Making Agency Partnerships Work

by | Jul 15, 2020

Tom Jepson, Director at Footprint Digital, explains how his agency manages partnerships.

Footprint Digital are a Google partner and search agency based in Colchester and London, who help businesses make more money online. They provide digital strategies, helping to drive traffic to websites and then converting that traffic.

Tom explains that, ‘When we first began, we realised that we didn’t want to be a full-service agency, we didn’t want to do everything. In the early days we would make recommendations to clients on ways to alter their websites, to which they would ask us if we could make those changes. At that point, we had to say no.’

‘We knew we needed to find web design, web development agencies and build relationships with them so that they could do the work we couldn’t do.’

‘When we first began, it completely failed. We would find an agency, meet for a coffee and exchange business cards, until later down the line we would realise we need things that they don’t offer, or vice versa, and it all goes cold. Fundamentally, we didn’t know each other properly.’

‘We did what we do best, and found a solution to the problem using a process.’

The partnership process includes learning about:

  • Eachother specialisms and cultures.
  • What each company is trying to achieve.
  • The products and services, alongside the clients already being serviced.
  • How a project works in each individual agency.
  • Pricing strategies of both agencies.

‘It also allows us both to discuss any fears or concerns over the partnership and be very transparent with eachother.’

We maintain strong connections with these agency partners, we are in constant contact and in constant review of how things are working between us.’

To facilitate this introduction process, Footprint have a set of slides they use to guide potential partners through their business, these slides include:

  • Their core values; what they are and where they came from.
  • Their services and how they complement the agency they are looking to work with.
  • The culture that they are trying to build moving forward.

Once the process has moved along, Footprint also go through a similar set of slides with the partner to discover their values and get to know them on the same level.

When asked whether partner management is a specialism with Footprint, Tom suggests that he heads up the separate partnership side of the business, and they also have an education programme.

Tom explains that he has ‘developed a manual which discusses the entire system of on-boarding a partner’ and suggests having this manual has made the process much easier.

He also explains that this process, although lengthy, prevents the problem that a lot of agencies encounter, with their partners sending them the wrong clients and then being annoyed when they are discarded because they are not the right fit.

‘It is important than the clients we work with want the same outcomes that we do, and challenge clients in the same way that we do.’

When asked whether there is a due diligence process to protect the reputation of Footprint, Tom highlights the importance of getting to know the partner thoroughly. ‘In building the agency profile and getting to know the partners personally, in addition to looking at examples of client campaigns with the partner, you really get to know what type of agency and people they are.’

Tom also explains how important it can be to set clear ‘working guidelines and agreements’ over what happens in situations where there is cross over in the services both agencies provide. He highlights that these tough questions can be the most important for forging long and strong partnerships.

Finally, Tom describes how important it is to continually learn from the partner you connect with. To educate each other.