Say you're an independent agency with visions of being full service, and your top client asks you to expand your media solution—whether that's seeking out your help in TV, digital programmatic, or anything else.
Essentially, you've been jump-started into your next phase of business. To seize on that opportunity, you need to round out your capabilities ASAP. And if you're like most agencies, the next step is to seek out a solutions partner that can get you up and running right away.
Relatively straightforward, right? Not quite. The problem beneath the surface is that choosing that partner may be a short-term decision, but it has long-term ramifications.
Here's the issue. There are a lot of solutions that partner with agencies. Many of them will answer the immediate need at hand, and they'll do it quite well. But there's a huge difference between providing an immediate solution to a client request, and providing the support to build a new revenue-producing discipline for your agency.
How do you best handle your options? I'd start with the following three questions.
Can I learn what worked?
If I choose a solution that delivers for the client and gets solid ROI, problem solved—right? Maybe. The real question is whether you can understand what worked and translate that success into insights for future opportunities.
Here's one example. The more precise your online audience buying tool can be about exactly what demographics convert, when and why, the more you can take those learnings to refine your brand message, target your offline media buying, and more. Just as importantly, understanding what works will help you leverage that targeting tool into a far more powerful online media buying program.
The opposite is also true: if you're working with a complete black box, there's no learnings for you to put into play—which obviously puts real limits on your growth.
In other words, pick a partner that shares insights—and not just campaign metrics.
Can you teach me to do this?
Even the best tools need people to make them work better—whether that's understanding how to build strategies off of the capabilities that the tools give you, or building new applications off of existing ones. That means that, if you want to jump to the next level of offerings, you need more than just tools: you need to understand how to make the most of them on your own.
Unfortunately, a lot of the offerings for independent businesses fall under one of two categories: out- of-the-box tools, or completely outsourced solutions. Either way, nobody's around to tell you how to get more out of what you have today.
Before you work with a partner, ask: can you work with me as a full-service solution today, a self-service solution tomorrow, and a co-managed solution when I'm ready? In the best scenario, the response will be: we'd like to train you to phase us out—and do it entirely on your own.
Are you pricing for a win-win?
If you're responding to a sudden request, that means the two main parties involved—you and your partner—are testing the waters. Six months from now, the client may change course—or you might decide that this new line of business wasn't worth it. Testing the waters also likely means you're starting on a limited scale.
Unfortunately, a lot of technology and data providers charge assuming a full-scale program. That might mean full-year commitments with high monthly pricing. That could also mean minimum packages that just don't make sense—say, geotargeting solutions covering a minimum of three markets, when you're just looking to service one.
If you're an independent shop looking to expand, you need to expand in the same way you do everything else: nimbly. The best bet is to work with partners who work the economics accordingly—providing you with out-clauses in case the business doesn't grow, and volume discounts in case it does.
And if you've gotten that unexpected request from your client, congratulations: it's a huge testament to the strength of your partnership. Now it's your turn to seek out a powerful partnership of your own.