The term “white label” is a buzzword within the digital marketing world.
Some quick keyword research reveals that besides Dewar’s Scotch Whisky and Mountain Dew, the name caters heavily to SEO and digital marketing.
White label is just a trendy way of saying you have an agency partner that either:
- Completes work that you sell under your name with no mention of the agency partner, or
- Sells work that you complete under its own name, and does not mention your agency.
All names aside, there are many benefits of securing and sustaining white label partnerships – regardless if you’re on the providing or receiving end.
To date, nearly 30% of my agency’s revenue is created through white-label partnerships.
My agency creates written content – blogs, white papers, ad copy, thought-leadership articles – and sells it to agency partners at a discounted rate.
I also barter some services with a few partners, such as providing x amount of blogs for their client while they provide a technical audit for my client.
Considering hundreds of smaller agencies exist – some with serious talent, others worthless – positives and negatives exist, though the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
Be warned: you must find the correct partner because things can go horribly – and quickly. I learned that lesson not once, but three times.
I mention the negatives and resolutions to those negatives at the end of this blog, but first, let me expose the seven positives of such a partnership. (And yes, I’m targeting an audience of smaller agency owners of say 25 or fewer employees.)
1. Less Spend, Less Bloat
I’m not talking about the body after an enjoyable evening of Montepulciano and minestrone. Instead, I’m talking about a bloated workforce.
For some founders employing a huge staff is pure ego.
For others, bloating surfaces because the agency is trying to offer too many services without a constant flow of work for each service provided.
Due to the thousands of do-all agencies available, to be truly successful, and make a name for your agency, you should consider concentrating on mastering minimal services.
You may want to have top services in content creation, SEO, social media, affiliates, web development, design, and PPC, but unless you have enterprise-level clients, cash flow will always keep you awake at night.
I saw this with many agencies – many are on a downward trend or failed, but the smarter ones have refined their focus on a few services that they work on mastering and providing the most value for their clients.
For example, my SEO-driven content marketing agency has a sharp focus on written content.
I’ve been writing professionally for two decades across various mediums, and that’s where I feel most comfortable creating value.
I want to provide expertise for my clients – knowledge that I confidently know will help them grow their businesses.
We don’t offer video. Or PPC. Or social media services. But some clients need those services, and I never want to turn down a client – a good client, that is.
The solution is simple: I use a trusted white label partner and outsource the work.
Though I make minimal money on the other services (sometimes as little as 15 percent), the white label solution helps strengthen the loyalty with my client and provides an additional revenue stream to my trusted partners.
White label partnerships are essential for success in the above situation where you, but provide additional value when you are using a partner’s expertise for one of your primary services – a service that may only need assistance with a few crucial elements that doesn’t require a full-time employee.
For example, as a part of one of our content services that involve campaigns, we must first optimize/perform:
- Technical platform
- Site hierarchy
- Internal linking structure
- Keyword research/mapping
- Existing title tags/meta descriptions
- Existing on-page content and other elements
Since this is only the initial few months of a campaign before we offer ongoing content services, such as blogging, hiring a full-time tech SEO would cost much money.
Yes, you can always have that employee(s) do additional work out of their scope, but that will likely go unwarranted. Plus, top talent is expensive, so I’d miss out on much ROI.
The solution resides in merely outsourcing to a white label partner.
For the bulleted work above, I’d immediately outsource a technical audit with all solutions, site hierarchy audit with solutions, and an internal linking audit with solutions.
My in-house team would complete the rest, although I sometimes outsource keyword research/mapping because a few of my agency partners offer super value here.
I may lose some ROI on the top, but the long-term results are much stronger for my clients – especially if a partner has experience within my client’s industry/vertical.
White label partnerships are critical for success while on the receiving end but provide the most value for those on the giving end. We’ll talk more about that in our final beneficial point below.
2. More Expertise
The need for added expertise will help benefit any agency.
If you choose the correct partner, try to focus on those with a sharp focus on a particular service such as technical SEO, PPC, social media, etc.
You’ll have a much easier time finding expertise than wasting valuable time and dollars hiring someone to fulfill a need another agency and its team can.
The key word here is team – you can tap into an entire team of experts vs. hiring the talent in house.
An example would be my agency’s writers. We have 30+ freelancers that work across all different levels of clients, and we can match the writer to the client.
The problem with most agencies is that they have one or two writers trying to accomplish every type of writing for every type of client – never mind the actual agency’s content.
Take a look now at many of the blogs from some smaller agencies. They don’t blog frequently or consistently because their writers are too busy completing client work.
The valuable solution is to outsource what’s needed, and receive more value for the price due to not only getting one expert but a few experts – all for the same amount of money spent.
My tech SEO partner has a strong team of five SEO professionals working with him, and each one puts his or her expertise into the product provided, say an audit.
I’d much rather have five experts completing on audit vs. one in-house SEO – it’s like a five-for-one deal; can’t argue the value for my agency and, more importantly, my client.
3. Less Missed Deadlines
White label partners may miss a deadline here or there. However, from experience, the occurrence is much less than a typical in-house employee.
Let’s again use blogging as an example.
If you’re relying on a specialized content partner that has a singular focus of creating blogs that your team has provided a strategy for (optimized titles, keyword research, SEO guidelines, etc.), all that partner has to do is provide one piece of the process.
This sharp focus allows them to do their job with ease, and you do your job with ease.
This smoother and more refined workflow allows them to meet deadlines easier than you as you balance other work for that client.
Here’s a tip. I’ve learned to diminish missed deadlines by being proactive.
Always make deadlines five or more days longer than the actual deadline.
People get sick and have issues constantly; your client shouldn’t have to suffer.
If the client’s deadline for a social media strategy is Friday, tell your white label partner it’s actually that Monday.
This has saved my agency numerous times from missing client deadlines – something that can diminish trust, and quickly.
4. Specialized Technology
For agencies to complete valuable work, tools are a necessity. The better the tools, the better the services. It goes without saying that better tools cost more money.
My agency alone spends upwards of $3,000 yearly on tools. But this price would be much higher if I didn’t have white-label partnerships.
Think of all the tools needed to successfully complete an extensive technical audit, or effectively manage a business’s social media campaign.
Prices can get expensive. When you have an agency partner, though, you get all the value of those tools for free.
And it’s not only the money saved on buying tools; a reputable partner agency will already know how to optimally use the tools, saving your agency further time and money.
5. Allows You to Focus on Your Main Services
When you have other expert agencies white label work for you, this opens hours for you to focus on your main service offerings – basically where you’re passionate and can deliver excellent value.
When I first launched my agency, I was initially gravitating towards the “do-all” route.
But as I worked with more and more clients, I found we had struggled with truly adding the most value in regards to things like technical audits and social media.
And I wanted to run as lean as possible because a business without strong cash flow is not my thing.
These efforts were wasting too much time and not bringing enough in.
Once I began outsourcing the work to trusted partners, I was able to refocus on our most valuable service – creating written content – and develop the project management we use successfully today.
This includes a seven-layer editorial/SEO process, and my 50/25/25 content blend for various points of the sales funnel, which I’ll discuss in a future blog (for now, know that 50% of content efforts focus on those needing education; 25% on intermediate knowledge; and 25% on experts needing that extra push for a sale).
If I didn’t have white label partnerships, my agency would have to be overstaffed, and it’d never have time to dedicate solely to the main offering – written content.
This pairs with the point above. When you are entirely focused on your major services and are outsourcing the other work to a leading expert, your focused efforts will allow your business to scale much quicker.
Let’s use an SEO specialist agency offering a social media campaign as a quick example.
Think about all the testing that would go into finding the target audience, copy, and images/video that combines and produces the highest ROI for a social media campaign.
Now picture you had your SEO team multitasking in something they’re not passionate about or skilled in.
Whereas a specialized social media white label partner can optimize a campaign in a month or two due to a more extensive staff of experts, your company’s limited skill set may take a year.
And within that year they could have focused on strengthening their SEO skills and your services.
That latter is the way towards scalability – not wasting your SEOs time creating social media campaigns that partner can do without any stress on your staff.
7. Increased Revenue
Finally, all this leads to whatever every business ultimately craves – increased revenue. This occurs for both sides but especially for those offering the white-label services.
Just think: you didn’t have to spend any time or effort on finding a new client – you piggyback your partner’s clients, which are usually already trusted to that partner.
You don’t have to deal directly with their clients; your team doesn’t have to grow to accommodate new services, and your team doesn’t have to learn additional skills in services they can care less about.
This is all a win-win for a cash-flow positive company that can stay focused on growth.
And with positive growth arrives high energy, which ultimately creates strong employee morale and less turnover – something that looks great for current and prospective client.
Now – The Negatives
With that said, some agencies are not what they say, which naturally presents some negatives. The two major issues that will create a horrible partner relationship are quality control and reliability.
First is quality control. I got burnt a few times by hack agencies offering horrible audits. They spit out basic reports from tools I already have such as SEMrush, and offered zero solutions.
It’s like going to a car mechanic and diagnoses that your car needs new brakes, but doesn’t provide the solution to replace those brakes.
Research a prospective agency partner as you would any other service provider, from doctors to mechanics to lawyers.
If they offer SEO, check out their own SEO and their case studies or clients. Same with content, social media, PPC, affiliates, or whatever.
Also, check reputable websites that offer employee reviews of agencies. If the morale is low among employees, expect the work quality also to be low.
This is how I learned the value of the higher-priced agents. It takes more research, but it’s worth every minute of your team’s time.
The second negative of white labeling is reliability.
You can’t miss deadlines. No matter what.
The solution is first to have a robust project management system from both the receiving and providing ends.
Make sure your project management is strong, and use a shared system for immediate feedback.
My agency relies on Google Drive. It’s simple, and never let us down.
And as I said in benefit #3 above, never forget to make your deadlines a bit earlier.
For example, I provide my writers with up to a week earlier deadlines just in case life interferes – something every agency has experienced or will.
Be proactive and have some cushion space; the last thing you want to do is piss off a client.
How to Find a Valuable White Label Digital Marketing Partner
With that said, make sure you measure your partner agency choice has all four of the following elements (read: not just one, two or three):
- Strong communication.
- Strong project management.
If the first three elements (communication, transparency, project management) are strong, trust typically follows.
Remember that your agency partner may experience turnover among its employees. Even the best agencies lose top talent for various reasons.
If you immediately recognize a lack of communication or trust, question it. Go to the top team member and see if anything has changed, making sure they know that you recognized an adverse change in the partnership.
Remember, it’s all about teamwork. Treat your white label partner as you would your top employee.
For ultimate success, also remember to have exact guidelines in place for everything, especially timelines, pricing, and project management outlines.
White label partnerships can help grow your business on various levels, whether you’re offering a service to another agency, or they are providing a service to your agency.
For the latter, you’ll offer the services at wholesale prices, which may have you thinking you’re missing out on loads of money.
This isn’t true. You don’t have to deal with a client directly, and/or create the strategy for whatever service you’re offering.
Think in terms of saving time, which will surely add up to more than the money you’re missing out due to a discounted rate.
And if someone else is offering the service to you, reverse the above thinking.
You’re getting a discounted rate, and don’t have to hire an in-house person for that task, saving lots of money in salary, insurance, office expenses, etc.
Plus, as I said earlier, sometimes the need for a particular service is only needed at a certain period of a campaign. This will save you even more money and time.
The other treasure trove is the trust factor between white label partnerships.
When trust is high, word spreads quickly, which leads to additional white label partnerships or sometimes a new client.
One of my partners recently gave me two prospective clients that his agency had already built trust with.
The client wanted to switch direction to a more content-driven campaign, and I was “top of mind” due to my strong relationship with the white label partner.
It led to a new, trusted client that didn’t cost my agency a dollar to acquire.
That’s the dream of any agency, and white-label partnerships can help produce those types of situations with ease.