If you’re reading this, then it’s probably time to break up with your marketing agency
At first, your heart was aflutter with the budding relationship. You hung on their every word, excited about what the future holds. After a few weeks — maybe months — your email requests begin generating dust. They forget the little things. You ultimately resort to calling, but you’re having more conversations with voicemail. When you do speak with an actual person, it’s with the secretary, not the project manager.
It’s time to break up.
It’s likely that you’ve noticed some warnings signs for the long term. For many small to midsize business owners who are working with an agency for the first time, it can be difficult to know with certainty if their suspicions are valid. If that describes you, here are six signs that mean a break-up is inevitable.
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1. Hiring them has not been profitable
Never forget the reason why you hired the agency in the first place: to generate more sales and more profits. It doesn’t matter what the marketing service is — email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), media relations or direct mail. The agency should generate more money than the cost of their services.
There are exceptions to this rule. Digital marketing services such as SEO and organic social media marketing can sometimes require months of work before you will see results. However, you should see significant changes happening right away — including more engagement, more interest by new customers and more reviews.
Consider the soft costs involved with working with an agency — namely, your time. Are you spending too much time reminding them of deadlines on deliverables or performing your own quality control? In business, time is money. If you can’t sit back and trust that your agency is doing their job, then add your own hourly rate to the agency retainer.
Bottom Line: If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines way too long wondering when your business will reap the rewards, it’s clearly time for you to break up with your agency.
2. There’s a lack of progress
In the world of inbound marketing, there’s a saying, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” This refers to organic marketing efforts, such as social media marketing, content generation and SEO, which can take time to generate results. While you can’t expect an immediate surge in profits, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have expectations. The agency should provide clear metrics to show progress toward meeting your goals.
If you hired an agency for SEO, there should be clear reporting monthly that breaks down how your money is being invested and what kind of return on investment you’re seeing — such as improvement in ranking for various keywords, number of backlinks acquired, pages that were optimized, etc. If you hired an agency for social media management, look for engagement metrics, growth of your audience, and increased traffic to your site. These reports should clearly define what’s going on with your marketing in layman’s terms so that you aren’t kept in the dark.
Bottom Line: There is always a way to verify progress is being made.
3. The agency doesn’t see the whole picture.
In smaller markets like Bluffton and Savannah, the market is inundated with creative agencies that are good at what they do, but there are few that can bring all of the pieces together.
A digital marketing agency may initially help your business with SEO. When you see more traffic to your website, you realize you need to improve the conversion rate — generate leads or sales. The agency should already have conversion rate built into their services. If your agency only focuses on SEO and SEO only, you may need to seek out another service provider with the necessary skills to increase your site’s conversion rates. However, working with multiple vendors can be more trouble than they’re worth.
More importantly, the latest trends emphasize a holistic, inbound marketing approach that requires multiple channels. For example, content marketing and social media are important components to SEO. If your agency doesn’t offer these services focusing only on keyword optimization or pay per click ad management, they don’t understand how to work effectively with multiple marketing channels.
Bottom Line: If your agency is a one-trick pony, you’re being under-served. Today’s fierce competition coupled with buyer behavior means your business needs to streamline marketing on multiple channels.
4. Communication isn’t their strong suit.
If you’re having trouble reaching your agency or you find that it’s always you reaching out to them, this is a red flag.
Marketing makes up a large business budget item. To preserve this investment, the agency should take you step-by-step on:
- what to expect from their services and your marketing
- how they plan to reach your business goals
- when deadlines for deliverables will occur
- who the project manager is for your account
- where you can access real-time marketing analytics
The agency should also manage your expectations by being upfront on whether your marketing idea or method will work, and the agency should offer suggestions on efficiency and cost savings. Before you sign the dotted line, the agency should understand your business goals and what you’re trying to do in your market or industry. This will align their work to your business.
It’s vital that your agency provides regular updates without being asked. This is necessary so that you can see results are being made, along with what’s working and what’s not working. This information allows you to adapt to different situations, to make important changes, and to form a better strategy.
Bottom Line: You should be on the same page with your agency. Without regular communication, you’re blindly handing over your business’ largest investment.
5. They don’t really understand your business.
Does your agency take the time to understand your business at every level? Have they tried your products or your services? Are they asking a lot of questions on the day-to-day operations of your business?
It’s common for businesses to deal with agencies that don’t understand their business on a deep level. An agency that knows the needs and wants of the customers will yield better results because the marketing messages will be targeted for the audience you need to grow your business. This also means that the agency will understand the competitors you’re up against. As a result, they’ll come up with strategies that help you distinguish your business in the industry and figure out ways to out-market them.
Bottom Line: If your agency seems ambivalent at best about your business, how do you expect them to help you reach your goals?
6. The agency seems out of touch with what’s happening.
If you feel like your agency seems out of touch with what’s happening with the marketing channel for which you hired them to manage, it’s likely true. You might see them using templates for social media posts or only focusing on follower count rather than building an engaged audience. If their marketing vision is myopic instead of holistic, you could be throwing money down the drain. It also means that the agency lacks passion and specialized knowledge.
Even if they’re producing decent results for you in the short term, you can probably do better with an agency that’s constantly learning, adapting and evolving. If your competitors are using an agency that understands the atmosphere of the channels you’re in, you can bet that they’ll out-market you.
Bottom Line: If your agency is costing you money in addition to your time with nothing in return, then it’s time to move on. It’s business.
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