Are you getting the most from your marketing agency?

Finding a great marketing agency to work with is a step in the right direction for companies who are struggling to balance onboarding new customers with sales calls and delighting existing clients. Outsourcing your content creation, data capture, design work and web development to a team of experts can be the most savvy and success-building move a company makes, especially when the agency specialises in your industry.

But you’ll, understandably, be asking many questions about how you can work together to achieve your goals – here are five of the most important questions to ask when working with your marketing agency.

Am I working with a “Yes Man”?

Working with an agency that constantly says “yes” to everything should throw up red flags. As experts in the marketing field, it’s important for agencies to set clear goals and keep you on track to meeting the targets you’ve outlined together, rather than dropping everything for newer, shinier work. If they’re abandoning tasks for an opportunity to upsell you a service that may not be beneficial to your business (or worse, dropping your work to say “yes” to another client) this agency doesn’t have the self control required to be deliver your results.

What a great agency will say:

You might have some new ideas that you’d like to run by your agency – a great agency will have your company’s best interests at heart, and be able to offer sound advice about whether to implement them or not.

They will also factor in a timeline for when these new tasks can be delivered, so as not to throw off existing deliverables for the new work they’re scheduling. Over promising and under delivering, doesn’t do anyone any favours. Make sure you treat your agency with the same honesty and be prepared to have a challenging conversation if it feels like too many plates are being spun on your account.

Have I been given clear expectations and boundaries?

A great marketing agency will set clear expectations from the start, so it’s transparent to everyone what exactly is being purchased and delivered. They should send you an onboarding email or document outlining what you’ll be receiving, when you can expect to receive the first draft of work and the timeline for it to go live.

If they’re an established and reliable team, they will have these turnaround times expertly practised and documented; the same timelines will exist for each of their clients and they’ll be able to share this information with you easily.

What a great agency will do:

Your agency should make you feel welcome from the start and keep in regular contact. Perhaps a daily check-in email or weekly report on progress is included in your service, or maybe your point of contact at the agency picks up the phone to you on a weekly basis to catch up in person and take any questions you might have. An agency that is vague or keeps their clients in the dark with no visibility of what they’re working on is another red flag.

Is my agency telling me “No”?

Following on from the “Yes Man” being a potential danger, sometimes your agency may decline certain requests. This might be because the request is not going to achieve your goals, the work is far too time consuming and goes off-plan or they don’t have the experience to deliver those services.

If you hear the word “no” or are told a piece of work can be delivered no sooner than X, don’t be put off: this agency is showing signs of structure and reliable systems – you’ve less reason to worry about an agency who gives you boundaries than one who acts on your every whim. Agencies should give you a good reason as to why they’re declining your request, and anchor you back to the goals you’ve outlined together. You can always work with your agency to shelve some requests for another time or they could allow you to add them to a long-term ‘Wish List’.

What a great agency will do

If you’re working with a great agency, they will create a bank of ‘aspirational ideas’ to address later – so a ‘no’ turns into more of a ‘not right now, but later’.

Give your agency the time to start actioning some of the brilliant things you’ve planned together and space to see results start rolling in. Communication is key, so make sure your agency is telling you why a request is a no, preferably backed up by evidence or data from a dashboard like HubSpot or Databox.

Do we have communication, communication, communication?

So important we’ve written it three times, clear communication and up-front honesty are the best policies when working with an agency – for both parties. It’s important to share data with your agency if asked to do so, so they can start work on the best strategy for you, based on existing results. Obstructing your true data or only offering half of the picture – maybe if you are embarrassed or don’t fully trust the agency yet – will only result in a less optimised strategy.

If you don’t feel comfortable handing over this information, ask more questions of your agency first; get to the bottom of why you don’t want to share it with them, and why they want it.

Being honest about any difficulties you’ve been facing so far is also important so they can do their best to help your business. If you don’t know why you’ve been facing challenges, that’s fine too, but make sure you acknowledge the things that haven’t been working so far; the agency is there to help you, not judge you, so humility, honesty and openness are imperative.

Got a key event coming up or want a piece of work completed before you go on holiday? Mention any key calendar dates well in advance to help your agency help you.

What a great agency will say:

Great agencies want to work with great clients, so if you’ve got to the point of working together, that means the agency likes you and wants to help you succeed. Great agencies turn down ‘bad fit’ clients all the time, only working with those they can truly help and whose ethos aligns with their own; therefore, you can assume you’ve ‘made the cut’ as much as they have with you.

The best agencies put you at ease, have a friendly manner and plenty of procedures in place to help generate results.

Are we being encouraged to be tortoises, not hares?

You’ve been given a great pitch. Exciting targets have been outlined. Then you sign the contract. You’re keen to get going and want to see that work rolling in straight away to start getting those results. When you work with an agency, it’s easy to forget that, when they’re onboarding new clients, they need time to get to know your business as well as you do, and they need time to come up with a strategy that’s going to deliver. After all, you’ve signed up with an marketing agency because you know what you want but need someone to help you get it.

The agency’s aim will to be to build trust, so when they do offer you a new solution, you know they have your company’s goals in mind, rather than merely trying to increase their monthly retainers. A great agency will spend a lot of time at the start developing a great strategy for you, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t see results within a couple of days of signing a contract – in fact, if you do receive a strategy rather quickly, it could be a sign that they’re just using a cookie-cutter template for your gameplan that they send out to everyone.

Rest assured, if your gameplan is taking a while, it means they’re working hard on a customised strategy for you.

What a great agency will say:

A great agency gives you a timeline of when they’re going to deliver a gameplan to you and should be keeping in touch throughout the process so you know they’re on track. Most agencies love sharing all the good work they’ve been doing with clients, and especially the wins they’ve been achieving. But a great marketing agency will also share when something hasn’t worked, what they’ve learnt from it and what they’ll do next time.

An agency should be transparent with you and this includes failures as much as successes. What might have worked brilliantly for other clients might not work for you: there is a learning curve for the agency as well as you.

Delighting clients should always be the number-one priority for an agency, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Your agency should always set clear expectations and goals at the start and keep you on track to achieve them, handling extra requests fairly and effectively. Your agency should be aiming to build a collaborative relationship with you, that focuses on working ‘with’ you rather than ‘for’ you, and to have an open and transparent view of your business. This means they can meet – and hopefully exceed – your expectations in the long run, forging a long-term working relationship that means you continue to work with one another into the future.

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