Updated: Dec 22, 2022
I’m not going to make you scroll a million times to get the answers you came here for, so I’ll make my intro quick. I’m a fellow business owner just like you and I believe strongly that the marketing industry is broken and YOUR business is suffering because of it.
Listen, I’m not a hater; quite the opposite actually. I want every business to be successful, including marketing agencies. But I also call it like I see it. The truth is, your marketing agency is probably failing you in one (or more) of these four ways. I want you to be able to identify the signs, and ultimately arm yourself with the tools to fix it so you can get back to doing what you do best, running your business. Why do I care? I’ve been burned too (read below) and so now my mission has become to make marketing honest again. I want to make marketing honest so that marketing can be profitable again. And if marketing becomes profitable for your business, then finally marketing can make sense again. So let’s dig in… Here are the 4 Signs Your Marketing Agency Is Probably Failing You.
#1 Your Marketing Agency Is Probably Failing You…
if it has created beautiful visuals…but there’s still lackluster results (or worse, no results).
This happens a lot with web design, graphic design and social media marketing. You’ve got a gorgeous (and expensive) website and it just sits there taking up digital space with little more to show for it.
Or what about the amazing social media posts that they created for your Facebook that get anywhere from 3-5 likes (and one of them was from your mom)?
The problem is, many agencies are a lot more interested in wowing you with flashy graphics than they are with getting you meaningful results.
Visuals are only as strong as they are strategized to be. It needs the right flow, the right messaging, the right call to action, etc. If the only thought put into a visual is “how can I make this look amazing…” they are failing you.
#2 Your Marketing Agency Is Probably Failing You…
if they are showing you impressive metrics… but the dollars in your business bank account don’t match.
Impressions? Cost-per-click? Views? What does it all mean? I’ve seen business owners come to me time and time again with a negative ROI on their marketing expense, but still clinging to “but they said my impressions looked good!”
Here’s the deal. There is a grain of truth to the idea that these metrics mean something even in the absence of actual conversions. Sometimes, it can absolutely take time to get the digital marketing engine running.
If you continually show a goose egg or a negative return in the context of “hopeful metrics…” there’s a problem. Your business, like all businesses are in the industry of making money. If you’re losing money faster than you’re making it, that better be part of the plan!
The reason this happens is not malfeasance (I tend to attribute discrepancies to incompetence before I leap to intentionality). Most agencies are simply built to scale what’s already working rather than starting an engine from scratch, or growing an immature engine.
The problem here is that the tactics that work for scaling are not quite the same as those that are necessary for growing. And believe it or not, many agencies do not recognize this. They classify you according to your budget, rather than according to your maturity as a business.
If you’re being treated for scale rather than growth, they are failing you.
#3 Your Marketing Agency Is Probably Failing You…
if they don’t provide outsized attention when things are going wrong.
Many agencies are frame-worked to a fault. This is fair enough, because many clients are annoying to a fault (yes, I’ll say it). There has to be clear boundaries in order for an agency to be able to operate in a creative space. You hired them to do what they do best, so let them do their thing. So they keep a tight schedule, limit their meetings, and other than reporting on metrics (that you should be tracking anyway), they give you an account manager that you can contact “whenever you want,” but they’re usually about as good as an automated response. This is all fine when the engines are humming. But when they’re not, and when results aren’t coming in…that requires outsized attention. It's your money that’s being spent. If the initial strategy isn’t working, you have to move fast to tweak it. And if loss is part of the strategy (i.e. you were prepared that you’d be burning money for a few months before expecting any returns), you better have a plan to pull the plug before things reach the point of no return. Because of the bureaucracy inherent to many agencies, it could take weeks or months before someone actually admits there’s a real problem. If you don’t have an advocate that cares about your results more than they care about their framework, they are failing you.
#4 Your Marketing Agency Is Probably Failing You…
if they are just giving you what you want.
This probably sounds a bit contrary to my last point. But hear me out. If you went to your marketing agency looking for a specific service they offer, you’re going to be sold that specific service. In other words, you’re going to be sold what you say you want, which is not necessarily what you need. I see this often with social media. “If I could just get my TikTok going, my problems would be solved.” With that mentality, you are a sitting duck. You’re going to get sold the fanciest, most expensive-looking TikTok Management product…and even if your views skyrocket or your content looks great…there’s no real result. Maybe this has already happened to you. Here’s the main issue. TikTok might be a lucrative vehicle for your business. But rarely is it going to be lucrative on its own. There are an abundance of other factors to consider (that’s where Sign #2 really applies). What I can tell you for sure is this: if you are sold the exact service you are looking for, they are failing you.
I want to disclaim that this is not occurring at every agency. However, it is occurring far too often and when it does, the biggest losers are the small- and mid-sized businesses that are just trying to grow their revenue. Owning a business is tough work. There are plenty of more important things for business owners to do than worry about how to spend a marketing budget effectively. Effective marketing requires a results-oriented strategy. Rarely is success found with a theoretical, over-hyped, cookie-cutter strategy. You don’t need the 15 Secrets to the 5 Steps of [insert something clever here]. You need to know what to do right now: what’s the next domino to fall? What is my next move? Will someone just tell me what to do?! There’s no cheat code or on-switch to generate results. You can’t just throw money at it either, believe it or not. Results that build longevity are the yield of a strong foundation: a results-oriented strategy.