According to HubSpot research, 57% of agencies credit referrals as their top source of lead generation. Think of it this way — the more happy clients you serve, the more potential referrals can drive business.
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 competitive landscape.
Is your agency doing all it can to capitalize on these opportunities?
Relying on one partner can present some challenges for any agency. When an 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.
What Are Technology Partnerships?
Technology partnerships exist to help organizations implement and optimize their technical systems. These partnerships typically take place between technology vendors who provide the product and the agencies and companies who use these systems in their daily operations.
In addition to helping companies experience smooth implementation processes, technology partnerships can also provide platform integration support for companies that use IT systems from different companies that have to work in sync with one another.
Unless you have in-house resources that have expertise in implementing 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 and can also hurt your chances of retaining the client or earning their referral.
Integrating beneficial technology partnerships can be a major selling point for your agency. 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 long-term relationship and successful project for our agency partner’s clients.
What Makes a Great Technology Partnership
1. A systematized collaboration process
Have the technology partner walk you through their collaboration process, giving some examples of how they’ve successfully partnered with other businesses.
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 to the project.
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 sales process. This helps bridge the gap between what your sales team is able to offer to incoming clients and what is possible to deploy within the technology platform.
3. Partners involved 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, which can negatively impact your ability to land recurring clients and referrals.
4. Established 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 strategic decisions.
5. A central depository of resources
Nearly 20% of organizations say poor resource planning is a major challenge. 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. 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. 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. Full transparency
As your project gets underway, transparency will be your greatest asset. We make sure the client — and any relevant partners — are 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 29% of projects failing due to poor communication, transparency can save you from this fate.
8. Efficient meetings
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. Documented best practices
When working with a technology partner to serve your clients, you will likely come across creative solutions to a wide variety of problems.
As you find technology glitches that have to be fixed to keep your projects on track or find new ways to streamline communication with your partners, document these practices for future learning.
10. An effective 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 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 Nov 26, 2019 7:00:00 AM, updated November 26 2019