How Can I Trust My Business with a Marketing Agency?

     

Published: October 14, 2019

Being let down by an agency is a serious burn. You’ve taken the time to go through the process of starting up your project with the agency, listened to their plans and promises, and paid for services you expected to receive. Whether the agency was dishonest, overwhelmed, or just a mismatch for your company, the ultimate result is the same: you still need to meet your marketing goals, but your budget and your trust have been depleted. Now what?

Beginning Again
Venturing out in search of a new agency can be intimidating during the aftermath of a letdown. Before you start the process, take some time to articulate what you feel went wrong in your last experience. Which goals were not met? Which services were you unhappy with? Was there a style of service that you found unsuccessful or unhelpful in some way?

Next, take some time to re-examine your marketing goals and how they tie into your business goals. It’s possible some trouble with the previous agency wasn’t necessarily due to incompetence or dishonesty, but instead grounded in a misunderstanding over your goals. Don’t worry; we’re not here to place blame. Your agency should be skilled at identifying and stating your goals back to you to be sure everyone is on the same page. However, when you start the process of finding a new agency by identifying what didn’t work and why, you’ll be better prepared to focus on your needs.

Taking the Next Steps
Starting your new agency search by asking for recommendations from friends and trusted colleagues is probably apparent. What’s less obvious is knowing what to do with those recommendations. What should you ask when interviewing a new agency? What concerns should be part of your search process? Here are a few ideas of questions to ask:
  1. What industries do you typically work in?
  2. What are your agency’s core capabilities?
  3. What is your company culture like?
  4. Do you use contractors, or is the work done in-house?
  5. Do you (or your employees) have any relevant certifications?
  6. How do you measure results?
Next, you’ll want to ask for references, portfolios, case studies, or any other recommendations the agency has. And, be sure to actually check the references; don’t be satisfied with the fact that there are references! Call the companies, ask about their experiences, and find out what made each one recommend the agency.

Start Small to Build Trust
A full-scale marketing program might be more than you’re willing to jump into after being burned by a previous agency. Instead, pick one project that has a clear and understandable deliverable to work on first. If that goes well and you feel like the agency is a good fit, then you can jump in with both feet. If the project did not measure up to your expectations, you wouldn’t be locked into a long contract or in the middle of several projects that will make it difficult to move on.

The projects you choose for your starting points should be ones where you can get a feel for the agency’s processes, how they work with change requests from you, and where they can showcase some of their talents. For example, creating a promotion for a special event or a new product launch can be a good place to start. Or, try a social media launch or re-launch that includes a campaign with fixed goals such as boosting product sales or event signups.

A Word on Pricing
You’ll want to ask for proposals from each marketing agency you are considering. Most of the prices should be similar across all the agencies, and any who are far outside that middle ground should be carefully examined--but not necessarily put aside.

For agencies that come in on the low end, it may be that they are newer and trying to build their portfolio by offering lower rates. Some have lower pricing because they use a lot of automation techniques or are outsourcing parts of the job to cut costs. None of these are reasons to disqualify the agency as most will use at least some automation and outsourcing things like copywriting are fairly common. Instead, be sure that the core services such as website and graphic design, strategy building, and research into customers, markets, and SEO are all done by regular employees.

High prices don’t necessarily point to the best in the business or to a company that’s trying to dupe you, either. Ask why their prices are higher than the rest, and follow up with any references provided to see if those clients feel the work they received was worth what they paid. It may be that an agency is exceptionally skilled and the high prices mean that their level of services are better directed for companies with more significant or more complicated needs (and budgets!) and your company isn’t quite there yet.

As you review proposals, don’t be afraid to ask for a basic marketing plan. A fully-developed plan is typically reserved for after an agency has been selected and a contract signed as it takes a considerable amount of work and research. However, any agency should be able to give you the basic steps they would take to achieve your goals so you can better understand the value you’re getting for their fees.

Focus on Problem Solving
Once you’re ready to get started with your new agency, there are a few things to keep in mind as you move forward. First, discovering some of the shortcomings of the old agency and a few remnants of their work are inevitable. Some of these remnants may cause delays or need some extra attention to resolve. It is important to stay focused on your goals and not get tied up with frustration or blame with the old agency.

Together, you and your new agency should remain laser-focused on overcoming any leftover shortcomings, starting your new strategies fresh, and working together to achieve your marketing goals.

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Tags: Marketing Agency