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5 ways to avoid getting burnt by your marketing agency (again)

Marketing has changed a serious amount in recent years. But far too many professionals and marketing agencies look at marketing success the wrong way.
BY Sarah Groves - October 10, 2019

Search for ‘marketing agency’ on Google and you will find 293m results. From back bedroom outfits to global players, the marketing industry is worth billions.

Yet, so many businesses tell us they have been burnt by their previous agency, spent a fortune for very little return. 

Read our tips on how to avoid getting burnt. 

1. Definition of success

There are two ways to define the success of a marketing strategy. The right way and the wrong way. 

A question we always ask a client at the start of the relationship is ‘In 12 months time when we’re sat around this table, what needs to have happened for you to deem the relationship a success?

The wrong response and a reason a lot of businesses get burnt by marketing agencies is because their response focusses on vanity metrics e.g.

30% increase in website visits’, ‘coverage in all the major vertical press’ or ‘20% increase in my social followers’. 

The right response focuses on metrics that deliver value and impact your bottom line e.g.

‘I want to grow my revenue by 20%, which is based on increasing customer retention by 10% and winning 2 new customers a month with an average spend of 200k per annum. In addition, I want to achieve a net profit margin of 15%.'

Getting the definition of success right from the start ensures everyone is working towards the same end goal and there is nowhere for the agency to hide. 

2. Promising the moon on a stick

Typically clients ask 'when will I start seeing results'. To be fair, it's a good question and one we would ask if we were on the other side of the table.

However, no marketing agency can guarantee results and they should be upfront and honest about this rather than just telling you what you want to hear.  

If the response to the question is off the cuff and based on thin air - chances are they are promising you the moon on a stick. 

The only way to give a true indication is to use hard data. For example;

  • Website visit-to-enquiry
  • Enquiry-to-proposal
  • Proposal-to-sale 
  • Sale lead time 

So if an agency isn't asking these type of questions - challenge them on what their estimation is based on. 

We've all heard it before, but if it sounds too good to be true, it normally is.

3. One size fits all

If an agency doesn't take the time to understand your business and your specific challenges and goals this most certainly will impact their ability to deliver. 

Whether they have experience in your industry or not, every business is different and they should be willing to invest the time to understand what marketing strategy, campaigns and tactics are most suited to you and your target audience. 

If your marketing strategy looks like a template that could be applied to lots of different businesses and industries, it's likely they adopted the one size fits all approach. 

4. The teflon factor

You met the pitch team, you bought into what they were saying and had confidence they could deliver what you needed. So you signed on the dotted line.

And then you never saw or spoke to them again. 

It's a common experience a number of our clients have had with previous agencies. We call it the 'teflon factor' - they wheel out the experienced bods, who sell the dream and then the actual work is passed on to less experienced and skilled people. 

Always make sure you ask to meet the people who will be working on your account. 

5. Proof points

Don't forget marketing agencies are well versed in framing their story, it's what they do for clients day in and day out.

So don't just take their word for it - ask for examples of successful marketing campaigns, look at their reviews online, ask to speak to some of their clients. 

If they avoid the question, that tells you everything you need to know.

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