As businesses continue to grow and their marketing demands increase, it is easy for both managers and employees to overextend themselves which usually results in burnout and bad outcomes. Digital marketing is a constantly changing dynamic landscape, and business owners don’t have the time to constantly stay abreast of every industry change and Google algorithm update. Budgets don’t grow on trees, and staffing an entire marketing team just isn’t cost effective for many businesses. So you take the other approach—hiring a digital agency. If you’re still searching, you can learn how to choose the best digital marketing agency.
Fast forward through the endless researching, pitches, and proposals—you took the plunge and hired an agency to take your marketing efforts to the next level. This step alone puts you ahead of half of your competition—50% of businesses don’t have a defined digital marketing strategy. But wait, you just handed the keys to your baby to a bunch of strangers. Now what? There are a few simple steps you can take to make your new relationship with your agency partners flow smoothly and maximize your ROI. They may seem like common sense, things like communication, properly managed expectations and patience go a long way in ensuring that you don’t kill your relationship before they even begin.
Communication is Key
The biggest concern I receive from clients is all based around communication. I’ve found that one of the best ways to increase overall success is to increase the level of communication. You need to have an open and honest discussion about the current state of your business. Put all the cards on the table. Tell your story. What marketing efforts have you done in the past? What worked? What didn’t? Now is not the time to hide any failures or errors in your past.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Remember, communication goes both ways. Make sure your agency is telling the whole story, even if it is a bad one. All results, both good and bad, must be communicated. Make sure your agency partners aren’t committing any of the 7 Deadly Sins of Client Reporting. I always like to wrap up client discussions by asking “what questions am I not asking that I should be?” So often we get into a routine of leading the discussion with our clients, so I make it a point to give my clients a chance to point out something that I may be missing. Don’t be afraid to point out these misses—they are incredibly valuable in catching things before they snowball into a bigger concern. Remember, your new agency is on your side—don’t be afraid to ask for more! I have yet to ever have a bad experience from one of my clients asking for extra information.
Get to Know Your Agency Partners
You are placing a huge investment in your new agency. Get to know them! The more you communicate and get to know the team members working on your brand, the more personally invested they will become. This is often a challenge, as most digital agencies aren’t in the same city, let alone state or country. Phone calls and video conferencing helps to put a personal twist on an otherwise cold and professional realm of endless emails.
Set the Proper Expectations
You have a reason for hiring an agency; be sure to address that reason from the beginning. Everyone has different expectations going into a relationship with an agency. But the one thing that is crucial is to make absolutely sure that everyone on your team is on the same page with everyone within your new agency. When the question “How do you define success?” is asked, both you and your agency partners better have the same answer.
It really is just as simple as that—make sure your view of success matches what you communicated to your agency. Set some ground rules on performance, deliverables, content calendar, reporting, and meetings. Be vocal about your Key Performance Indicators. Hammer home the numbers and metrics that mean the most to you. Simple things like this help make sure there aren’t any unwelcome surprises down the road.
Be a realist
If your agency ever tells you, “We guarantee you’ll have ___ leads/sales within 60 days, and your traffic will increase by ___ visitors by 90 days.” they’re lying to you.
The digital realm is a finicky beast, and making promises you can’t keep is one sure way to get fired. Hard goals just aren’t a realistic metric for success. We often use percentages as benchmarks for success, based on past performance. Look at the numbers behind your success in the past, and how your agency can improve on them. Short and long term goals are a great method of judging what you want to accomplish next quarter versus next year.
This ties into communication—make sure that you convey what you want to achieve, and that you get honest feedback from your agency. Everyone goes into an agency partnership hoping to achieve the stars, but in all actuality, that isn’t always reasonable. The beauty of digital marketing is the wealth of information at everyone’s disposal. Every imaginable statistic is at your disposal. Everyone can see instant results on traffic, impressions, conversions, and sales. This helps both your agency and your internal team to constantly adjust goals and performance metrics, based on what is accomplished along the way towards your long term goals.
Take your foot off the brakes—and have patience
This is often one of the most bitter pills to swallow as a business owner—you need to step away from your baby and let the professionals take the wheel. I am by no way advocating an abandonment strategy. Without your knowledge of your brand and company story, your agency partner will be throwing darts at the board, hoping something sticks. But, you hired an agency for a reason—to utilize their knowledge and experience to benefit your brand. You have your ground rules, you communicate daily with your agency partner and the groundwork has been laid for your game plan. Now give your agency the room and time to perform to their potential, without anything slowing them down.
This all falls back on trust. Yes, your agency needs to earn your trust. There also needs to be some initial trust provided, or else there cannot be success on both sides. Digital success is a long term endeavour, especially in the world of SEO. We are talking months, not weeks or days. As every platform of your digital strategy unfolds—SEO, PPC, Social Media, Content, Demand Generation, Remarketing, etc—they will each support and build off each other to create something truly special. But it is this cumulative effort that accomplishes the most success, and giving it enough time to do so is crucial. You will want to see results as fast as you can, but take a step back, take a few deep breaths, and realize that you won’t see an immediate bump in sales. Any updates to campaigns, changes to strategy, or revision of content takes time to be noticed by your audience, and in turn see results.
From this point on, it is all about customization. Each business has unique needs and actions in order to ensure success. Everyone wants the same goal—success. In order for you partnership with an agency to be successful, you need to help each other, hold each other accountable, and collaborate towards your end game. Do this, and you won’t have to fire (or be fired by) your agency—and start from scratch with someone else.