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Marketing agencies can be pivotal to the success of small businesses. If you’re already using an agency, you’ve probably saved a fair bit of time and frustration – as long as you picked the right agency. Hopefully, you’ve also seen a good return on your investment.
But we know (because our clients tell us) that many small businesses don’t have a good agency experience. Some even lose money. If that’s the case for you, you’re no doubt already pretty sure that you need a new agency.
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However, you might be in a position where you’re not 100% sure that your agency is no longer right for you. Maybe they’ve done well in the past, but things are faltering. Or you feel like the communication isn’t good enough. Or the agency seems chaotic.
It’s hard to know when to take the leap, and when to stick with what you know – even if it means riding out a temporary blip. But remember: a poorly performing agency can cost you money and reputation, so this is an important decision.
In this blog, we’ll break down the 4 signs it’s time for you to move to a new agency.
A good agency partnership can help you drive customer acquisition, foster brand awareness, and increase sales. They strategise and execute marketing campaigns tailored to your target demographics, allowing you to connect with your audience in a way that would be very hard to do alone.
And because agencies have expertise that you probably don’t possess in multiple marketing disciplines, from digital advertising to content creation, they can allow you to compete on an equal footing with larger competitors.
The significance of a good strategic partnership with the right marketing agency cannot be overstated. The ideal agency doesn’t just execute marketing tasks – it understands your business, shares your vision, and collaborates with you. In short, they’re on your side.
However, a mismatched agency partnership can be as detrimental as a well-matched one is beneficial. Misaligned goals, lack of understanding of your business, and ineffective communication can not result in underwhelming outcomes. It can also drain your valuable resources – a luxury you probably don’t have.
It’s essential to constantly evaluate your partnership with your marketing agency. Even a previously good agency can fall into bad habits. And if you find that there’s a persistent lack of communication, high staff turnover, and (most obviously) poor results, it’s time to think about whether they’re still right for you.
A good agency should prioritise regular and transparent communication and focus on delivering measurable results. They’ll do this by tailoring their strategies to your business’ unique needs, and should be capable of truly understanding what you want to achieve.
A healthy relationship thrives on communication. And a successful partnership with a marketing agency is no different. If you’re constantly chasing updates, left in the dark about strategies, or often find yourself confused by vague reports, it’s a clear signal that communication is lacking.
If there’s no clear communication, you might often feel out of the loop, adding unnecessary stress and uncertainty about your marketing.
Your agency should keep you informed about strategy, campaign progress, and the results they’ve achieved. If results are falling, you should be told about it and what they plan to do – delivering bad news is just part of an agency account manager’s job. If an agency is evasive about the results they’re getting for you, make sure you ask difficult questions persistently. It might be that they’re just struggling with workload, but either way, you need to know.
You should also feel that you can let them know if things change on your side. Business objectives evolve, new products are developed – when things change, your marketing strategy needs to change too. The whole process must be two-way.
Communication breakdown is a significant red flag in any agency-client relationship. Signs might include:
These might seem like small things to your account manger, but for you, they’re big. They erode your trust and confidence in the agency. And can even jeopardise your business reputation and growth.
Measurable results should be a key part of your agency partnership. Your shared goal should be to develop campaigns that really move the needle, generating leads or increasing sales for your business.
If this isn’t happening, it could be because the agency is using strategies that aren’t effective for your business. Perhaps because they don’t have the right expertise. Or because they don’t value your business enough as a smaller client. Or they’ve simply taken on too many clients and can’t handle the workload.
Naturally, it’s hard to gauge the success of your marketing if you’re not measuring results properly. Marketing without measurable outcomes is like sailing a ship without a compass – directionless and ineffective.
Your agency should be setting goals and telling you how they’ll measure progress towards them, which gives you an objective analysis of your ROI. A good marketing agency should do this as standard for several reasons:
All this means that if your agency isn’t getting results, they’ll possibly become evasive and fail to provide regular updates. If they’re providing results like increased website traffic, more leads and a higher conversion rate, you’d expect them to want to tell you about it. Plus, you’ll know from your own revenue figures that your results aren’t as good as you’d hoped.
Of course – in marketing we don’t always know if a strategy will work until we test it. But if your agency has tried one strategy that hasn’t worked out, they should be honest about this, and be able to update you regularly on what they’re trying instead.
If you seem to have a constantly revolving account manager working with you, that’s usually a bad sign. It can indicate that the agency is struggling, and even if it doesn’t, it can be very disruptive to your marketing.
Teams with high turnover rates lose the accumulated knowledge that they share, which means it’s hard for junior staff to learn and strategies can be executed badly (or at least inconsistently). Every time there’s a new face on the team, they’ll need to take time to fully understand your business’s unique needs, the nuances of your brand, and the strategies used. This is time that you are, essentially, helping to pay for – but it doesn’t benefit your business at all.
It also makes it hard for you to build up relationships with the people you work with at the agency. If you’re working with lots of different people, it’s hard to know who you can trust and who to go to with questions.
Even if the team you work with directly isn’t badly affected by high turnover, if the rest of the agency is seeing lots of staff changes, then be wary. This can be a sign that staff morale is low, perhaps due to understaffing or lack of promotion opportunities, which in turn can mean the quality of work suffers.
Marketing is competitive – now more than ever. Which means that generic, one-size-fits-all strategies are unlikely to work well. They can be OK for a new business starting out that just needs to generate some interest, but you don’t need to pay an agency simply to use the same overused strategies as everyone else.
Customers in most industries are sophisticated, and are unlikely to respond to generic campaigns that don’t stand out. Any good agency will know this, and be able to target campaigns to your audience. They should be doing deep research into your prospects, and creating ads, web copy and content designed to speak to them specifically.
If your agency likes to use templates to create ad copy, for example, ask questions about why they’re doing that and what research they’ve done to back up that approach. Because savvy consumers are often turned off by seeing marketing that they’ve seen before. Your agency should be capable of coming up with fresh ideas for your specific audience.
They’ll also know what channels to use at different points in your journey. For example, at Traffic Radius, we often run a Google ads campaign for new clients alongside SEO, which we then ramp down as their SEO begins to work. But for clients who already have a strong SEO presence, we might choose a different approach.
Your agency should also be taking into account your goals and budget when they work with you. If they’re constantly suggesting approaches that are out of budget, for example, that suggests they’re simply giving every client the same advice.
If you’ve decided your agency is showing one too many signs that they’re not as committed or capable as you’d like, what next?
Choosing a new agency can be daunting. Especially if your current agency is the first one you worked with. But you should be able to tell a lot from some initial conversations with other agencies.
Here’s what to look for:
And there’s one final thing – whether you get a good feeling from the agency. This is of course hard to quantify, but if your instinct is that something isn’t quite as it should be, you’re probably right.
Long-term partnerships are good, but only if they’re still working for both parties.
Your relationship with your marketing agency shouldn’t be a stagnant one, but a fluid partnership that can grow and adapt with your business. As you face new challenges and explore new opportunities, your agency should be right there with you, offering support and strategic guidance.
Good agencies will want and expect you to review your relationship with them, because they’ve nothing to hide and are confident in their work.
Think it might be time for you to find a new agency? Drop us a line.