When first entering into a relationship with a marketing agency (or any other service provider for that matter) we have high expectations of outstanding service, a superior product, and generally an all-around beneficial relationship. And, in many cases this is what happens.
But, what if all is not bliss and you feel your provider is falling short? The key is determining if the relationship just needs a little work to get it on track, or if it’s time to cut your losses. Here are five warning signs that your agency may not be up to snuff.
Are they a strategic partner?
Any vendor you work with should dig in deep and understand your organization, your goals, and perspective. This takes more than a superficial approach. Your marketing agency should come to the table willing to learn and within a reasonable amount of time have a good grasp of your business to the extent that they can contribute not only from a tactical execution perspective – but strategy as well. If, within a month or two, they don’t understand your business almost as well as you do then they are missing the mark.
Do they have your best interests in mind?
Many vendors will give you lip service about how much they love their clients and how they always do the right thing. But, the proof is not in what they say – it’s in what they do. When a project encounters difficulties or challenges, or even gets off track, what does your provider do about it? Do they give you a series of excuses about the difficulties or roadblocks they encountered that made it impossible to deliver? Or do they simply outline the challenges and the game plan is to address them, and then put that plan into action?
Do they provide clear and proactive communication?
Whether through a simple miscommunication or issues with resources, problems do arise on projects. But it’s how your provider handles the bumps in the road that really make the difference. Open and honest communication is paramount. Your marketing partner should proactively provide insight into how things are going and what is on track, as well as give you a heads up on issues they may be encountering. This can come in the form of a weekly update or a quarterly review – either way you should feel that your marketing partner is being forthcoming and transparent about what is or is not getting accomplished. If they are a truly exceptional partner, you’ll find they will take these updates potentially even further, mapping marketing activities and results back to the business goals at hand and providing strategic insight on how they can help you further the business.
Do the projects stay on track?
Another key thing to look for is what I call “project slide.” This means that you started with a specific timeline or deadline, but for various reasons it gets adjusted. Projects will encounter delays or legitimate reasons why they can’t be accomplished on time. But, if this turns into a continual happenstance – meaning a trend develops – then, “Houston, we have a problem.” All levity aside, if your provider is constantly moving deadlines out and this is not due to lack of responsiveness or delayed approvals on the client side, then you’re dependent on a team that is inherently unreliable. Now, perhaps you have all the time in the world so this isn’t an issue, but for probably 90% of us this is not the case. With the extreme speed we all seem to move with these days, most of us can’t wait for someone to get around to something. You have the right to hold someone accountable for their commitments, and if they’re not meeting them regularly it’s time to reconsider.
Are you getting what you’re paying for?
An excerpt from The Ultimate Agency Report Card states, “There is no one-size-fits-all pricing model for agencies, but there is one right way to feel about what you paid for marketing services; that you got what you paid for. You should always feel like the completed deliverables and services rendered were well worth the money.” Beautifully said. You should always feel that your agency is meeting, and even exceeding, your expectations. This should be in the form of great deliverables that truly embrace your brand and market position, with a level of quality that’s worth talking about. If it feels ho-hum, then it probably is.
Another thing to consider is budget creep. Your agency should be able to provide a clear outline of expected costs and hold the budget to it. If, for some reason, costs exceed what was originally agreed upon they should proactively notify you, as well as give you an estimate of how much the budget needs to be increased. If, however, you’re just getting invoices with little to no understanding of what the hours are for, then it’s definitely time to consider someone else. An ethical billing practice is never negotiable.
In summary, there are lots of great marketing agencies out there, and certainly some that are not. If the one you’re working with is not meeting expectations then it’s time to take a closer look. In some cases a simple sit-down to figure out together what needs to make the relationship work better is all that’s needed. But, if your agency falls into more than one of the five warning signs or is not responsive to changing after you have had conversations with them, it’s time to get shopping.
Interested in learning more about how to select the right marketing agency to work with? Check out our Client Bill of Rights – 10 Points to Consider When Selecting a Marketing Firm.
Graphic Source: https://marketingmattersinbound.com/internet-marketing-systems/crm-software-reviews-the-4-worst-practices/