I’ve been on every side of the fence – working with an agency as part of a businesses marketing department, working for agencies as a full time employee, and working for agencies as an external resource (contractor).
As a business owner, or as a member of a businesses marketing team it can be scary leaning on an agency. It’s not easy to know if the relationship is working in your favor. When you’re working with an agency there’s a number of things you should be on the look out for. Pay attention to the list below and watch for any “red flags” your agency might be giving off.
Your agency should be transparent with you at all times. If they aren’t, you can only assume that they’re hiding something. Agencies don’t stay silent on positive results and they shouldn’t on a negative results either. Your agency should be actively monitoring results and alert you to any negative results immediately and offer suggestions to fix things before they go completely south. Along with transparency comes trust, and without either the relationship with your agency is doomed from the start.
If you can’t access your own accounts because of ‘agency policy’ it’s likely that they are hiding something from you. As the client and the one writing the checks, you should be in control of all assets and all accounts. An agency with confidence in the work they perform should have no problem allowing you to monitor the results at your will.
It’s too easy for an agency to hide behind easily manipulated metrics. I can attest that it is incredibly easy to boost certain metrics and show off pretty numbers and percentages, while at the same time the campaign as a whole can be failing miserably. If they are only reporting basic metrics they’re only giving you part of the pie – ask for the whole thing!
You should have access to multiple points of contact within the agency who are familiar with your account. Additionally, you should always be able to access the person directly responsible for a specific initiative that can provide you with answers and reports in a timely manner. If this isn’t possible or the point of contact is always changing, that’s a major red flag.
You should not trust a business if your only communication is through email. Even if in-person meetings are not possible due to geographical differences, multiple phone calls should be involved in the engagement process.
This is the number one sign that your agency is full of it. Nobody can guarantee results in any type of marketing, especially PPC and SEO. Look for the agencies that know how to manage expectations and forecast results based off research and discovery, and provide insight into how these campaigns will or will not influence actual business results.
If you’re trying to save a few pennies, your marketing agency isn’t the place to do it. I’m hesitant here to say, “You’ll get what you pay for.” because it goes both ways. There are agencies who will price themselves the lowest and you’ll get exactly what you pay – very little. However, there are many agencies who will charge an astronomical price and support it with buzzwords, fancy clients, and shiny awards. At what point does the cost of an agency have diminishing returns? What I’m saying, is price isn’t the only indicator of quality, but it can definitely be an indicator of poor quality.
There is no situation in life that not being able to provide references or testimonials is acceptable. If you’re hiring for a job and the interviewee refuses to provide references, would you hire them? Why should hiring an agency be any different? No references, no dice.
If your agency isn’t tracking conversions it’s clear that they don’t care whether or not anything materializes from the clicks they are generating. They should be measuring on-site traffic and be able to reverse engineer that to determine if ad targeting is correct and the traffic is qualified. In an eCommerce setting they should be able to provide a monetary value to all leads and sales to report on the value of each traffic source. The agencies work shouldn’t end at the click.
This is a troublesome occurrence I see far too often. Agencies will pass around copy or creative for 5 great ads but through an awkward series of office politics and collaboration, a process of elimination will result in just one version of ad copy surviving. All major digital marketing platforms are sophisticated enough to handle multiple ads and allow you to either automatically or manually optimize for the best performing ad copy. One message does not fit all and your ad creative is no exception.
This is a major red flag. If your agency is unwilling to share information with you about your own account, it should sound an alarm in your head that something isn’t going according to plan and they don’t want you to find out. Information on your account should be easily accessible and specific questions should be able to be addressed almost immediately.
Working with an agency should feel like an extension of your own marketing department. Both should be providing the necessary information to succeed and working towards the same overall goals. If you find that some of these red flags are coming up, start asking more questions and try to get to the bottom of the issue. If you’re agency won’t work with you and is keeping you in the dark, then its probably time to find a new agency.