First things first, this will inevitably ruffle a few feathers. BUT, I’m all for it!
The marketing agency industry is unregulated, unlike legal, or financial services, marketing services have no guarantees and no protection, no claims back should you not get the results you set out to achieve.
Most marketing agencies operate in the same way, almost as part of an unspoken code of conduct, to keep their way of doing things “hush hush”, a magic circle if you will.
Well, we’re about to get thrown out for exposing 6 ways your existing digital agency could be robbing you!
1. In the box thinking
Some people do expect miracles, but, most people don’t! Many agencies however, take on projects with a full understanding of what the client wants to achieve, only to sign the contract then, a months time later, say that it can’t be done and the project scope should change to a much easier one that can easily be done.
All in all, the agency takes the committed fee for the harder project that they could never deliver. They deliver an easy project that may not have the same impact for the business.
Agencies tend to confine themselves via in the box thinking, they bend what you need and expect to better suit what they want to deliver. What they want to deliver tends to be what is best for them and their revenue.
This misalignment never yields the best results for the business.
An example – You want to increase your traffic and the number of bookings for your attraction. The agency sign off on a contract covering PPC, Paid Social and SEO for £5k per month including ad spend. 2 months in the agency suggest a more content based approach is needed. Of course you trust the agency. What’s happened here is that the £5k budget includes ad spend, money spent through the agency that they cannot benefit from. This is the project you wanted and set out on. By shifting you to a content based strategy approach however, they’ve converted some of that ad spend into effort based spend at say £80 per hour to pay the content creator to write the blog posts for example, instantly making the exchange more profitable for the agency, without the worry of whether the results are as impactful for you the client.
2. Over promising, over committing and under delivering
How often do you see agencies pitching themselves as “full-service,” covering a spectrum of all things digital, even where their real expertise may lie in one or two of the items they offer?
Don’t fall for big promises of results in areas where you know the agency is not an expert; this may only lead to under-delivering and you being disappointed, not to mentioned missed deadlines.
Most agencies will say anything to win the contract. The Richard Branson phrase “say yes, then learn how to do it” springs to mind. Don’t let an agency go through the learning curve on your time and budget.
Work with an experienced agency who are able to prove their experience with facts, figures and client testimonies specific to the requirements of your brief.
An agency who is cheaper, and promises the same results as a company twice the price will only work out to be more expensive when all things are considered in the long run.
The fee on paper may seem less, but often they will work out to cost more by taking longer to deliver and wasting the first few months of budget whilst they find their feet offering services with inadequate experience.
3. Purposeful lack of clarity
As the client you may or may not exactly know what you want to achieve out of the digital campaigns and assets. In some cases clients don’t know, and hence they rely on the marketing agency to tell them what they should be monitoring and working towards.
A good agency will ask the right questions to ascertain what the client is looking to achieve through a structured brief and questionnaire.
However, if you don’t set a KPI from the off, then the agency can’t be judged against its performance. If your not sure what KPI’s to measure against and ask the agency for guidance, all too often they suggest “wooly” KPI’s that they know they will hit, most likely because they are already being hit.
If you think your agency is working towards purposefully vague KPI’s, or the reports they provide each month often look good but lack any detail as to what they have done that month or achieved, then you may well be a victim of daylight robbery.
4. Lack of innovation
Is your agency robbing you through their lack of innovation? Having been client side I inherited an agency who had a two year contract, each monthly meeting was the same, here’s the impressions, here’s the clicks but no mention of here’s the return or the impact. When I challenged them to come back to the table with new ideas, as we had noticed the same old PPC & display campaigns weren’t working as hard as they used to, they failed to come back with anything worthwhile.
They said that the PPC and Display campaigns were still working, quoting ROI still being in place even though it was down year on year, so we shouldn’t be looking at change.
This lack of willingness to innovate ties in with point number 1, it was easy for them to offer the same services, same report structure albeit with declining results month in month out, it was a “rinse and repeat job for them”. They inevitably over time became more familiar with the accounts meaning less time needed to optimise them, all while still charging the same figure each month when their actual effort to manage the campaigns was going down each month.
Remember, what works today may not work tomorrow, ensure your agency isn’t a “one trick pony”
5. New gimmicks that might benefit the agency more than you
From being client side in a previous life we were pushed to spend on video platform , Videology. 6 months in by law the agency had to have us sign a paper to acknowledge they own 17% of videology!
This is what happens when intent becomes misaligned…as Matthew Mcconaughey said in the film The Wolf of Wall Street; “It’s all a Fugazi, the game is taking money from their pocket into yours and then you get another brilliant idea …a new stock”.
Here the new stock is a new advertising opportunity, doubling down on SEO to really boost that impact or opening up another paid channel because of the success of paid channel 1. Here the new stock, was their own stock, videologiy, they were selling their own service to their own clients, without any real care as to whether it would really deliver the results for them. It just shifted untouchable ad spend into touchable revenue.
6. Percentage of spend pricing model
Last but not least, the most important way that your agency could be robbing you is this….working on a percentage of spend retainer. (Average is 8 to 10%).
Now you want as much return for as little a spend as possible, BUT if the agency works based on a percentage of what you spend then how can your goals be aligned? Their goal is to grow their revenue and they do that by getting you to spend more…
Let’s use a micro example, in your PPC account you spend big let’s say 100k a month in legal. There’s one keyword that swallows 3k per month and doesn’t convert. Here’s the thing the campaign is pretty big and there’s no real room to broadening out. This means if the PPC team pause that keyword and negative it (as they should) in one simple click they will be losing the agency they work for £300 per month. That’s 7.2k on a two year contract in one click. Do you think his boss and that agency train their staff to make that move?
Nope! Instead things will carry on and you’ll be shown more ways to spend more, sure your still growing your revenue but you could be growing it more whilst spending less…..that’s the key here. This is just one example in paid search, imagine the same in display, social etc then add up how much it’s costing you.
In digital marketing, you need every pound being spent in the right place and I promise you if your agency work on a spend percentage that your pound isn’t always in the best place…