You’re proud of everything your marketing agency has achieved — and you should be. But have you considered that the most effective strategy to boost your agency’s billings might be partnering with another agency? If that gets your hackles up, stick with me until the end.
Collaborating with other firms can make your agency stand out as a business that’s easy to work with. More importantly, your willingness to solve problems by bringing in another resource will help you maintain long-term client relationships.
Channeling a competitive attitude into passionate, productive collaboration will help you build long-lasting business relationships that not only maintain stability but also keep your business growing. If you don’t, you’re sacrificing valuable relationships for the sake of ego — and that’ll never pay the bills.
The Pitfalls of Partnerships
Collaborating with another agency requires a degree of vulnerability and trust that we’re not always prepared for. We work in a highly competitive atmosphere, to say the least.
You might not always choose who you work with, especially during your first few cross-agency partnerships, but that’s why it’s so important to develop a reputation as a great partner agency. You’ll secure more referrals. And eventually, clients might ask for your recommendation when selecting other folks to hire.
All of this isn’t to say that partnerships are easy. Uncomfortable situations can rear their ugly heads, and these involve more than just your basic fears surrounding competition. Sometimes, the bigger agency tries to play alpha throughout a project, or the agency with the best connections or longest tenure thinks it should run the show.
We’ve all heard horror stories about agencies undercutting each other and bad-mouthing fellow agencies in front of the client. Power moves can make both groups look bad, and these actions place clients in an awkward position.
When Competition Becomes Collaboration
Agencies don’t want to do one-off work. They want long-term relationships and collaboration — it’ll only help the companies and brands they work with. And though the client plays a huge role in the success of bringing two agencies together on an opportunity, there are things each agency can do to lay the groundwork for a successful partnership.
The best relationships evolve when all parties truly want to see the client succeed and view the partnership as a huge asset for all. Why tarnish the opportunity to have a win-win-win relationship?
While you can’t control every variable of a marketing partnership, use these quick tips to set yourself up for success.
Evaluate the opportunity
What do you know about the other agency and brand? Try checking around with industry professionals to see whether the agency you’re partnering with plays well with others. After, try to highlight your own agency’s strengths and see how others can fill in the gaps on certain projects.
When digital- and experiential-based agencies get together, for example, it’s a match made in heaven. Digital agencies extend the brand’s reach, drive awareness, and earn digital engagement for an experiential event. The experiential agencies get to physically engage the audience, drive interest, and create that aha moment that clearly highlights a product’s superiority.
If your client has a need you can’t fulfill, partnering with another agency that has that ability provides benefits. You could build upon your relationship with that client and bring additional billings to your agency that you might not have had the opportunity to see. Remember that well-defined roles represent a symbiotic relationship.
Check your ego at the door
Successful agencies understand that their function in the marketing world is to support brands and do great work. The best award is a repeat customer, so don’t allow pride to get in the way of a robust program.
Anheuser-Busch partnered with our firm along with two other experiential marketing firms. There was no need to sulk, though, because there was so much work to go around. And for 14 years, we all did great work for the company within our own niches and areas of expertise. The positive partnership between our agencies allowed for friendly competition, and our work improved as we raised the bar together.
Remember that sharing is caring
No matter what kind of relationship you’re trying to build and maintain, communication will always be key. It’s crucial to develop a clear process for communicating key information with other agencies. Because nothing is worse than presenting competing ideas, you should both take part in the creative process before pitching to clients.
Lean Labs provides a great example here: To lay the foundations for agencies it partners with, it actually created a downloadable agency partnership playbook. You don’t need to put together a playbook of your own, but back-end work can help achieve more alignment in the future.
Besides this, be sure to ask the client for a clear direction. You should understand the roles and responsibilities of each agency and have a budget list right off the bat.
Learn from each other
Learn how to think and process ideas with the “1+1=3” mentality — or that agencies can do better work by partnering up rather than doing things alone. This gives you the opportunity to experience how other agencies communicate with clients, present their ideas, and act as experts within their niches.
Besides this, you’ll also get to show them how you work. When two hardworking organizations come together, the outcome is greater than the sum of its parts. When you bring important lessons away with you, you can apply that valuable knowledge in other future projects.
Achieving positive results for the client should be a win for all agencies involved, so make sure everyone has a part in sharing the end results. Everyone should also have a seat at the table during post-program evaluations. This makes sure clients can understand how each agency played a part in the project or program and provides the opportunity to discuss future client needs.
You can still be proud of everything you’ve achieved and be open to partnering with others. In fact, it might be one of the best growth strategies you can employ. Use these five tips to forge powerful partnerships that “future proof” your agency.