a clear approach to the partnership in terms of who is leading the way. This doesn’t mean that one agency will have more benefits than the other—sometimes it’s a simple question of logistics.

    One person should set up a meeting with a client: just imagine the confusion two separate invites would cause. It could also be a red flag for the client—they could think that the partnership is siloed instead of working as a team, with unified efforts leading to success.

    Who will be the leading agency depends on multiple factors: your team’s size and capacity, whether you’re centralized or have departments function as autonomous teams, your experience, and the level of trust you have in your partner agency.

    “Finding another agency that has the right level of experience and passion as us for a project is difficult, but it is worth building that relationship,” Dominic Lill of Trafiki Ecommerce comments.

    “For one thing, they learn to trust us, as we learn to trust them. Additionally, we learn their skill set, as they learn ours. Once we have a full understanding of each other we can recommend other clients to try different things and if we get enquiries that suit our partner better we can trust our reputation in their hands.”

    Unlock Your Full Potential with the Right Partner

    Are you ready to expand your potential customer pool? Learn about a skill gap to close within your team? Get high-quality leads through business referrals?

    With the right partner agency, you can easily gain the trust of new audiences and increase your sales, while relying on complementary expertise your team lacks.

    If you’re interested to learn more useful and actionable insights into the state of agency-client collaboration—take a 15-minute break to complete our survey and we’ll keep you in the loop with fresh stats.

    Databox also offers its own Partner Program: a 100% forever free way to use a no-charge version of our Basic plan, get listed in our partner directory, get high-quality backlinks to your website, and more. Check out who you could join in our Partner Directory.

    Article by
    Stefana Zaric

    Stefana Zarić is a freelance writer & content marketer. Other than writing for SaaS and fintech clients, she educates future writers who want to build a career in marketing. When not working, Stefana loves to read books, play with her kid, travel, and dance.

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