When you decide to invest in the services of a marketing agency, it's usually because you've recognised that there are aspects of your marketing that would be better handled by a dedicated specialist that has the resources, tools, and people-power to help you achieve your objectives.
It's a big decision, and not one that companies take likely. Typically, there are plenty of introductory meetings where you get to know one another. The agency will then propose a plan of action to realise the goals and ambitions you've set for your business. If you like what they propose and their delivery plan impresses you, you sign up for the service, commit to the retainer fees and wait for your marketing strategy to bring in the results you were promised.
Back in the 80s, the average agency-client relationship lasted around seven years. By today's standards, however, we consider two years to be a long term relationship – something that approximately 69% of agencies are able to achieve. This is perhaps indicative of the times. Clients now have access to analytics and insights; there is very little room for mystery as to why something isn't working out.
There are plenty of factors that could impact the success of the relationship. Ultimately, businesses rely on marketing partners to deliver strategic value, which is what many did during the pandemic. For some agencies, this was a time to step up and truly support their clients; for others, the cracks in the foundations suddenly became too big to ignore.
But, beyond the above-mentioned analytics, there are other huge warning signs that it may be time to part ways and seek better partnerships.
Getting under the hood of someone else's business and truly understanding its operating model, values, and goals is a skill. Many agencies will try to apply a one-size-fits-all strategy to clients, which often results in frustration for both parties, particularly for the client, who keeps having to amend content because the nuances of their product or service haven't been understood.
Ideally, your marketing partner will be a specialist (or have experience) in your industry, and they'll know just how to market to your audience. Yes, a marketing agency can find solutions and make suggestions to try things you haven't before, but if they're implementing campaigns and strategies that don't work with your business and its customer base, you'll end up damaging your brand and losing money in the process.
Typically, you and your agency will have a service level agreement (SLA). Responsibilities will be clearly defined, as will ownership of who is carrying out those tasks. Your marketing agency should have a good understanding of your goals so that all of the activities they carry out on your behalf align with them. If there are frequent inconsistencies or the agency doesn't take the time to understand and integrate your vision, you're not working collaboratively; you're being dictated to.
An important thing to watch out for here is high staff turnover. If the agency has trouble retaining employees, there won't be any continuity in projects and the methodology applied. That's possibly also the reason why they struggle to collaborate with you.
Yes, things change. The date you set for the completion of a project a few months ago may have shifted if there have been changes to the strategy or technical setbacks. But if there are no clear reasons as to why your deadlines aren't being met, it's likely that your marketing agency has other priorities, and you don't feature very high on the list. Unreliability is a huge turn off and one that could have a serious impact on your business.
Communication is a foundational element in any relationship. In a business scenario, this is reflected in the frequency of emails, meetings and reports you receive, updating you on progress or informing you about important upcoming events. Good communication eliminates any surprises, enables productivity and ensures that things get done on time.
If you don't have a single point of contact and find that communication from the agency comes from various departments or individuals, it's important to consider how effective their own internal communication is?
Hint: The answer will be evident in the work they produce for you...
This is the big one. Where are the results? How close or how far off the promised figures are you? Were you expecting more leads coming through to your salespeople? Was your website supposed to get more traffic? Should your business have seen some growth after all of this time and investment? Are the leads that do come through well prepared and ready to make a purchasing decision?
Clients stay with agencies because they form good, productive relationships that deliver results. If you're paying monthly retainer fees, plus costs to keep ineffective Google and social media ads running, your business is going to suffer sooner rather than later.
If any of these signs hit awfully close to home, it's time to pull the breaks on your marketing agency's contract with your business. Yes, the need for support with your digital marketing is still there, but what if there was a better way of doing things?
A little while ago, the BEE team recognised that the marketing agency model was starting to get a little stagnant. Marketing has evolved, and companies seek partnerships rather than third-party agencies to outsource work to. That makes sense when you need the flexibility to scale on output without hiring in-house, but not when you actually want to grow your business and achieve long-term goals.
Are you interested in learning more about what a partnership with BEE can do for your business? Take a look at the BEE.Roadmap here.
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