The Importance of Building Partnerships in your Agency

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Today, I want to talk to you all about partnerships. Partnerships are a really smart way for small businesses to win new businesses. They give you reach far beyond your own audience, and managing one relationship can deliver several clients and new leads into your agency. 

So in this episode, I want to share with you the two types of partnerships you should be pursuing and some dos and don’ts in finding and managing partners.

Here’s a glance at this episode…


Why partnerships are such a good idea 


The two types of partnerships you should be focused on


What are marketing partnerships?


What are new business partnerships?


How to create your ‘Dream 50 List - a target list of people that you would like to partner with either from a marketing or new business perspective


How to work out a strategy to approach your target marketing partners


The importance of addressing your potential partner’s fears of getting into the partnership and as well the benefits


5 key benefits of partnerships 


5 key fears your potential partner may have


Pitfalls to avoid in building partnerships and what to do to avoid these errors


Wrap up - Partnerships are a really smart way to reach a much wider audience


“If you have an amazing partner, then they deliver you multiple clients in one year.” - Rob Da Costa

“Your ideal partner is someone who is targeting the same kind of customers that you are trying to reach but they are offering a different product or service.” - Rob Da Costa

“When you’re doing your outreach, you have to answer that question of what’s in it for them.” - Rob Da Costa

“Effort in is less than the results we get out.” - Rob Da Costa

“Partnerships are a really smart way to reach a much wider audience.” - Rob Da Costa

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 Full Episode Transcription

Hey everybody, and welcome to today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. Now today, I want to talk to you all about Partnerships. Partnerships are a really smart way for small businesses to win new business, they give you reach far beyond your own audience. And managing one relationship can deliver a number of clients and new leads into your agency. So in this episode, I want to share with you the two types of partnerships you should be pursuing, and some do's and don'ts of finding and managing partners. So let's get on with today's show. We've been talking a lot about partnerships recently in my Agency Implementation Group, the self-running agency. So I thought it would be good to record an episode talking about the importance of partnerships as part of your marketing and your business development strategy. So let's start off by just kind of thinking about why partnerships are such a good idea. If we don't have any partnerships, and we are focused on new business ourselves, then that limits us to the audience that we've built in our mailing list and our social media and so on. And also, it means that we have to build a lot of one to one relationship. So we have to go and find that customer and build that relationship and win it, and so on, and so on and so on. However, when you have a partnership program in place, it no longer is a one to one relationship, but a one to many relationships. And what I mean by that is that if you have an amazing partner, then they can be delivering you multiple clients in one year. And you're just focused on managing that one relationship. So it's a one to many relationships. And that is really the key reason why you me and everybody else should be focused on partnerships. Now we're gonna talk about some of the things you need to do and some of the pitfalls shortly. But let's just talk about the two types of partnership that you can build.

And I just want to say about both of these, before we jump into that, that the ideal partner is someone who is targeting a similar audience to you, but with a different product or service. So let me say that, again, your ideal partner is someone who is targeting the same kind of customers that you're trying to reach, but they are offering a different product or service. And we call this a shoulder niche. So you want to find partners who are in a shoulder niche, similar to you. And as I said, there's two types of partnership that we're going to begin today. There's marketing partnerships, and there's new business partnerships. So let's start off with marketing partnerships. Obviously, we need to make sure that we are constantly building our brand and promoting our products and services to our audience. But if we want to expedite that growth, then we want to do the same thing, but to somebody else's audience. Now, if your partner is promoting you to their audience, then you are already warm, and you're almost pre sold slightly because they by association are making you credible. And that is one of the great reasons why partnerships are so strong, because you're no longer in that kind of cold, top of the sales funnel place. But you're actually already somewhat further down the sales funnel, because by association, their audience thinks they're credible. And if they're referring you, then they think you're credible too. So a marketing partnership can mean many things, it could be that you really like being on podcasts. So you reach out to podcasts who are targeting the same audience to see if you can be a guest, it could be that you want to do something similar but on a webinar, so you want to be a guest on somebody else's webinar, or even run a webinar on their behalf that they promote to their audience, it might be that you have an amazing piece of content that you know, is going to be really valuable for your partner's audience. So you offer it to your partner, they will promote it out to your audience. And of course, they land on a landing page, they type in their email address, they can download this valuable piece of content from you. And now you have got that email address to nurture in your email list as well. So there are a whole number of different types of marketing partnerships. But the point is here is that you want to get in front of your partner's audience. And you want to be promoting your product or services by providing some value. And in return for that you're going to get their email address so that you that you get them on your list and you can start nurturing them. Now often partners that we look for, like the ideal partner is either going to be a similar size to you, or even more, ideally, one or two steps up the ladder. Now occasionally, you might want to target partners that are a whole number of steps higher up the ladder, but they're of course much harder to actually engage with and get committed to. So when you're putting together your dream 50 which is something I'll come on to shortly, make sure that you have a few really aspirational partners that are whole number of rungs higher up the ladder but most of your partners or on the same rung or slightly higher than you, because it's going to be easier for you to reach out to them, engage with them, and get some kind of commitment. So that's the marketing partner, the whole point of that is that you get in front of their audience, and you provide some value, and therefore you can build up your mailing list or just your reputation with our audience. Now, I'll talk in a moment about how to reach out to these people. But first of all, I want to talk about the second type of partnerships. So the first type is marketing. The second type is new business. And this is where you're going to partner up with a company who will refer you directly into a specific client to provide some services. So the point is here, that you're building a relationship with a company that has an audience that often asks them for your services. And you almost become their preferred supplier, when you refer you in. So I have a few people like this, early this week, I had a client reach out to me saying that they have a customer that's looking for new website, could I recommend anybody. And I have my preferred website, developers and designers that I know and trust. So if I refer them to my customers, then I know that they are going to do a good job. And of course, that's going to help me and not damage my brand. So that's the second type of partnership, which is a new business partnership. And you're going to want to have a small number of both marketing partnerships, and new business partnerships. And to start working out who you want to target for marketing and new business partnerships, you're going to create your dream 50 list. This is a target list of people that you would like to partner with, either from a marketing perspective or a new business perspective. So what you want to do is create a spreadsheet. And you want to start listing those people who are in a shoulder niche, i.e. they're targeting the same audience with a different offer, you may know them, you may not know them, they may be really aspirational, or they may be people that I like so just a bit bigger than you. And you're now going to work out a strategy to reach out to them. So your dream 50 spreadsheet is going to list who these people are, who the key contact is. And you're also going to start to list out some of the ways that you're going to approach them. So let's just talk a little bit about that now. And from a marketing perspective, let's talk about this podcast. Because every week, I get at least three or four people reaching out to me to try and get their CEO or MD or whoever, onto the podcast as a guest. And I really see the good, the bad and the ugly of how people do that. And the really bad way is to send me an email that says my SEO is amazing, we've got this amazing product, I think he should be on your podcast. And I'll always reach back to them and say, well tell me why on which podcast episodes you enjoyed. And of course, you know full well that they haven't even listened to the podcast. And they're not going to get anywhere with that. The problem about that, that's all about them and not about you. And so when you're doing your outreach, you have to start off by showing them that you understand them. So in my case, that would be saying, hey, Rob, I've listened to Episode 10 and Episode 72 of the podcast really enjoyed it, I thought it was really insightful. However, there's an angle that you didn't discuss, and my blah, blah, blah, would be really great at doing that.

And that's very different to starting off talking about you. So that's one thing that you want to do is you need to show your potential partner that you have done your research, that you understand them. And the first thing they're going to think of when they get an email like this or communication like this is what's in it for me, why should I partner with you, because a lot of the time, they won't even know who you are. So you need to tackle that straightaway and talk about the value that you can bring to their audience, either from a marketing perspective or from a new business perspective. And talk about that straightaway when you reach out to them with that first engagement, which might be an email, it might be a phone call, an online call, whatever. Now your dream 50 list becomes a bit of a CRM. And of course, you might want to actually put all of this into your CRM system, because you want to know what you sent to somebody you want to know what your follow up date is and what your next action is. And you also want to have a series of prompts if they don't get back to you because of course, probably five out of 10 or eight out of 10 aren't actually going to respond to you. So you want to follow them up. Now one kind of rule of thumb, which is a really good rule of thumb, for me running my business for a long time, is that you need to be a rock filer. And what I mean by that is, if you're not willing to follow something up to its end degree which might be Yes, we'd love to pop top partner with you or no thank you. We have no interest whatsoever, then you shouldn't start that in the first place. And I see a lot of people start you They, they do that outreach, and then they kind of give up because they didn't hear back, you need to pursue it too, without being annoying, of course, but you need to give it a good go to get your feet, get some feedback from your potential partner. So that's building your dream 50 list, sit down for an hour, and try and brain dump as many potential partners as possible. And you can categorize them as marketing partners, or new business partners, but just brain dump list, and then you can start to flesh it out. Now in the self running agency implementation group, we have lots of tools and templates to use for this stuff. So if you're interested in finding out more, then reach out to me and I will tell you all about it. And I'll put a link in the show notes, because partnerships is one aspect of what we cover in the self running agency where we look at your future vision, we look at your new business, which of course is where partnerships fits in, and we look at developing your team. Now one point I will just want to re emphasize again, is that when you're doing this outreach, you have to answer that question of what's in it for them, because that's exactly what they're thinking. We're all busy, we all get these types of communications regularly. And we've got sort of five seconds to capture someone's interest. So you need to really make it very clear very early on what's in it for them. Now another thing that you need to do, and you're not going to do this in your initial conversations, but if things move forward, and you start having face-to-face conversations with potential partner, you need to make sure that you are addressing the fears of getting into a relationship as well as the benefits. So what typically happens is we will sit with someone and we will talk about all the benefits of why we should partner together. And you know, those ones are sort of obvious. But what we need to be mindful of is meanwhile, the other party is sitting there running a bunch of fears in their head about this. So if you address those fears head on, you've got much more chance of moving the discussion to the next stage. So, let me just really quickly tell you that there are five categories of benefits, and there are five categories of fears that you need to address, I'm not going to go into this in a ton of detail, because again, we dive into a lot of detail in the self funding agency implementation group, but the five key benefits are revenue. So obviously, if I partner with you, we both have the opportunity of getting more money into our agencies, loyalty. If I refer people in my network, then I'm building more loyalty with my clients. Because if I refer someone and they really helped my client, like with the website example I used, then the client loves me even more referrals is an obvious one. But if I partner with someone, I'm going to get new referrals. And the other two are all about protecting my network. Because if I refer people in my network, those people are not going to start trying to get them to leave me and go and work with somebody else. And the fifth benefit is knowledge. So what knowledge can I gain from my referral about my customer that I might not know myself? So those are the five categories of benefits that we will often address. But now let's quickly talk about the five categories of fear. So the first one is "Do I trust you?," because obviously, that's you know, fundamental to everything. The second one is "If I refer someone to you, am I going to lose control of that client relationship?," so that second one rather.

The third one is"What is the quality of advice that you are going to give?," and then the fourth one is "If you have a team, is my client going to get consistent quality advice from you?" And then the fifth one is "How much time is this relationship going to take to manage?" Now those five fears you can't always do anything about. But if you just get them out on the table and talk about it, then that is a big step forward, rather than just ignoring them. But just trust me, that's what's going through your head or your your potential partners head. So address the five benefits, but also make sure you talk about the five fears and you counter them where you can, and you acknowledge them where you can't. Now those five fears and five benefits apply to both marketing partnership and the new business partnership. So, I just wanted to wrap this up by sharing with you some of the pitfalls to avoid that I see people making time and time again, and I'm sure you'll be able to relate to some of these, and I've certainly made some of these errors in the past as well. So, I think it's good for all of us to be reminded of these. So the first thing is what I said earlier, it's about not being tenacious, like having one meeting, and kind of both agreeing that you're going to do something and then not really following it up. And then of course over time, things disappear. And then you might bump into that person in six months time at an event and you feel a bit awkward because neither of you have really pursued what you said you would. So remember, if you're going to pure partnership, you need to be tenacious and follow it up. So don't so my advice to you is that when you have that first meeting, you do two things you try to set an action on you and an action on them, because that will keep the dialogue going. It'll also make it easy for you to talk to them without feeling awkward. And the second thing to do is to try and get a date in the diary for the next meeting. So the second pitfall to avoid in that first meeting, is that you make a commitment to them. But they don't really make a commitment back to you, or the promises you make each other are too vague, like, Oh, yeah, let's touch base again in a few months time. And of course, you know, don't well, that that's not going to happen. And what you want is someone to be honest with you, if they don't feel like there is a good partnership opportunity, it's much better for them to say that and for you to give them the space to say that than it is for them to make vague promises, because that makes them feel slightly less uncomfortable. The next one is, again, don't start something if you're not going to pursue it just so you have to have asked yourself that at the beginning, am I going to follow this through, and if you're honest with yourself in the answer's no, then don't start it in the first place. The next one is about partnering with someone where there is really in balanced value. In other words, it might be really good for you, but not so good for them, because if that happens, or of course the other way around, so you're going to do all the work, you're going to really help them but you can't see what you're going to get in return. Partnership relationships have to be balanced. And if they're not, they're gonna quickly fizzle out from one side or another. The next thing to avoid is partnering with someone that you really like, but they are not in your shoulder niche. So their audience is not your audience, and you may really be helping them. But that's not really gonna help you. And I've made a few mistakes like this before, where I've partnered with people, for example, who are helping people launch their online courses, which is something I really care about, because I do that. But that isn't really my audience, I might provide value by being a guest on a podcast or writing a guest blog or running a webinar, but it isn't really targeting my audience. So, sometimes we get into bed with people we really like. But if they're not targeting your shoulder niche, you're in danger of wasting a lot of time. Now, the next pitfall to avoid is having too many partnerships. So it's really difficult to manage, and you can't apply all the things that I've mentioned earlier. So to that end, I would encourage you to only have one or two marketing partnerships, and one or two new business partnerships, because you can't manage any more than that, as effectively as I'm telling you that you should, if you have a lot more. So this is not a numbers game, you need your dream 50 list, and you're going to prioritize it and work from the highest priority down through that list. But your goal is only to have one or two of each of those types of partnerships at any one time. Now, once you've got those partnerships, another thing you need to make sure you don't do is that you don't assess the effectiveness of the partnership, you just keep doing it because you perhaps find it difficult to say that this isn't really working, or you really like the person or you're just not assessing, is it giving me the outcome. So when you set a

partnership up, you need to set some delivery goals, and you need to discuss those goals with your partner. And you also need to set them for yourself. And you need to regularly review them to say is this partnership worth the time that I'm investing, because remember, we always want to be working to this equation of effort in is less than the results we get out. So the effort we put in is less than the results we get out. In other words, our time investment is delivering the results we expected and not the other way around. So if the partnership isn't delivering, then have that conversation with your partner, and either agree to go your separate ways, or agree to make some changes to the partnership. Okay, so that's what I wanted to talk about today. Partnerships are super important for small agencies. And it is so much easier to manage to partnership agencies that might give you for 5, 6, 7, 8 clients a year than it is for you to go and find those eight clients yourself. Now, of course, these are not mutually exclusive, you're going to have partnerships as part of your new business marketing strategy. But you're also going to be doing your direct marketing, and your direct new business outreach as well. So you want to just have a combination of these things. It's not one or the other. But as I said, partnerships are a really smart way to have this one to many relationships and reach a much wider audience. So I hope that was useful for you. Like I say, it's something that we have been talking a lot about in my self-running agency implementation group. So if you want to learn more about the dream 50 partner list how to the specific outreach strategies, then consider joining the group and as I said, I'll put a link into the show notes. But other than that, I hope you found this useful. Please make sure you smash the subscribe button, share with your colleagues. And also please, please, please consider leaving a review because it really helps me get this podcast out to a wider audience and help more people which is the reason why I run the podcast. Other than that, have a great rest of the week. A fantastic weekend and I'll be back with you next Thursday for our next guest interview on The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

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