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Choosing a Marketing Firm: A Vendor or A Partner?
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It’s common practice to outsource your marketing. Seeking marketing professionals is often a great idea. Outsourcing specific projects and tasks can allow businesses to tap into the resources that third-party marketers have access to. It’s usually more cost effective to hire third-party experts than it is to recruit, train, and develop a team from within. Every brand needs marketing, but not every business can afford to have an in-house marketing team.

A word that is frequently used to describe these relationships is partnerships. The term “partner” is currently something of a buzzword among businesses, especially concerning hiring third-party sources. It implies a sense of equality. But often when a company employs a third party, the relationship doesn’t seem much like an equal partnership. It looks more like they’re hiring a vendor. There’s a good reason for this: many companies approach hiring third parties as hiring vendors, rather than true partnerships.

Hiring a vendor isn’t a bad thing. Hiring a vendor often seems to be the intuitive or even the only option. You have a problem, and you hire someone to fix it. For example, maybe you have a new product launching, and you need to find someone to manage the marketing of the launch. You could hire an agency to handle the launch and hire a vendor.

Or, you could hire someone to partner with your business to help with the launch – and then stay on to help develop your business’ brand personality. When you’re looking to hire a marketing firm, it’s good to ask what you’re looking for in terms of the partnership you want to have and what your goals are. Do you want a vendor or a partner? Deciding which type of agency you want to hire can be complicated and confusing. Here are some things to consider when you’re deciding what kind of relationship you want with your outside marketing agency:

Examine your long-term goals

When you’re choosing to hire a marketing firm, it may be tempting to hire them just for one project. But keep your long-term goals in mind as well. Do you want to improve your marketing in the long-run? Do you want to boost your brand’s social media marketing game? Hiring a partner will do that for you. When you hire a partner instead of a vendor, you’re hiring a team that will be invested in your business for the long-haul.

Typically, when hiring a partner, there is no set end-date. With a vendor, you’re hiring them until a specific project is complete. But with a partner, you’re hiring someone to work with you indefinitely who will help nurture and grow your business in the long term.

Partnerships are when two companies are working together towards long-term goals. Hiring a partner means you have a professional team working with your company for the long haul. This is particularly beneficial if your brand needs help boosting marketing, as many changes and improvements can take months to take effect. Partners will be able to help your company as it grows and develops and will be around to correct course if need be.

How much freedom you want to give your agency

Why are you hiring a marketing agency? Is it to help launch a product, or get your brand started on social media? Regardless of what you’re promoting, you’re hiring an agency because you want a team of marketing experts to handle your project.

When you hire a vendor, you typically have a specific vision with parameters that you want your marketing agency to follow. They’ll do the work as you specify it and complete it by a deadline. Of course, this isn’t a wrong way to do business. And in many situations, this works just fine.

But you could hire a partner and take it a step further. Partners will follow your directions – and then some. Marketing agencies who are partners have more freedom to come up with campaigns and ideas that you may have never even considered. They’ll work closely with your business as an equal partner and get to know your goals, budget, and vision – and then use their training and resources to develop dynamic marketing campaigns that you probably would have never considered on your own.

Partnering with an agency allows them to bring the full range of their expertise to your business. Partners aren’t limited in the same way as vendors when it comes to what they can do to help your brand with marketing.


If you’re looking to pursue a partner relationship with a marketing firm, be prepared to be transparent with the firm.

For a marketing partner to do their job, it’s crucial that they have a close look at all different aspects of your business. For smaller companies especially, this may seem like an unnecessary intrusion. But the more transparent and open you can be with your marketing firm you can be, the better they’ll be able to develop a marketing strategy to match your goals and bolster any pain points.

A vendor won’t need to know more about the inner workings of your business because they won’t be as involved. And for some projects, that may be fine. But hiring a partner means that you’ll have someone deeply interested – and invested – in making sure that your business succeeds.

Deciding which type of relationship is best for you

Hiring a marketing team to market your business is a big decision. You’re hiring someone who will have a direct impact on your sales and the success of your brand. Making sure you hire the right team is important.

There are plenty of options out there. There are vendors, looking to complete a task for you and be done. And there are partners – teams who are looking to develop your marketing and create real growth in the long run.

At the end of the day, whether you decide to pursue a vendor or a partner relationship with an outside marketing team – or even a mixture of both – it’s essential to focus on communication and making sure that whoever you hire will be best-suited help you achieve your marketing goals.

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