September 25, 2023

The Complete Guide: Finding The Right Strategic Partner For Marketing Agencies

See how a strategic partner adds value to marketing agency services. Plus how to find an affiliate or whitelabel partner for your agency, then how partnership brings recurring revenue.
Time to read: 
20 mins
Charles Buchanan
See how a strategic partner adds value to marketing agency services. Plus how to find an affiliate or whitelabel partner for your agency, then how partnership brings recurring revenue.

In this strategic partner guide, expect to learn about two marketing agency types and the differences between them. These differences include challenges unique to each and how those challenges can be overcome. Then we’ll talk the most in-demand marketing agency services right now as well as smart partnership pathways in sustainably offering those services. Recommendations for partnering will be your new agency role as a whitelabel partner – and in that partnership the exciting safeguard that is recurring revenue.

Finding the right strategic partner: Boutique vs. Full-service marketing agency

Advertising is as old as time. But the ways we advertise sure aren’t. And what’s trending now probably won’t be tomorrow. In charge of keeping up on all this are you – today’s marketing agencies.

Strategic partner fact: Marketing agency services were historically controlled by newspapers – not advertisers. The golden era of marketing? That would be the 1950s when creativity was brought into advertising to sway audiences.

Finding the right strategic partner: Marketing agency types

Finding the right strategic partner: Marketing agency types

The two types of marketing agencies – boutique and full-service – play equal roles in brand as well as product and service promotion. But in different ways.

Boutique agencies are smaller in size but also in focus: They specialise in select marketing agency services like SEO or website optimisation, for example, but not ad campaign management. Or vice versa. Full-service then? These are larger agencies with full-spectrum solutions for companies whose needs span more than one or two projects.

Each has advantages and disadvantages. Adaptable, personalised marketing solutions are the norm for clients going boutique – to include quality and originality of deliverables. One-roof ease of management is a common advantage, however, for clients going full-service; this is where more diverse skill-sets live from marketing research and strategy to execution of creatives.

Finding the right strategic partner: The strategic partner for each agency type

Just as today’s roles for boutique versus full-service marketing agency services differ, so does how either agency defines a strategic partner. And this is because of the objectives of their clientele. Specialisation for boutique agencies is often delivered at the expense of more comprehensive marketing solutions. And one-stop-shopping at full-service agencies often at the expense of more signature personalisation in marketing efforts.

A strategic partner for either means partnering with businesses that are strong where your agency is weak. How partnering works and with whom agencies should partner are exactly the things we’ll get into in this strategic partner guide!  

Finding the right strategic partner: Marketing agency service challenges

Finding the right strategic partner: Challenges to marketing agency services

Buzzwords or clichés like ‘upskilling’ and ‘staying agile’ are actually a lot more than just marketing speak. For both agency types today, competitiveness and at times outright survivability depend on in-house talent flexible enough to upskill. And then pivot in necessary marketing agency service directions.

But these marketing agency service ‘pivots’ all depend on agency type. Let’s briefly talk about the role agency types have in agency challenges.

Finding the right strategic partner: Common challenges to marketing agency services

The one thing both boutique and full-service agencies do have in common is that they face marketing agency service challenges. But those challenges aren’t one and the same.

Common challenges for boutique agencies remain client retention, limited scope of services, and cash flow.

Clients for boutique agencies often come and go on a project basis rather than retain marketing agency services. This is because the solutions sought from boutique agencies are narrower in focus and execution. Once the client’s objective is met, they no longer need the marketing agency service provided.

Similarly, limited scope of services and cash flow are largely consequences of boutique agency goals and size – which again are fewer and smaller than their full-service counterparts. If boutique agencies were to expand to accommodate every marketing agency service demand, they’d eventually grow to become full-service agencies, ironically. Which isn’t necessarily the goal of boutique agencies, where more experimental, avant-garde creatives can materialise compared to larger, one-size-fits-all marketing agencies.

Strategic partner fact: Almost 50% of marketers prefer partnering and working with smaller influencers, says HubSpot, because of the stronger ROI compared to working with more expensive mainstream influencers.

Full-service agencies aren’t without hurdles themselves. Common issues concern inflexibility around personalised solutions and deliverables, much higher burn (i.e., monthly spend), and individual client focus.

There’s a reason outsourcing is often associated with fuller-service agencies: They’re turned to by businesses who’ve (perhaps already) bitten off more than they can chew and need a fixer on deck; the size and scope of full-service marketing agency services lends itself to exactly this. While client retention is higher than with their boutique peers, that retention comes at the cost of ongoing full-service satisfaction. And this is where clients can walk away underwhelmed. Less customisable solutions plus contract terms also mean clients may be satisfied with agency services – but not happy enough to engage in word of mouth or review positively for the agency in question.

Read our blog on the 10 common challenges marketing agencies face to learn more!

Finding the right strategic partner: Money pits in marketing agency services

​​Marketing agency services come with a number of (often unadvised) traps for smartly spending and earning. There’s an always-on pressure to be both creative and client-serving, after all, but while being budget-mindful. Finding cost-effective strategies without compromising on quality – one of marketing’s hardest-to-track benchmarks – remains an ability separating profitable agencies from nonprofitable.

Also hard to track is the seemingly impatient evolution of today’s marketing technology and platforms. Solution? Recurring attention and investment. And this all in the name of competitiveness, of course, as word of mouth and social reputation are decisive marketing battlegrounds in 2023.

Staying cost-smart for agencies might be never more challenging, however, than with hiring and maintaining top talent. And that’s because agency success and its staff are a case of not one without the other. From competitive salaries to benefits packages, agency finances are in part shaped and sometimes even strained by keeping talent in-house.

So how best can an agency tiptoe around all these little puddles? You bring an umbrella and walk right over them! To start, consider: 

  • Website automation
  • Deep nurturing of client relationships
  • Finding a strategic partner

Website automation means busying website tools that engage, motivate, and capture leads – not with you, but for you. Think floating bars, exit intent popups, and dynamic forms! Clients with whom you keep in touch and know their sticking points are usually clients – nay, people – that are actually wanting to work with you as well as around your limitations. Because relationships matter. And finding a strategic partner is all about gaining newfound strengths where you’re weak – and virtually overnight.

Enter the eye of the storm with our own expert on marketing money pits by checking out her new write-up on 10 cost-effective strategies for scaling marketing agencies

Finding the right strategic partner: How to grow marketing agency services

Finding the right strategic partner: Growth to marketing agency services

Agency growth or evolution really isn’t a rainy-day consideration if staying competitive is the goal. And that’s because marketing as an industry undergoes pretty radical shifts in what works for target audiences from one month to the next. 

Diversifying marketing agency services allows both boutique and full-service agencies to deliver on very different client demands. That means a wider target audience from which to pull clients. And that means revenue.

In fact, partner with Serviceform today and let’s talk recurring revenue!

Strategic partner fact: London’s WPP, the world’s largest full-service marketing agency, has recently teamed up with USA chipmaker Nvidia to develop an AI content creator with commercial viability. Features will include A-to-Z ad campaign creation with branded visuals plus video creation. 

Let’s take a quick look at two ways agencies today are seeing sustainable growth.

Finding the right strategic partner: Recurring revenue

Recurring revenue has a lovely ring to it and what it can do for marketing agency services rings lovelier yet.

Recurring revenue gives both stability and predictability to agency cash flow. This revenue type ensures a reliable income stream to sustain day-to-day operations of marketing agency services. Just as essential, it also strategically cushions any agency downtime between active client projects. Long-term planning for an agency without a reliable income stream is risky business. And few in good faith would recommend it. What the stability of recurring revenue does is let marketing agencies invest internally in technology and talent development. All of the above factors into your overall competitiveness, of course. Think of recurring revenue as less a checkmark in finding a strategic partner and more a second beating heart to operations.

Something less talked about is a recurring revenue ripple effect of deeper client relations. How? By both agency and client benefiting from the same thing: their ongoing relationship. The deeper a relationship is, the likelier you can collaborate, cross-sell, and upsell newer marketing agency services in addition to re-upping when that client’s service contract nears expiry. And, yeah, that’s sure to invigorate client retention rates – something owners and investors love to see.

Read our marketing agency guide to recurring revenue for more on recurring revenue benefits like sustainable marketing agency service growth and investor attraction.

Finding the right strategic partner: Whitelabel partner 

White-labelling (also whitelabel) in marketing is a client offering your tools and services under their own branding. Simple.

Not quite that simple is actually getting whitelabel partners, though. Traditionally associated with full-services agencies, landing a whitelabel partner is all about trust. Trust in client use of products and services. And in those products and services themselves.

Agency growth with a whitelabel partner makes for quick change in opportunities for both partners. But the best part is it’s never at the expense of either – meaning a full-service agency doesn’t see service disruption in whitelabel partner expansion. Starting can be equally nondisruptive too. Booking a simple chat is Serviceform’s step one, for example, where we talk current (as well as past!) challenges and goals. Should things work out, we’re fast to assign a dedicated account manager and customer success manager to our newest partner.

While positioning an agency as a market leader takes time, the value-add is immediate for both agency and agency clients. Few deliver on this speed advantage like Serviceform, whose partners grow in product and service strength virtually overnight. And remember the previous marketing call-to-arms of word of mouth and social reputation? Clients recommending you or reviewing you positively for greater client pull is readily within reach as a whitelabel partner.

See what our latest blog has to say on how to find a trustworthy whitelabel partner!

Finding the right strategic partner: Most in-demand marketing agency services

Finding the right strategic partner: Popular marketing agency services

We hope this guide is driving home how dynamic one month is to the next for what matters in marketing today. Semrush recently dived deeper into this and even broke down how 42% of searches for marketing agencies were specific to agency type. Results included searches for ‘website agency’ or agencies whose deliverables are original and ‘creative’. This means almost half of Google searches target what services or output an agency specialises in.

Let’s talk leveraging that by looking at two really big things clients are wanting in 2023 when searching for agencies.   

Finding the right strategic partner: Website optimisation 

The end goal? A converting website. Clients today want for themselves the results of self-selling service and product pages. Sales teams also show a higher closing rate with warm leads than cold. But that’s not news. It’s a reminder that client websites should also be thought of as part of sales teams. And that’s how you should pitch your agency’s website optimisation services. That website services and website-landing advertising in 2023 are capturing more traffic than ever before. So make it worth it by converting that traffic into leads. The strong ROI of today’s converting websites means the cost with your agency to build and/or optimise a website is more an investment than an expense.

Take three minutes to read more on 2023’s website optimisation demand with why and how to sustainably expand your marketing agency services.

Finding the right strategic partner: Other marketing agency services

Popular services in 2023 don’t just stop at website optimisation. And that makes sense because every client will have unique wants and needs. Leading those wants are marketing agency services in lead generation and then cookie control.

Lead generation is unsurprising. That’s traffic and if following the sales funnel, ultimately sales. However, with the establishment of GDPR (or General Data Protection Regulation), agencies really must in good faith prioritise compliance to build trust with consumers. GDPR ensures the protection of individual personal data by demanding explicit consent for collection (and usage) of that data. Cookie services like Serviceform are making compliance happen for agencies unaware of how best to do it themselves. Getting started is actually really easy. With Serviceform, for example, cookies can be bulk-installed by the thousands for swift GDPR compliance.

By adhering to GDPR regulations, marketing agencies not only avoid revenue-eating fines but also demonstrate a commitment to data privacy – something clients are really rallying around in 2023. Remember: Transparency and respect are wildly in style, marketable qualities for business today. Cookie tools are helping businesses capitalise on that.

Discover other popular marketing agency services as well as more about 2023 cookie tools.

Finding the right strategic partner: Most in-demand SaaS companies

Finding the right strategic partner: Whitelabel partner means recurring revenue

Partnering is only half the battle in smartly growing your agency. The other half is whom you partner with. And that requires some agency self-assessment as well as knowing the latest on marketing’s landscape leaders.  

Finding the right strategic partner: Most in-demand strategic partners 

The name of the game in clever SaaS partnerships for marketing agencies is something called software affiliate marketing. An unclear term, I know. All this means is an agreement exists between two companies where one markets and distributes the services of the other (to its own audience). Recurring revenue often enters the relationship when those services are successfully marketed.

Strategic partner fact: Over 50% of marketers rank affiliate marketing as one of their top three must-haves for 2023 product promotion and source of revenue.

In addition to the obvious need for an incentive structure that works both ways, the strongest software affiliates to partner with need to meet the following three criteria:

  • The partnership (potentially radically) improves agency networking
  • The partnership lengthens agency audience reach
  • The partnership enhances agency offerings and/or technology

The way Serviceform partners, for example, takes into account all three. We agree to a flat or variable fee for every tool of ours you sell. Your agency then sells these tools under your own branding! That’s overnight value-add for existing clients with expanded marketability to newer ones.

If you’d like to learn more about partnering smartly, take a moment to read an expert’s take on B2B strategic partnerships.

Finding the right strategic partner: Partner with Serviceform

Becoming a strategic partner with Serviceform is also an option for today’s marketing agencies. Special to Serviceform is understanding the challenges unique to boutique versus full-service agencies. This deeper understanding comes from Serviceform’s roots in making lead generation and website-converting tech both easy and transparent for businesses; something we found to be the opposite with many competitors in the space.

Learn more about both the immediate and long-game benefits of partnering with Serviceform!

Finding the right strategic partner: Summary

We hope this strategic partner guide on knowing as well as leveraging the latest trends in marketing agency services was helpful.

Challenges to marketing agency services were discussed that emphasised the differences between boutique and fuller-service agencies. With the smaller size and specialisation of boutique agencies, primary challenges included client retention, limited service scope, and reliable cash flow. Full-service agencies face issues rather of impersonal solutions or creatives and deliverables; this in addition to lack of individual client focus compared to that of what boutique agencies traditionally offer.

How to grow your marketing agency services sustainably to minimise risk albeit maximise agency benefit (and profit!) was also discussed. Two proven ways to go about this were looking at incentive structures with recurring revenue, and then where possible becoming a whitelabel partner. Overnight value-add alongside longer-term audience and networking gains are proving big whitelabel partner takeaways.

This strategic partner guide lastly touched on what 2023 marketing agency services are most in-demand. The top three were website optimisation for converting websites, lead generation services, and then GDPR-compliant cookie tools. Newer cookie tools not only ensure agency data practices are legal, but also carried out in a way that builds trust with today’s data-smart clientele.

In closing, this strategic partner guide introduced readers to the term software affiliate marketing – what it means and why marketing agencies should pursue it. Hint: Recurring revenue! The unique benefits of strategically partnering with Serviceform were also highlighted given Serviceform’s insightful position of understanding challenges unique to both boutique and full-service agencies.

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