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Partner vs. Vendor: How to Choose the Right Digital Agency

How to Choose the Right Digital Agency

Partners vs. Vendors

The first step in choosing the right digital agency is deciding what kind of relationship you’re looking for.

Agencies generally fall into two categories:

  1. Partners
  2. Vendors

Each category has pros and cons, so you need to weigh them carefully to find the right fit for you.

Partners – Pros and Cons


  • Look out for you in the long run.
  • Constantly ask you “why?”
  • Have a deep understanding of your business.
  • Come to you with new ideas and new opportunities to help you grow your business.


  • Generally cost more because they take more time to understand your business and create strategies that maximize results.
  • Since they bring a more integrated approach to your business, they often require a retainer for a set period of time.

Vendors – Pros and Cons


  • Are essentially production houses, which can be great if you already have an idea and know exactly what you want.
  • Tend to be cheaper since their job is to simply execute your idea.
  • Don’t require a retainer for a set period of time.


  • Simply fulfill orders; there’s no strategy involved.
  • Likely won’t have a dedicated team.
  • Focus is on a single project rather than your long-term success.

A Real-life Example

Let’s say you want to produce a banner ad.

A partner will ask:

  • What are your goals? (Maybe a banner ad isn’t the best solution.)
  • What action do you want people to take?
  • What’s in it for them?

A vendor will ask:

  • What size?
  • How many?

Neither approach is right or wrong, just different.

A Comparison

Let’s consider an example that might be more familiar, for example, do you need an interior designer or a moving crew?

If you want to someone to understand how you use your room, what your style and tastes are, and how to maximize the flow of the space—hire an interior designer.

If you want someone to move a heavy couch or two, hire a moving crew.

The Key to a Successful Relationship

Choosing the right company is key to a successful relationship.

If you know what you want and just need someone to implement it, you’ll be frustrated by an agency constantly asking you “why?”

On the other hand, if you are looking for someone to provide ideas and challenge you, you’ll be disappointed with a vendor who simply asks what you want and then blindly does it.