According to Gartner, more than 50% of digital marketing activities are now being outsourced. 

Technology is becoming more complex and the number of channels has increased, so clients are looking to agency partners to help them navigate the increasingly marketing landscape. 

However, relying on one partner can present some challenges for the agency. When the agency embarks on a project that requires technical resources or skills they don’t have in-house, they are often reticent to engage a technology partner for that expertise. There are hundreds of stories out there about agency and technology partnerships ending in disaster, so it’s understandable why agencies are hesitant to rely on the expertise of experienced technology partners to help deliver that solution.

Unless you have in-house resources that have expertise in implementing marketing automation and technology systems (and by expertise, I mean more than one project), it is a risk to your overall client relationship to lead the creation or implementation of a solution.

Based on years of experience in partnering with agencies, we’ve developed an approach and methodology to collaboration that dramatically improves the odds of forming a successful long-term relationship and successful project for our agency partner’s clients.

9 Tips for Improving Technology Partnerships

1) Systematize the Collaboration Process

Have the technology partner walk you through their collaboration process, giving some examples of how they’ve successfully partnered with other agencies.

Establish a communication process that works with both organizations' processes. Learn each other’s working styles and where the skill and resource gaps are. Based on this information, you can determine the best allocation of project resources, and create repeatable processes that will apply across all projects and partnerships.

From your client’s perspective, it will show your level of organization and may ease their minds about introducing a partner in to the project.

2) Be Flexibile

Not to contradict my previous point, but it is still extremely important to stay flexible and modify your approach to things where necessary. No two client projects will be the same, and no two companies work the same way.

As the project gets underway and modifications are inevitably made, be sure your partner provides the flexibility you need and can quickly respond to change.

It’s also advantageous to find a partner that understands the creative and branding process. This helps bridge the gap between what the creative teams want to see and what is possible to deploy within the technology platform.

3) Involve Partners in the Planning Stage

Finally, you are ready to start planning! Be sure to include every important member of your project in the early stages. You brought in agency partners because they had expertise in content, design, or another area outside of your core competency. Failing to include them in the planning stages will only hurt the final project. 

4) Establish a Project Governance

This is something that should be done as early as possible. Before the project is planned or launched, establish the organizational structure, decision-making hierarchy, and communication process that will guide the project execution methodology for you, your partners, and your client.

Establishing this early will also keep the project moving forward by setting up a chart of what information is important for what people and which decisions require input from who. This will prevent you from bringing in executives before their input is relevant or failing to include executives in important strategy decisions.

5) Create a Central Depository of Resources

Consider this: 29% of projects fail due to an inadequate coordination of resources. For you and your agency partners to do their best possible work, you both need access to important data, content, and other resources as possible. As team members access project information (specifications, plans, roadmaps, etc.) during co-development, they need to be version controlled and well managed. Creating a single source for everyone involved to pull from will ensure everyone is on the same page.

6) Set Clear Project Goals and Benchmarks

As you plan out the project’s overall strategy and roadmap, set specific goals and benchmarks for every team as the project moves forward -- especially if it is a longer project. According to Cortex, 40% of failed projects have a duration of more than one year. Without benchmarks and delivery schedules that allow everyone to see positive progress, it can be easy for a project to fall off the rails.

7) Improve Transparency

As your project gets underway, transparency will be your greatest asset. We make sure the client -- and any relevant partners -- are in invited to strategy, design, and planning meetings to get their complete input. Not only does this help us get closer to their final vision, it also prevents the need for major revisions when you learn you’ve gone too far off scope or that your fancy new web design won’t work with the CMS your technology partner chose. With 57% of projects failing due to a “breakdown in communications,” transparency can save you from this fate. 

8) Make Meetings Count

In his first year as Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella repeatedly told employees that it is okay to skip meetings they were invited to if they don’t really need to be there. As a proponent of efficiency, he knows going to unnecessary meetings only slows down the development process.

When you set up the project governance, make it clear who should be involved in what meetings as the project moves forward. Also, make sure the meetings have a clear purpose and agenda. Projects with several different companies involved work best when executives have input throughout the process. If your meetings turn into unproductive status checks, the agency partner and client-side managers will be inclined to send someone else.

9) Have an Exit Strategy

While my first tip suggests creating a long-lasting relationship with your agency partner, my last tip is to prepare for when it ends. Whether your partnership ends with the conclusion of the project or under less-than-ideal circumstances, having an agreed plan in place will help make the transition smoother. Agree on what information the partner will need to send to you and what they’ll need for a complete off-boarding to make sure you have everything you need to keep the client’s project moving forward.

For the marketing agency looking to grow and provide clients with the robust, complex solutions they need, partnering with other capable technology providers may be your best bet.


Originally published Aug 11, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017