How to Grow Your Digital/ Marketing
Agency without Hiring In-House Resources

Building an agency without ballooning overhead costs can feel like an uphill battle. In this post, we discuss
how to grow your agency fast with white label partners.

Is it possible to grow your agency without
ballooning overhead costs?

The prospect of growing a digital agency is much different than it was just ten – or even five – years ago.

In the early days of building a digital agency, most of the legwork in projects needed to be done in-house. Nowadays, forming partnerships is easier than ever – and agency owners can grow their business practically overnight.

It’s no secret that in-house professionals come at a premium.

For instance, say you are growing a web design business. Hiring a web designer will set you back anywhere from $50K-$75K per year – and that doesn’t include health insurance, 401K, etc. When you outsource web design tasks, you pay a fraction of this price (and no benefits).

As you could probably guess, we’re talking about white label partnerships.

Now, before we get into it, we want to clarify that finding partnership opportunities is easy; leveraging them into sustainable business growth is a completely different ballgame.

Unfortunately, you can’t simply sell a project, outsource the labor, then take your cut – at least not at first.

White label partnerships are very much a two-way road. Moreover, you take complete responsibility for the quality of work produced. Ultimately, your quality of work is the driving force in how you grow your agency.

In this post, we want to discuss how to make white label partnerships a key ingredient in your digital
agency’s growth plan. Let’s get into it!

Clearly Define Your Needs

As a small digital agency – or even a one-man operation – you’re probably used to doing certain tasks in house. You might be reaching a point where you’re getting more leads than you have the bandwidth to handle, and hiring more help in-house is not in the cards at the moment.

No one likes turning down opportunities to generate revenue.

By working with a white label partner, you can offload many of the time-consuming tasks needed to execute projects. Even better, you don’t have to train them or dip too deep into your pockets to pay them – which can be massive obstacles in building a digital agency.

However, the trick is understanding exactly what you will pass off to them. Starting small with baby steps is usually the way to go with white label partnerships.

For example, say you need some help with a client who is turning their WordPress site into an eCommerce store.

You might find that optimizing the checkout process, analyzing AB testing data, etc. is the most important aspect of the project. On the other hand, optimizing each product page and placing content eats up the most time.

So, you might decide to keep the AB testing and data analysis in house, while outsourcing the product page
development and optimization.

Now, outsourcing eCommerce developers is not always easy. You need to lay out exactly what your
needs are. These might require the developer to:
  • Understand the
    basic principles of
    conversion funnels

  • Know HTML,
    CSS, and
    hosting basics

  • Possess basic
    SEO skills

  • Have a firm
    grasp of your
    client’s niche

Regardless of what tasks are needed from your white label partner – whether it be website design, development, eCommerce etc. – try to get as granular as possible.

Having a crystal-clear picture of the capabilities/qualities you need will make it much easier to choose a partner to help grow your agency.

Develop a Clear-Cut Process

This is The most important part of any white label partnership.

A partnership can have all the collective talent in the world. But if there isn’t a reliable process connecting the two parties, the end result will almost always suffer.

Every digital agency has their own way of doing things. The key to making these partnerships work is developing an overly simplified protocol to keep everyone on the same page and ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

If you don’t have a process to work with external partners,
ask yourself the following questions:
  • Who will be the main point of
    contact between your agency
    and the white label partner?

  • Do you want the partner
    to communicate directly
    with your client?

  • Where will the communication take
    place? Email? Skype? Teams?
    A project management tool?

  • How/where will
    files be shared?

  • How will you
    track progress?

  • How do you want to keep track of
    your partner’s hours?

A sound process is the lifeblood of any white label partnership – and the most important aspect of how to run a digital agency.

The goal is for you and your partners to feel like they are working under the same roof, or as close to the same roof as possible.

If you’re a smaller operation or haven’t worked extensively with partner agencies, it’s important that you establish a reliable process.

Keep in mind, the best white label partners are extremely flexible with processes, as they work with many different agencies. They will be able to guide you here.

Understand What to
Look for in a Partner

Seeking out a white label partner is similar to hiring any other service provider. The difference is they will directly contribute to building your agency. In many ways, it’s like bringing on a new remote employee – only without all the financial risk.

We want to identify the four most important attributes to look for.

1. White Label Process

To echo the last section a bit:

The first thing you need to look for in a white label partner is their process. Second, they should be flexible in working with your internal process.

Here are some questions to ask a potential partner:

How do you typically manage relationships with partner agencies?

They should give you a full overview of their process, including preferred methods of communication, reporting, progress tracking, etc.

What project management tools do you use?

They probably have a few favorites, but seasoned white label partners are proficient in all the major PM tools – Basecamp, Teamwork, Trello, Asana, Monday, ClickUp, etc. Whatever you use, they should be able to work with it.

Would you do any direct communication with my clients?

A good white label agency will tell you they certainly can, but how that is handled is completely up to you. You can create a separate email address under your domain for them to use on your behalf, communication can be done through a PM tool, instant messaging app, etc.

2. Responsiveness

At the end of the day, communication is everything in a white label partnership. You can’t grow your agency - or any business - with frequent lapses in communication.

Think of it as the oil that makes the machine run smoothly.

Good white label agencies feel like a close extension of your in-house team. Great white label agencies feel like part of your in-house team. Responsiveness is a big part of that.

Now, responsiveness may vary - as your partner may be on the opposite side of the globe. Regardless of the circumstance, a good white label agency will explain expectations from the get-go.

If there is a significant time difference, the partner should lay out their hours of operation. Then clarify you can expect responses shortly after the office opens - or in 24 hours or less.

If you have overlap in working hours, responses should be quick in acknowledging the query - even if they don’t have answers right then and there. You should never have days of radio silence.

The best thing you can do with white label partners is to set up an exclusive communication channel - like Slack, Skype, Teams, Google Chat, etc. Trying to do everything through email can easily lead to messages getting missed and tasks falling through the cracks.

3. Pricing

White label pricing should meet three key criteria:

  • You can charge your clients
    a reasonable markup

  • There is

  • There are no
    unwelcome surprises

Your need for a white label partner may not always be black and white. Some weeks you may have a ton of work for them, others you might have little to none.

By nature, white label partners need to be flexible.

Once you’ve determined their rates will allow you to charge a reasonable markup to your clients, look into their plans. Ideally, they will have a plan to meet your needs, no matter how big, small, or varied they might be.

4. Testimonials

Due to the confidential nature of white label partnerships, getting testimonials from other agencies can be tricky. However, the more experienced white label agencies will probably have at least one or two partners who would give them a good word.

In the testimonials, look for traits like responsiveness, abilities to adapt to agency processes, ability to meet deadlines, and of course, quality of work.

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