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“Your Business + Agencies” Series: Is Your Agency Still Working For You?

Published: July 24, 2018

Author: Madeline Fitzgerald

During this 3Q Accelerate Week, we are breaking down the relationship between your business and digital marketing agencies, and how to navigate it successfully from start to finish.

Today, our focus is on understanding what you’re getting out of your current agency relationship – and if you should be getting more.
Anyone who has managed a third-party vendor relationship has faced the eternal question, from an executive, investor, or themselves: How do I know if my agency is working well for me? This is the type of question that requires regular check-ins; needs and relationships change over time, and your agency from 1-2 years ago may not be the one with the best alignment for your current needs.

When you’re assessing your current agency team, consider the following quiz:
Are you the one coming up with new ideas and suggestions? With many agencies, inertia can build over time. You might not even realize that things have gotten stale, but look back on the recent tests you’ve run: did your agency bring this recommendation forward based on your needs, or have you been the one putting forth all the new options? If you don’t feel like your agency is driving proactive strategy, then they aren’t a major driver of growth for you.
Is the reporting unclear? This particular question can be symptomatic of several different issues in an agency’s communication. Maybe they just send a bunch of numbers your way and leave you to crunch the data yourself to notice trends or changes, rather than the agency interpreting the report clearly and proactively. Or maybe they only report on positive updates, rather than being upfront about campaigns that aren’t going so well – and identifying how they’ll correct for and optimize against that poor performance. If the reporting you receive isn’t clear, actionable, and comprehensive, then the agency needs to up their transparency game.
❐  Do they not seem like experts? If your agency is truly a pro in their space, they should be offering a strong POV when you ask about channels, campaigns, and other potential tests. Additionally, they should be staying on top of new features, trends, and industry news. Did you find out too late that Google can double your daily budget automatically and Facebook has pulled your test audiences? Your agency might not be keeping up with the times, which means you aren’t on the cutting edge (but your competitors might be!).
❐  Do they not have strong relationships with their representatives? Building off of the above, the best way to be a true expert (and stay one) is to be in touch frequently with the players who make the rules of the game: Google and Facebook. A serious agency should be able to boast strong partnerships – not just with their “premier status” button but with access to Betas, co-branded case studies, and insider support and guidance.
❐  Are they only meeting a single need? Users don’t interact with your brand on a single channel, site, or device, so your media plan can’t afford to be siloed. If your agency can only handle a certain channel of yours, then they aren’t able to approach your digital spend from a holistic point of view. In fact, even if they handle all your media buying, they should be able to add value in multiple areas: can they assist with creative, organic search rankings, or conversion rate optimization? If not, you’re missing opportunities to consolidate this data and strategy for a full-funnel approach.
❐  Is your performance plateauing? Typically, this one is actually a symptom of the above. If your reporting isn’t transparent, you might not realize quickly enough that your performance isn’t what it used to be. If your team is not comprised of proactive experts, then even when they report on this performance lag, they likely aren’t anticipating your questions and needs with new strategies and tests to turn things around. Or, even if they’ve tried everything in the media-buying book, if they don’t have complementary teams to turn to (analytics, CRO, SEO, etc.), then they can’t dive in deeper to identify new growth opportunities.
Score: 0-1 Check marks – You’re in a great place! Your current agency is demonstrating that they keep driving improvement across the board and is equipped to execute on that vision.
Score: 2+ Check marks – This sounds like a great time to explore finding a new agency. Trust us, it’s not too high of a bar to try to find a partner who will meet each of these needs – in fact, this should be the minimum threshold. By missing out on multiple points here, an agency isn’t fully prepared to keep pushing the needle on performance for your accounts and effectively grow your business over time.

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