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What happens when Danny Ocean teams up with Rusty, Linus, Frank and six other criminal geniuses to rob a casino (or three)? As each player brings a key skill to the table, the dynamic network of individuals tackle a common goal and pocket $160 million. In the world of agency ecospheres, huge players like Salesforce, Oracle, and Adobe are also known to partner with others and snap up key resources, from technology solutions to creative agencies, allowing expansion to their core businesses – minus the illegal activity and movie shenanigans.
As the lines between ‘traditional agency’ and ‘technology company’ blur, the need for blended agency ecosystems to support today’s leading brands is illuminated. Let’s take a closer look at the challenges and benefits of these agency-to-agency partnerships, the value they add, and the process necessary for establishing long-term, fruitful relationships that drive results for the end client.
Build Your Team
The greatest challenge for any partnership is choosing the right partner. One who’s trustworthy and reliable in any situation, whether in a casino vault or a company board room. What can feel insurmountable for one company can be a no-brainer for their partner. With the right partner ecosystem, agencies themselves can build strong reputations together, thereby leading to future business opportunities and continued growth.
Danny’s motley crew of criminals each had a key point of focus, with Linus as the pickpocket, Basher on explosives duty, and “The Amazing” Yen on acrobats. Together, the group successfully cracked the safe.
Partnerships are no different, allowing each agency to do what they do best, which often translates to increased speed of delivery and higher quality work.
Note that you may need to look beyond the top three-five companies when considering a particular solution. Don’t be afraid to explore outside your country of business or consider start up players, as doing so can often help avoid messy conflicts of interest, and can reveal untapped talent and ideas beyond your typical market. Younger technology players often also bring a valuable “do or die” attitude when it comes to winning and delivering new business. Like Danny Ocean’s crew, the key is looking for the right set of diverse skills that add value on all fronts to tackle common challenges.
Lay the Ground Rules
Once two (or more) agencies have found value in partnering with each other, it’s time to lay the foundation for a lasting relationship. Start with the basics. Treat all partners as valued equals who each bring strategic guidance to the table. Ensure your clients are aware of the new capabilities your company now brings to the market through partnership.
Create a system to measure the value of every partnership. Over the course of the relationship, continue asking questions such as, “Is this partnership delivering consistent, high-quality value for our clients?” “Does the partnership address an area outside of our wheelhouse and thereby broaden our capabilities?”
Perhaps most importantly, establish a consistent and transparent client approach with all partners. Lay the ground rules from the get go. Answer questions such as, “Are partners allowed to use your logo on their website?” “Is there a referral fee?” “Which clients are off-limits?” These questions (and many more) should be discussed, agreed upon, and written into contracts before kicking off. Once you have the right partner, work together to draft agreements that are mutually beneficial and protective. Be patient; this process can take time and require mutual compromise, but the results are well worth the wait. For example, when Salesforce joined forces with IBM to integrate Watson’s AI capabilities into their product offering, the process was in depth and lengthy, but it created a strategic relationship generating ongoing positive results for both companies.
Open the Vault
Smaller agencies stay nimble and adaptable in order to keep pace with a constantly changing environment. Experts from diverse fields, from branding to technology solutions should all take a strategic seat at the table and deliver high value for clients.
While it’s not likely you’ll encounter a furious casino owner seeking a lost $160 million, niche agencies are benefitting from joining forces with other like-minded, nimble players and delivering strategic client value across circumstances. With increasing demand for client solutions, agencies can no longer be everything to everyone. Like the crew in Ocean’s 11, partnerships enable each player to focus on their expertise. The approach is changing the business landscape for agencies and brands alike; allowing for the use of more thoughtful resources, added value for clients, and adaptable networks delivering maximum results. Shift the narrative. Look to other innovative agencies as friends, and consider the ocean of possibilities once you’ve cracked the code to a healthy agency ecosystem.
About the Author
Lauren Pietersen, Director, Products & Partnerships
As Director, Products & Partnerships, Lauren leverages a long history in marketing, product management, partner management, and project management to bring the most cutting edge solutions to HelloWorld’s client base.