First, here's why your agency should partner with as many tech companies as you have in your client services and internal stack (at least):
Increased exposure and thought leadership - You are already vetting tools and choosing to use them... Why not allow those tools to showcase you to their audiences (partner directory profile, webinars, events, case studies, expert tips blogs...)?
Increased support - You need your clients to come to you when they need support right? If you are not a partner of that tech, you will not have the increased support a partner would have and therefore are not supplying your clients with adequate support.
Leads - The best services you can offer clients are the one's you do often. If you do them often, you use the same tools. If you are partnered with those tools, and their sales team (or customer success teams) knows you are selling stable services on top of their product, they will be more inclined to refer you their users.
First to know - Your clients rely on you to be ahead of large releases, new integrations coming, feature depreciation... As a partner, you are included (most of the time) in the product roadmap and are filled in way ahead of any big changes.
Before you begin to engage in GTM strategy with tech partners, your agency must first say "Yes" to these q's:
Your operations - are they streamlined?
Can your team sell services well?
Do you have repeat sales on retainers?
Do you have thought leadership and/or subject matter expertise in your vertical?
What do we mean by "Partnerships"?
Built on alignment, reciprocity, and support.
Does not (and often should not) have transactional requirements like paying for certification or your first account.
You would grab a beer with them if you were in the same city.
Now, before you go the partnership route over the pure user route:
Align on overlapping target audience, and how the solution will be incorporated into services you sell.
Then, List out Tasks for both parties.
Finally, document everyone's commitments to this "partnership" prior to executing on those tasks.
**If Partnerships with tech, co-marketing, co-selling… as a strategy has not been something your team has had time for, or maybe it’s not something you’ve been able to gain value from. Please book a call with us to discuss our managed service where we:
Vet tech for product alignment, viability and partnership value.
Bring only relevant attractive partner offers to monthly meetings.
Project manage the selected partnerships.
Be the PM to ensure the partnership doesn’t flatline.
Load the partner tracks into a kanban we create and co-manage.
Lobby partners to bring consistent co-marketing opportunities.
Ideate the opportunities, get sign-off, and pitch them to partners.
Set up and help facilitate co-selling with select partners.
Being the buffer for cold outreach from new partners.
Build the value in the role so much that you can make the case to hire full time.
One - Begin all your partnerships discussions with a Memorandum
Partnerships can fail to generate anything for either party simply because expectations weren’t set and a plan was never created.
List out why you align - persona’s, markets, geo.
Where are you going to promote one another? When?
What’s the end goal of the partnership? And what is that going to take?
Three - Prior to any larger co-marketing campaigns, map accounts
Account mapping is the first step to co-selling. It’s where you both load your customers and prospects (or sync CRM) to a secure third party software like Sharework to see if there is overlap, and view the size of the audiences on both sides (potential exposure).
Both parties have the view of the overlap and watch that as you run your co-marketing of the content to each others’ audiences. Success can be determined by the value of the new leads that came from the partner, and tracked using this software/process.
Four - Set alerts in Sales Navigator when your tech partner hires a new CS or salesperson
CS are often those who refer to agency partners the most, followed by Salespeople. They can only support the user/prospect so much. The rest comes from service providers they know do great work with their solution.
1. Save the accounts (partner company names)
2. Set an alert for new hires under the title of CS / sales / BD and/or Partnerships.
3. Send that person a link to your agency profile document (links, services, client persona, goals…)
Five - Stage out the partnership in task list Gantt format
We run client services in our project management solutions, why not do the same with our partnerships? Tech partnerships progress in the same flow. Put them all into a PM tool, or use ours, and run them. This will ensure you are progressing and committing to grow revenue.
Six - Create a course that includes multiple tech partners
Courses can be great lead-gen for agencies. Further, they can be enormous for technology who simply can’t teach their users what to do after the tool is setup up (that’s your job). Aligning with a few tech partners on a curriculum that would increase retention for their solution, as well as bring you both new prospects, is a great way to partner.
Write up the general outline.
Pick out a few classes that can mention and even show how to use a certain solution.
Reach out to the partner teams at those tools as ask what they can do to support your agency in the creation of the course + marketing it (sponsorship, designing assets, linking to it…)
Seven - Track the right partnerships-influenced KPIs
Pipeline velocity is the first to monitor. That is, how much faster are clients moving through the pipeline now that you have the co-marketing, co-selling and increased support from your new partner… And, another great KPI, is overall engagement on partner-led events. These are events that partners invite you to, or events you put on together. Monitor the RSVPs and show rate (not including clients of yours who show). These two are great partner success indicators.
Eight - Lean on partners for assets and copy
We’ve heard from several agencies that they’d love to market their affiliation and work to get more clients onto services that include the technology partner. But, they don’t have the internal resources to allocate towards designing assets and coming up with copy… These are all things your tech partner should be providing you. My best tech clients have un-branded resource folders their partners can grab, add their logo, and start using in their services pitch.
Landing page and email copy
Nine - For collaborative events - require you host the landing page
This is a strategy for those agencies who are in sales mode. When partners ask you to lead a webinar or other virtual event, where you are going to be leaned on to present, ask to host the landing page on your site or your events platform. It won’t always fly, or make sense, but in the right circumstances, it will mean much higher returns because you gain:
Traffic to your site
Opt in emails for your list
Higher thought leadership than if you were seen as a guest
Ten - Finally, consider productizing services and white labeling for other agencies
Productizing is when you take the standardized services you know are rinse / repeat, putting a price tag on them, then listing them on the pricing page. This is a bigger strategy, sales, and ops shift, but agencies like our friend Richard at Six & Flow, Penguin Strategies, Flow Candy (eCommerce) have adopted with huge success. When your productize your services, there is a tool (or two) that are embedded in those services you may require clients to have or get. This brings opportunity to get referrals from the sales and CS people at said tech partner(s).
The next step to that is selling the productized service to other agencies. Then, you truly become a huge resource for your tech partners to help their new agencies sell more.
Here’s a great example from our client Flow Candy: https://flowcandy.com/pricing/
Now, here are the main ways your agency can add and grow revenue streams using tech partnerships:
1. Optimizing and productize around the supportive partners' tech.
Consider which services can be packaged and priced..
Create landing pages and articles on your site, then guest posts on your partners' sites to gain organic and referral traffic.
Show the higher retention of your clients over their average user to receive lead-flow from their sales team.
Example: A very large (100+ employees) ABM agency we work with was very much software-agnostic for much of their growth, but learned they should not plan to grow by hiring more staff with each new enterprise client, and instead are now formalize their services around key partnerships so they can rely on those partners for marketing, co-selling and the support their clients need in order to maintain profits.
2. Deepen with full-funnel services.
That same agency can add services on either side of those campaigns to increase the average retainer value.
Learning to offer services on social, on the site, or afterwards in the dataset.
Adding more to the setup and support of those retainers would be difficult without partnerships.
Example: Consider the typical PPC agency - they do not have their clients ears for design, but it's in their purview and clients' best interest to increase conversions.
So why not offer to set up a comprehensive voice and chat system, even manage it, to ensure no traffic is wasted? You can do this using products like Smith.ai who will even allow your agency to white label their tech.
3. Widening services to capture more of each clients' spend.
Offer more services relevant to the client at that moment in their business lifecycle or moment of change.
Referrals for certain software, but implementation or management support of other software.
Widening your offering to clients does not mean you 'need' to become the expert.
Example: 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:
On-page and sitemap SEO, ADA / GDPR compliance, Chat, Forms automation, CRM integration, IP analysis...
4. partnering simply to gain leads and referrals.
Leads can be the reason you stick with a dated technology or onboard into tech you otherwise wouldn't have.
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.
Discussing the lead-flow opportunities with partners during your vetting process is recommended.
Example: We're working with 3 agencies now to create marketing courses for their clients, prospects, and even other agencies. We strategically work with 3-5 tech vendors on half of the curriculum so we know they will send their users. The agency charges for this course, and sell services to the students, so it's a lead and revenue-generator.