Six years ago a client said something very hard-hitting to me. He said, “Paul, you are our agency, you should not have let us do that.”
This simple sentence opened up an entire line of thinking and analysis for me. What exactly is the role of the Digital Marketing Agency? What can, and should, the client expect from this partnership? Where does the role of the agency end and transition to the client? Is there an end at all? Every client/agency relationship is unique and different in almost all cases but there are four things you should absolutely expect from your agency (and one thing that is a nice-to- have).
The often used and abused T-word. I wouldn’t mention transparency at all if I had not talked to so many companies this year alone who don’t have access to their own accounts, data, and marketing plans. Believe it or not, in 2016, there are companies that are still in the dark. Not acceptable. As a marketing manager, you should 100% demand that all your accounts, data, and deliverables are yours and are yours to take at any time.
Transparency goes beyond the data and the accounts. Agencies should always communicate to you exactly what is being worked on, what is being tested, and what the plans are for the coming month, quarter, and year. Said another way, if your boss or business partner ever asks you, “Hey, can you remind me what our digital agency is working on right now?” You should have an answer right on the tip of your tongue or in your inbox.
2. Platform and Tool Knowledge
If you are managing an agency relationship, the sad truth is that you almost certainly have been identified by the sales people of hundreds of tools, technologies, and platforms. You should not have to listen to every pitch and wade through all of the information hurled your way. Let your agency do this work.
Your agency can vet these for you and give you valuable points of view on them as related to the work you are doing with them. The agency should, in most cases, be platform agnostic yet knowledgeable on most of them. If they do have a preference or a partnership with a 3rd party, that should also fall under the transparency category. They should be able to tell you things like, “We realize that network ABC is promising you the newest, coolest look-a-like building technology, but actually their traffic is non-proprietary garbage that will not perform at all.”
At Add3, providing this type of insight is exactly how we avoid ever getting another, “You are our agency; you should not have let us done that,” slap. These insights can also help keep you out of lengthy and expensive contracts with the wrong tools.
This concept is very simple and yet much deeper than the two previously discussed. You simply have to be able to trust your agency and the people you work with there. I think the best way to help explain this is to list the many ways in which you will need them to be trustworthy. You need to be able to trust that:
- The numbers the agency provides you are accurate
- They will NEVER overspend the budget
- They 100% have your best interest first
- Deals or negotiations that are made will be honored
- Your data and strategies are protected
- They are working hard every day for you and not over-burdened
- They are on the cutting edge of digital marketing and always bringing you new and creative ideas
Once lost, as in all aspects of life, trust takes time to earn and can be lost in a minute. Demand that your agency be trustworthy and look elsewhere if they are not.
At Add3, we talk a great deal about how important it is to be able to look around corners. Your agency must be pulling reports and optimizing on a daily basis but they also have to be looking to the future.
Digital marketing is constantly changing. Reliable, high volume traffic sources can dry up quickly. Your agency has to have the next idea in testing at all times to back-fill any volume that is shrinking. The constantly changing landscape also can provide spoils to those who get to the platforms first. There is growth in the shifting landscape. It’s July of 2016, are Snapchat geo-filters a wild west opportunity right now where growth can be found? We are testing and will find out soon. Your agency has to be doing this for you or you will find yourself in a hyper-optimized race to zero. No one wants to be there.
And now for the nice-to-have feature of your digital agency…
How about if your agency was a group of genuinely interesting and nice people? I think that is a fair ask of us. Your job is tough. Someone is riding you hard to hit numbers and to grow. You are expected to drive growth, stay ahead of the competition, be creative, and drive your business forward. Stressful.
Your agency meeting should be something to look forward to. It is humbling to admit but we are not curing cancer or solving world hunger. We believe your agency should keep this in perspective. We should be able to crush results for you, while being fun to talk to.