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The 7 questions for agencies and freelancers to ask themselves before collaborating and partnering with tech businesses

Want to make more money? Who doesn’t? Whether you’re an agency or a freelancer, winning new clients and retaining revenue from existing ones is a constant battle. We know. We’ve been there. Having worked agency-side for most of our careers we know the challenges of selling your time and expertise. So how can collaborating and partnering with a tech business help? When pitching for new business having a strong point of differentiation can get you chosen over the competition. And being able to continuously provide value to your existing clients secures that all important future revenue line.

Collaborating and partnering with the right kind of tech business can help agencies and freelancers create a point of differentiation that brings more to the table. These types of relationship can deliver greater value to the client and be a win for all parties involved. 

But how do you establish such relationships?

Ask yourselves the questions below when assessing your potential partner. Whether the partnership will be strategic or more tactical in nature (e.g. a referral arrangement), the same questions apply.

Collaborating and partnering - 7 questions for agencies and freelancers to work through when vetting a potential partnership with a tech business 

1. Do you like them?

collaborating and partnering - do you even like them
collaborating and partnering - do you even like them

Don’t underestimate the importance of feeling as though you fit with the business you’re thinking of partnering with. You need to be on their wavelength and feel comfortable telling people that you’re partnering with them. If you’re not, but you’re not sure why, then don’t over analyse it - it probably means they’re not right for you.

They might have an amazing product and great clients, but that means nothing if you don’t trust them and don't think they will deliver when needed.

A sub-question you might ask yourself is:

How one way does the conversation feel? Are you asking all the questions? And is the conversation being dominated by what they do?

Think about this in a social context. You not going to get on well with someone, who shows little interest in your life. That doesn’t change in a business context. Selfish doesn’t work.

Ultimately you need to respect each other as you would a client or a friend. We certainly have this approach to our partners.

2. Does the partnership make sense? Is there complementarity?

collaborating and partnering - is there complementarity
collaborating and partnering - is there complementarity

It goes without saying that successful partnerships are the ones, which create value for all parties involved, most importantly the end client.

As an agency or freelancer the tech business your partner with needs to add value to what you do and be related to your area of expertise. If you’re a retail marketing agency then partnering with a tech business that provides logistics software for retailers, probably isn’t going to work, even on a referral basis, because the link is tenuous. But partnering with a business that helps profile and segment a client’s customers, enabling you to deliver more relevant marketing messages, will.

3. Can you see a mutual benefit?

collaborating and partnering - is there mutual benefit
collaborating and partnering - is there mutual benefit

It’s no brainer. For any relationship to work, there needs to be a benefit to both parties. It will depend on the parties involved as to what the benefit is to be; the most obvious and measurable benefit being financial. How that’s determined will depend on the nature of the partnership, which brings us to the next point...

4. What else do they bring to the party?

collaborating and partnering - what else can a partner bring to the table
collaborating and partnering - what else can a partner bring to the table

Chances are you’ve got a choice of tech partners to choose from. Just as you’re trying to differentiate, so are they. Their product needs to impress you of course. But what more can they bring above any beyond their tech? What specialist knowledge and connections do they have? Is there a strategic advantage to be gained for your business by selecting one partner over the other? Can they help improve your delivery in a consultative manner behind the scenes?

5. How would you want to work with your partner?

collaborating and partnering - how do you want to work with your partner
collaborating and partnering - how do you want to work with your partner

You should assess the pros and cons of bringing a white-labelled tech product under your own brand proposition. It can be an attractive proposition for many agencies. 

If you’re exploring a partnership with a tech company then ask them how they work with other agencies. Most agencies we speak to prefer to openly name their partners. Leading the charge of a team with deep and complementary areas of expertise works better in their client’s eyes than being a master of all.

But that’s clearly not the case with every agency. So have a think about what might work for you and explore ways of working with your potential partner.

6. Have clear expectations been set from the outset?

collaborating and partnering - setting expectations up front
collaborating and partnering - setting expectations up front

A lot of the time partnership fail because there’s a perceived imbalance. One partner feels the other is getting more than them, perhaps due to the size of the two businesses. So set clear expectations from the outset. These apply to:

  • Completing actions e.g. committing to complete actions in a timely manner,
  • Communicating e.g. sending updates on sales activity, airing grievances early to nip them in the bud, admitting mistakes openly and moving on constructively
  • What can’t be promised e.g. providing a certain volume of introductions over a given time period.

7. Have you put agreements in place?

collaborating and partnering - putting agreements in place
collaborating and partnering - putting agreements in place

There’s no reason why a freelancer can’t partner with a medium-sized tech business for mutual gain. But if that medium-sized business doesn’t come across as professional; doesn’t have agreements in place or isn’t willing to put them in place, then the freelancer should walk away.

Being professional doesn’t mean you have to put agreements in place. You may find that there’s no need at the stage you’re at. But they should be discussed openly. It’s a red flag for us when we see companies shirking the conversation. 

Agreements don’t need to be complicated. They can just capture the expectations you’ve set and importantly offer a fair and objective ‘out’ should you wish to formally end the partnership and avoid any discomfort.

If you're an agency of freelancer and are interested in exploring a partnership with us then fill out your details and we'll be in touch.

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If you think we've missed something from this article, then please comment below and be sure to check out our other post on partner marketing here.