Mistakes when hiring a marketing agency

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to hire an SEO, Adwords, outdoor advertising or PR agency – all of these jobs have a couple of things in common. They are usually expensive, the results can’t be seen directly, we sign a long-term contract and, with the direct cost, we have a lot of opportunity cost. But, if we do it right, we’ll be rewarded.

I’ve worked in an agency and at a client, so I’ve sold agency services and I’ve been sold to. Here is a list of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen.

You’ve been great at lowering the agency fee

Agencies have different ways of charging for their work. Some will charge a percentage of all the advertising cost, others will take a lump sum, others will bill you every month, and some will hide their costs so that you don’t find them. But, no matter how they steal from you, it’s too much, right ??

Well, wrong. An agency needs to be paid enough so that they care about you and your campaign. If you’re the client that wants a 10% discount and, then, another 10% off, you’ll receive what you pay for. You’ll be client number 25 on the agency’s list. The project manager will prepare your monthly report and won’t have any hours left to work on your account. I’ve seen it before.

You need to pay them enough so that they’ll want to work on your account. They need to have enough paid hours so that they come around to your office and talk to you. Also, the experts in the agency need to be able to sit down and talk and think about your project. Otherwise your campaign will be handed to a junior employee, who has no idea, and joined the agency to learn. This won’t bring any real results for you.

Send me everything. I need to confirm everything twice.

Sure, you work in a serious company, a company that has its own brand book, brand usage instructions and advertising policy and instructions. And you need to stick to all of those documents. I get all that, but you hire an agency to get someone else to do the work for you. They should use their best knowledge and ideas to produce something that is different to what you know and think. Allow them to do that.

So, if they prepare an ad that is a bit different, if they find a new magazine to advertise in, or if they think you should have a different slogan, try to agree with them. They have seen a lot and have tried different things.

If they have a new idea, let them test it.

Because if we did everything the same way, we’d receive the same results.

I’m not saying that you should do everything differently. I’m saying that you should let them convince you to do something differently. The biggest nightmare of a Facebook advertiser is a client that wants to check every ad and wants three changes on each of them.

Ignoring the reports and advice

It may be that I’m still hurt from the time when I was working for an agency and we sent out reports to our clients every month. It took us a lot of (over)time, and we prepared at least five new ideas every month. And they were not only SEO ideas. They were ideas on everything connected to clients’ marketing, UX, e-mail marketing or anything else.

Then nothing happened. We often had the feeling (that was not often wrong) that the client had not even opened the report. And we had worked day and night on it.

I’m serious. You should read and implement the things that an agency talks about. But, first, if they’re not sending you reports that teach you something, ask them about it. A lot of agencies send reports that are just the numbers that you don’t understand, and they don’t help you to understand them.

The best thing to do is invite the project manager to meet with you and ask him or her to go through the report point-by-point. At least once. This will send a message to the agency that you’re reading their reports and, more importantly, you’ll learn something and advance your marketing.

You don’t whoop their asses

Every agency has a (long) list of clients. Every expert in the agency has multiple clients. The expert likes some of their clients more and some less. He or she likes their website, maybe they use the products, or they just like some clients as people. All of this is a reality when you work with people, and it usually has no connection to how much they’re paid by you.

This is why you need to make sure that you’re always at the top of your project manager’s list. You should meet with the agency at least once a month (if you pay them enough), talk to them and try to understand what they’re doing and how you can help them do their jobs better. You may even need to meet more often.

But it won’t hurt if you call them every week. Tell them what you liked in the report they sent, tell them that the last campaign really worked (or didn’t), discuss what is going on in your physical stores, tell them what other marketing campaigns you’re using on other channels and tell them who you’ve fired or hired. The more information they have, and the more information you have, the better the job they’ll do for you.

So, call them. Right now. Or at least send them an email saying, “whazzzzzup?”.

Marketing budgets set in stone

When we started with advertising online, we were advertising by themes. If you wanted to advertise to young females, you advertised on a website that was targeted towards them. Today things are different – we advertise to a specific person, no matter where that person is on the internet.

Advertising agencies have packages that don’t fit this reality anymore. They will offer you Facebook or Adwords advertising for a specific budget and will stick to that. But we need to follow the user and use the channels that work best, not those the agency loves best.

This means that we can’t really let the agency lead the way. Your marketing needs to be where you’ll get the best results. This means that we test out different channels and then move the budgets to where they work the best.

Spreading the marketing budgets too thin

Sure, I’ve been guilty of name dropping the newest social network to impress clients, and when I run  my influencer marketing class, I like to talk about influencers on TikTok. But all of that is not always true. All in all, Barney isn’t right when he says, “New is always better”.

The idea that we need to advertise on all channels, test new channels and start things here and there … yes, they’re trying to impress you and show that they’re thinking about you. Sometimes they just want to brag that they were the first advertiser on Foursquare. In reality, this is not always true. You don’t need to try everything.

The budget on every channel needs to be big enough for that channel to work and reach enough people, and the AI needs to learn on a large enough sample size. And if you’re spread too thin on multiple channels, the channels don’t get the opportunity to learn. It’s usually better to allocate the total budget to one channel and do it properly. When that channel is ‘full’ and we have it all set up, we can look at others.

Your inactivity

The agency carries the responsibility to get the shi* done. I used to say that everything was our fault. Even if we only failed to convince a client to do something, it was our fault that we did not take enough time to explain something to that client.

But all that goes only so far. At the end of the day, if you fail to change something on your website, or if you don’t agree to change the ads, it’s your fault. If you didn’t prepare new ads, and you don’t want to pay the agency to do it, it’s your fault. No agency is powerful enough to do what you fail to do.

This means that if you’re not calling them weekly, just respond to what they tell you needs to be done and do it. Or pay them to do it.

Misalignment of metrics and goals

This can be the biggest mistake you make. If you don’t talk to your agency about the goals that you’d like to achieve, you’ll have a bad time. It could mean that they spend and sell more within your margin, but they won’t know that you have a high margin. Or, you’d just like a lot of people to see your ads, but they’re getting you cheap purchases.

There are different business goals and metrics, and you and the agency need to talk about them.

But there is a worse thing you can do: let them pick bad metrics. Good agencies don’t do that, but cheaper or bad agencies will pick metrics that don’t directly impact your business.

To be more specific, if they report only on CPC (cost per click) and CTRs (click through rates) or impressions, well, you have a problem. Whatever metrics they use, they need to be linked to your business goals.

Your agency may be using metrics and goals that you don’t even know about. Call your project manager today (and get a free set of knives 😀 ).

Marrying your agency

You know how relationships and marriages go. In the first month, you’re all in and you bring her flowers every day or make him coffee every morning. In the second month, you fart in front of your partner for the first time, and three years later you’re Al Bundy or his female equivalent.

The same goes for your agency – after a few years, the magic is gone. The agency does what they know works and you, as the client, are satisfied with how things are going. You don’t even need any meetings.

This is why you need to shake it up from time to time. Switch to a different agency and get some fresh ideas and new energy.

The problem with this advice is that a new agency will need to learn everything from scratch – your products, your clients and about you and your needs. This learning takes time and will lower the efficiency of your marketing in the beginning, but the potential is so big that you should still do it. Because the grass is always greener on the other side.

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