Artificial intelligence is about to fundamentally disrupt marketing agencies of every type and size. That includes reshaping every aspect of agencies, including: services, billing models, operations, and talent.
Some agencies will seize the opportunity to evolve, and create enormous value for themselves and their clients. Many others, however, will become obsolete. The laggards won’t die off overnight, but their relevance and value will quickly fade. Their clients (and people) will move on.
Here at Marketing AI Institute, we understand the agency world well because we grew out of it.
Marketing AI Institute spun out of a marketing agency owned by our founder and CEO Paul Roetzer. That agency was HubSpot’s first-ever partner agency. Paul even wrote a book called The Marketing Agency Blueprint.
For almost a decade, I worked at that agency with Paul. And Marketing AI Institute grew out of Paul’s efforts to better understand how AI would change marketing and business, both for our clients and the agency world as a whole.
Standing at this intersection of AI and agencies, one thing is very clear to us:
AI partner programs present a major revenue opportunity for forward-thinking agencies in the near future.
Your AI Partner Program Opportunity
Your clients are desperate.
Every single one of them—and every prospective client you speak to moving forward—is getting massive pressure from leadership to adopt AI.
They’re suddenly expected to understand, adopt, and scale AI, as well as select AI technology and build AI strategies.
The problem is: They don’t know what they’re doing.
For the vast majority of marketing and business leaders, AI only appeared on their radar as a key strategic priority in the last 12 months with the rise of ChatGPT.
Barely any of them, no matter how intelligent or competent, realized that AI is far more than just ChatGPT.
They are only now waking up to the fact that AI will quickly and profoundly transform the way they do business and how their teams work.
And they are unprepared for the speed and severity of the coming changes, lacking the training required to effectively adopt and adapt to AI technology.
This GIF sums up perfectly where most of your clients find themselves today when it comes to AI…
Every single company we talk to—through workshops, consulting, and dozens of speaking engagements in 2023 alone—needs to figure out AI, but doesn’t know how.
This is a massive problem for them—and a massive opportunity for you.
You clients don’t just need technology. (Though they do.)
They need guidance.
Because AI isn’t like other technology.
AI technologies are rapidly and profoundly disrupting marketing, business, and society. But most of even the market-leading tools don’t come with user manuals.
Even the most popular AI tools on the planet don’t instruct you on how to actually use and adopt them.
A quote from AI expert and Wharton professor Ethan Mollick sums up exactly the state of the AI market right now:
“I was given much better documentation for the generic garden hose I bought on Amazon than for the immensely powerful AI tools being released by the world’s largest companies.”
If one of the world’s top AI experts feels this way, just imagine how your clients feel.
Herein lies your opportunity:
If you partner with the right AI vendors, a world of possibilities opens up:
- You unlock new service opportunities enabled by AI technology.
- You gain the ability to bring vetted, trusted AI solutions to clients, vastly streamlining the AI technology purchasing process for them.
- You get access to vendor education and onboarding, both for your team and for clients, that accelerates how quickly you get value out of solutions.
Here’s how to start leveraging this opportunity.
How to Approach AI Partner Programs
Like I mentioned, Marketing AI Institute founder and CEO Paul Roetzer used to own HubSpot’s first-ever partner agency. (I also used to work there.)
Paul, like many other agency owners, bet his business on the fact that HubSpot’s growth and ecosystem could drive explosive success for him and his clients.
He was right.
But, as Paul and I have discussed many times, you can’t run the same playbook as an agency approaching AI partner programs.
It’s no longer about finding the next HubSpot.
You simply can’t make one high-confidence bet on a single AI platform or solutions provider like you did during the marketing automation revolution. The sheer velocity of AI innovation and disruption makes that impossible.
Literally overnight, new AI capabilities and tools appear that fundamentally alter the existing AI technology landscape.
A new market entrant can achieve hyper growth and scale in mere months, then fizzle out just as quickly. A single new feature released in ChatGPT can make hundreds of startups go extinct and upend investor expectations for entire segments of the market.
Coming back to AI expert Ethan Mollick: he currently says he’s changing the presentation he gives to top companies and leaders every single week to account for how quickly parts of the AI market become obsolete.
Gone are the days where you made an early, prescient bet on a single platform, then rode its success for years to drive predictable, sustainable growth.
Instead, your agency will need to place many bets across many different vendors as you build around partner programs.
To do that, there are a handful of key considerations to keep in mind as you investigate possible AI partners to build around:
- Do they even have a partner program? It’s an obvious question, but one that’s important to ask. This space is still so new. The vast majority of AI vendors do not have partner programs. You cannot make the same assumptions about AI vendors that you do about traditional marketing software.
- How long have they been around? The world of AI moves at lightspeed. You can’t expect major players to have been in business for decades. But you do want to prioritize partners who have established business models and clear track records of success with customers.
- How much funding do they have? Most of the companies you consider will be venture-funded technology companies unless they’re already established tech giants. So, their level of funding matters. It’s a good proxy for how stable they are in the short term and how much confidence the market has in their technology. You don’t want to build around someone who’s about to run out of runway.
- Who are their customers? Social proof is always helpful to validate any possible partner, AI vendor, or otherwise. In AI, it helps if vendors have been validated by major tech players in the space like Google, Microsoft, Meta, Nvidia, or Amazon, by the companies building foundation models and technologies like OpenAI, Cohere, or Anthropic, or by established marketing and sales platforms like HubSpot and Salesforce.
- What are their public policies or positions on AI? How companies approach AI matters. Look to a possible partner’s public statements (and actions) on AI safety, security, and privacy for clues as to how much the company prizes responsible AI development and usage. (Hint: They should at least have a public position.)
- Could you see yourself using their technology? It’s important to actually understand what use cases a vendor’s technology enables, and it’s helpful if you actually understand those use cases as they apply to your own business. It’s easy to fall prey to overhyped or unready technology. Whenever possible, stick to your circle of competence and prioritize solutions you can easily vet yourself.
- Do they offer coaching, education, or onboarding for agency partners? The top AI agency partners today are building out robust partner programs that heavily support the agencies adopting and selling their software. There’s a reason why. AI is not like other software. A huge amount of education is needed to get maximum value out of these tools—and navigate the change management that comes with what these tools enable. Prioritize vendors that give due weight to education and are investing in it.
So, we’ve talked about what to consider as you look at partner programs. But who should you actually talk to?
AI Partner Programs to Explore
We’ve collected a handful of AI vendors we know that have AI partner programs—or are building them.
These are by no means an exhausting list, but they’re ones you should explore if the AI vendor solves for a use case that’s valuable to you.
Akkio is AI for data analysis. You can layer Akkio’s AI on top of your data, so you can chat with your data, ask questions of it, and run commands off of it—just like you’d interact with a tool like ChatGPT.
Akkio can tell you what’s happening in your data, make predictions about it, and instantly visualize charts and dashboards from it.
When working with agency partners, Akkio gives agencies the ability to white label the solution, so they can bring AI data analysis superpowers directly to their clients under the brand of the agency those clients know and trust.
GoCharlie is an AI content creation platform with some AI agent capabilities. That means it can use—sometimes autonomously—a website, YouTube URL, idea, image, audio, video, and more to create content.
GoCharlie has an agency partner program where agencies can buy licenses for their team and get discounted licenses for their clients. GoCharlie also offers percentage shares on referred revenue. In addition, GoCharlie partners with agencies to facilitate AI fireside chats with their clients to help them become more adept with generative AI.
GlossAI doesn’t have a partner program yet, but they’re working on one. That doesn’t mean you should wait to work with them. You can use their solution to automatically generate dozens of engaging content pieces for clients in fraction of the time and cost.
That’s because GlossAI uses AI to automatically turn longer videos into dozens of short-form, shareable clips.
This allows you to quickly, efficiently turn a single existing asset into many different promotional assets, thus getting more promotional value out of everything you or your clients create. The tool also supports multiple brand kits, so you can use it with multiple clients.
Jasper is a leading AI writing tool that you can use to automatically write blog posts, ads, emails, headlines, social media posts, and more.
They also have a next-generation AI Solutions Partner Program you should check out if you do anything related to generative AI.
Through the AI Solutions Partner Program, agencies can secure Jasper licenses at a discount for their team and client stakeholders or bundle Jasper licenses for entire client teams.
This unlocks multiple revenue streams.
- First, agencies receive a percentage of Jasper licenses sold.
- Second, agencies selling content creation services via output-based pricing can leverage productivity gains using Jasper to sell more engagements.
- Third, agencies can unlock revenue by providing services around change management as they help clients get the most out of Jasper and generative AI technology as a whole.
- Performance summaries. Databox will automatically summarize the performance of data in your systems.
- Performance recommendations. It can then provide insights on what you should do next based on what it is seeing in your data.
Not to mention, Jasper has one of the more robust partner onboarding and education programs we’ve seen, offering extensive resources to help you and your clients get more out of the tool.
MarketMuse uses AI to help you rank higher in search.
You can use MarketMuse to identify which topics you should be writing about (using special search metrics personalized to your specific website), and then generate SEO briefs that tell you how to rank for those topics.
(You can even spy on how the competition in search results is ranking for a topic.)
MarketMuse also offers agency partners a referral program that features a revenue share on the first two years of a client’s contract using the platform.
Writer is another leading AI writing platform, but it’s built specifically for teams and for security. Writer empowers your team to create content within a single platform with unified style, brand, and messaging guides.
It’s also highly compliant with many rules and standards prevalent in regulation-heavy industries like healthcare.
Writer has a solutions partner program that helps agencies help their clients adopt generative AI organization-wide through sales and marketing enablement, hands-on training, thought leadership, and technical support.
6sense is an AI-powered marketing and sales platform.
Using 6sense’s AI, you can actually predict and identify the accounts that are in-market, then prioritize which ones matter most based on their propensity to buy.
6sense’s AI can also uncover third-party buying signals to predict when you should engage with these prospects.
6sense has a partner network of technology vendors, as well as agencies.
On the agency side, 6sense helps you bring orchestrated account engagement at scale to your clients through their platform through opportunities like co-marketing and co-selling in tandem with the company.
As we’ve mentioned, HubSpot is a leader in agency partner programs. And, they highlight an important point in the world of AI:
Many existing platforms and technologies are quickly integrating powerful AI capabilities right into their existing products.
HubSpot is no exception.
They’ve quickly created conversational agents like ChatSpot, which allows you to chat with your HubSpot data and quickly answer questions about it.
They’ve also rolled out a suite of generative AI features, including the ability to generate content and webpages.
So, in this case, you get the best of both worlds:
You can take advantage of powerful AI technology for your clients and be backed by a trusted, rock-solid company like HubSpot with a mature partner program.
Databox is a popular performance management platform that allows you to manage, measure, and visualize data from all your marketing and business reporting sources in one place.
As part of its platform, Databox has built in a number of powerful AI capabilities, including:
Databox has a robust agency partner program and a partner directory, similar to HubSpot.
Make no mistake:
You have a golden opportunity to build a next-gen agency by partnering with the right AI vendors.
Do it right, and your clients—and your bottom line—will thank you.
As Chief Content Officer, Mike Kaput uses content marketing, marketing strategy, and marketing technology to grow and scale traffic, leads, and revenue for Marketing AI Institute. Mike is the co-author of Marketing Artificial Intelligence: AI, Marketing and the Future of Business (Matt Holt Books, 2022). See Mike's full bio.