How to create a partnership network to help you win new business

For May’s webinar, we discussed the importance of partnerships and how they can increase your sales pipeline and help you win new business. We covered a lot in the session from how to start building your own partnership network, and asking for referrals, to creating an ideal partnership profile. Our host Katie Street was joined by:

Diane Sullivan-Kaplan, Strategy Manager at iD agency

Damjan Haylor is Co-founder and MD of POPcomms

Ben Potter is a business development adviser and Non-Exec

Build your own partnership network

“We can’t all be experts in everything, you can’t be everything to everyone and it’s hard to communicate this in your marketing, so you need to partner up with some of the best in breed partners.” said Katie.

Katie said how it important it is to build your own partnership network. When she used to work at larger agencies, 50% of opportunities were provided through the tech partners. She also said that they had a network of smaller agencies that they would pass leads to when the fit wasn’t quite right for them, and this became another revenue stream.

Ben Potter said when he worked at agencies, most of their leads were from their partnership programmes, and suggested you have to ask to be referred and have a proactive partnership in place.

Create an ideal partnership profile

One of the questions submitted during the session from an attendee was ‘how do you narrow down the right type of partnerships.’ Ben shared that he has created an ideal client profile and suggests using something similar to create an ideal partner profile, which could include:

·       What are their specialisms?

·       Are they attracting the same market as you?

·       What service are they offering?

·       Where are their gaps? (see where you could fit in)

·       What brands do they work with currently?

·       What are their values?

·       Are they a similar size to you, or bigger/smaller?

·       What does the senior team look like?

·       What marketing and PR are they doing (e.g. could you run an event together)?

Ben suggested to create yourself an ideal partnership profile, to see what your partnership network could look like to help narrow down your search criteria, and ultimately try to generate new business.

Damjan added that trust is so important in your ideal partnership, saying that you need to look at it as a long-term relationship, not just winning a bit of work here and there.

Partnership management

Katie said partnerships are an investment, and they need building so there has been a rise in hiring Partnership Directors because it can be time consuming but very lucrative.

But if you don’t have someone dedicated in your agency to partnership management, Katie suggested creating a spreadsheet or a Trello board that people in the agency can fill in with referrals. The spreadsheet could contain client/tech partner/staff referrals to help build your pipeline. “It’s much easier to convert referrals compared to cold outreach.” said Katie. She also suggested that you could arrange partner dinners, to thank them for referrals and to give them a chance to meet each other as an incentive.

Ask for referrals

When working brand side, Diane would ask the agencies she worked with for referrals of who they would recommend working with, “if I’m already working with an agency, there is a level of trust there, and they understand your brand, and they wouldn’t want you working with anyone they wouldn’t recommend”. Diane also went on to say, “you are looking for their expertise as to who they would recommend, it’s always where I would go first, and 9/10 I would always use a recommended partner”.

How can agencies ask brands to recommend someone?

Katie used to task Account Managers with asking their clients for one or two referrals as they are an engaged and active audience, and this would massively increase the pipeline.

Damjan talked about one of their clients, Bosch, where they did a bit of work for them which then grew into different areas of the business saying, “don’t be afraid to ask, the worst they can say is ‘I don’t know anybody’, people are happy to help to refer you internally if you are doing a good job”.

Katie agreed saying “Be brave, if you don’t ask you don’t get”. Katie then asked how best to frame the conversation when asking for recommendations. Damjan suggested to ask when they are excited about the conversation or project, not to leave it too long, and to strike whilst the iron is hot!

Ben said to “use feedback as the catalyst such as the Net Promotor score, when asking would they recommend you, you can then ask them to!”

Ben also suggested using LinkedIn to see who their recommendations are, “I notice you are connected to XX would you mind me asking the nature of that relationship? Just to check how they know them, then ask for an introduction and reassure them you’re not going to do the hard sell approach”.

Money talks

One of the questions from the audience was ‘how do you manage your rates/charging in partnerships’. Diane said you should “be confident in being an expert and the value you add and what you can bring to the partnership”.

Damjan said “we will not discount our rates at all to partners as that will be a slippery slope that will impact your profit levels, you should value what you do and your work has a price so don’t discount your prices, your rates should always be going up” he also went on to say “make it clear that you deliver a great service with great outcomes”.

Damjan also said, “don’t be embarrassed about talking about money” and suggested being transparent about commission from the beginning and throughout the relationship.

Partnership top tips

To end the session, Katie asked the panel to provide their key takeaway when it comes to partnerships:

·       Ben said to start building your partnership network if you’re not already.

·       Think outside the box said Damjan, saying who else could you partner with to complement their service, and to think about the end customer.

·       Start from within, utilise your own business first to find new business said Diane

·       Katie suggested building a spreadsheet for partner referrals to manage and grow your pipeline.

Partnership networks that were recommended throughout the session included:

Pimento (mention Street agency for a discount)

Agency collective

The Drum Recommends


Tech partners:





This was a great session on partnerships, how to find them, maintain them, and win new business from them. The webinar recording is available on our YouTube channel, so you can recap on anything you missed.



The New World of New Biz webinars take place on the first Tuesday of every month at 11am, you can sign up here for free to join the next one.

By Michaela Dudfield
12th May 2021
4 minute read