We all know how valuable good partnerships with other agencies can be. Whether it’s for lead generation, referrals, peer support or simply working up a pitch together – we see time and time again in The AC how complementary agencies can turn these working relationships into something positive and profitable.
Speaking with one member of The Agency Collective who is a real advocate for agency partnerships, James Browne from 4 Roads takes us through how to get started and ultimately make partnering with other agencies a core part of your growth strategy.
Q: What value do you see in establishing partnerships with other agencies? Why has it been an important strategy for 4 Roads?
The reality of today’s business landscape is that as an agency it would be almost impossible for us to offer everything a client could ever want. That’s the reason we are so invested in creating partnerships, because it means that we can serve our customers far better by merging the talent and expertise from other agencies to deliver a better outcome for clients, irrespective of whether we’re the lead partner.
”Working with other agencies who have common values is also critical – partnerships are essentially a united front all pushing in the same direction for a common goal, and that happens when all parties are acting with integrity and transparency.
Q: What kind of partnerships do you look for, and why?
The partnerships we actively seek are where we know we are playing to our strengths and can add value. Importantly we want to make sure we aren’t stepping on the toes of any other agencies in a client engagement as this tends to create tension and ultimately inefficiencies in the project.
The key to any successful partnership is that there has to be a defined common goal, with each partner understanding their respective roles. A relevant example is the recent work we’ve been doing with a number of creative agencies in the event sector to help deliver digital events. We are very clear that 4 Roads is not being asked to provide creative direction, nor are we responsible for producing the event nor hosting the solution. However, it is our responsibility to ensure that all the solution features aligns with the functional requirements, and because we have this clear understanding, it means that we can openly collaborate with our partners.
Working with other agencies who have common values is also critical – partnerships are essentially a united front all pushing in the same direction for a common goal, and that happens when all parties are acting with integrity and transparency.
Q: What impact have these partnerships had on the growth of your agency?
It’s been incredible – with one partner, we have a pipeline of projects that if we were to win them all today would exceed last year’s revenue target. There is a word of caution though, you should treat a partnerships like clients or prospects and always plan for the worst case scenario, which is that for whatever reason your partnership ends, it is important not to be overly reliant. And if you are, it’s worth considering what you can do to mitigate against a partnership ending.
Q: Say you’re new to building these kinds of relationships with other agencies – how do you get started? What advice would you give to other founders?
Treat partnerships like you would treat any other form of business development. Determine the kind of partnerships that you would like and start actively introducing yourself. We have outreach campaigns for partners which are no different to any other type of business development campaign. The reality is that a lot of these partners are not going to award you a project overnight, however staying on their radar means that you’re front of mind when they do have an opportunity they think is relevant.
Q: What are the common pitfalls to look out for when establishing a partnership with another agency?
A limiting factor with any project is when partner agencies work in silos. We find that the more collaborative the process, the better the outcome. It’s also very important to have honest retrospectives at the end of each project. The nature of any project is that unexpected issues will arise and a retrospective allows us to address concerns immediately, and we then apply these learning to future projects.
Any other key things to look out for while building partnerships?
It can take time to build partnerships. Whilst trying to develop a partnership, the best thing you can be is helpful – which I know from being part of the Slack channel, will come naturally to all AC members. For example if a partner has an opportunity, I will get involved from the outset if I’m able to. This way we can help our partners to navigate areas that are aligned to our capabilities and this helps build credibility and hopefully increases the likelihood of winning a project. I always get involved in these early stages with my eyes open to this being presales and at our risk – nothing is guaranteed until the client is ready to commit. We have gone as far as building demos for partners for pitches if we think this will help.
Another tip would be that where you can, try to reciprocate with opportunities. These don’t have to be deals handed to your partners on a plate, but if you can try to proactively seek opportunities even if these are just leads, it goes a long way and shows a partner that you’re invested in their success as much as your own.
James is Director and Head of Growth at 4 Roads, a team of specialist designers, developers and social business strategists using technology to bring businesses and audiences closer. By leveraging the latest technology, including artificial intelligence, voice recognition, knowledge management, online communities and more, it creates unique virtual spaces which truly empower customers – an approach it describes as Intelligent Self Service.