There’s no doubt that digital marketing delivers results. With platforms that allow you to traverse the breadth and scope of the Internet at little to no cost, digital marketing gives you the channels to reach a wider and more diverse audience. However, running a campaign is time-consuming. If you’re managing a business, it’s best to outsource digital marketing to an agency so you can allocate more time to activities that keep your checkout counter busy.
The painful reality is that while digital marketing can deliver results, the same cannot be said for some digital marketing agencies. It might seem ironic that these agencies use their marketing and promotional expertise to oversell their abilities but turn in underwhelming outcomes.
While no one can guarantee success that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hold the digital marketing agency accountable for falling short in its deliverables.
The Digital Marketing Agency Sales Pitch
If you’ve been there before, skip this and go to the next section. Or you could also relive the time you attended the preliminary meeting with a digital marketing agency that gave a presentation with figures and information that seemed too good to be true.
In fact, the Request for Proposal (RFP) was so comprehensive that it took you a week to comply. The process itself was seamless; every concern was ticked off the list.
If you were looking for red flags, the search was abandoned after you got sold on the agency’s impressive list of clientele, testimonials, and industry-leading suite of services.
Then, came the hook – all of these services plus expected results at the most competitive price.
A handshake and a few signed contracts later, you come away from the meeting thinking you made the right decision and feeling that the future looks bright.
Digital Marketing: The Reality Of Working With An Agency
However, 6 months into your digital marketing arrangement, everything seems to have unraveled. There are glaring flaws in the content, the publishing schedule isn’t met, the number of followers and engagement level isn’t growing, and an increase in website traffic is inconsequential.
The outcomes aren’t what you expected, client meetings become more contentious, the channels of communication start to dry up, and before you know it, you’re back to square one.
In your mind, the digital marketing arrangement with the agency was a bonafide flop. It was an investment that didn’t pay out dividends. You’ve lost faith in digital marketing and view it as a scam where agencies prowl the Internet for unsuspecting clients.
There could be truth to what you’re thinking. However, there remains another truth that’s hard to question:
Digital marketing works. It delivers results and helps grow businesses.
A study by respected think tank McKinsey shared its findings that digital marketing can increase revenues by an average of 5% to 8% during a 12-month period and that the process has been shown to generate a five-fold increase in digital sales.
So you were on the right track by hiring a digital marketing agency. The only thing you missed was holding the agency accountable for the results.
How To Keep Your Digital Marketing Agency Accountable
You’re correct in assuming that the digital marketing agency shoulders the blame for the failure of the campaign to deliver the desired outcome. But you’re not 100% free of any accountability as well.
Who made the decision to hire the agency?
First and foremost, the digital marketing agency runs a business and generates income by signing up clients. Like other agencies, it will promote its business in a way that entices clients to hire their services.
Since you chose this particular agency, then it means you got swayed by their presentation compared to the other agencies. That could be construed as proof of concept.
What went wrong?
From our experience, problems between the client and the agency arise because there’s no discussion about setting expectations. You need to set expectations in order to establish the accountability of the agency.
Step 1: Request for a Comprehensive and Highly-Detailed Scope of Work
The blame game and finger-pointing can be avoided simply by drawing up a comprehensive scope of work that’s detailed in black and white. As the client, you have a lot of ideas and questions percolating in your head. It’s the job of the agency to sort things out and organize them in the scope of work.
What’s included in the scope of work?
Goals and Objectives –
It all starts with your goals and objectives. What do you want to accomplish from the digital marketing campaign?
Do you want to increase inbound traffic to your website? Are you hoping to improve sales conversions? Are you prioritizing your online exposure by expanding your base of followers and enhancing your reputation as a provider of quality products and services?
A business can have multiple goals and objectives. Of course, it’s not realistic to hit every one of them. It’s the job of the digital agency to guide you on how it plans to chart the course toward accomplishing your goals.
Define the Targets –
Let’s assume you want to increase your number of followers to 1 million. If your current number of followers is 10,000, it won’t be realistic to expect the digital marketing strategy to hit 1 million followers in one year.
The digital agency has the experience and the numbers to show you the realistic targets you can shoot for on the road to 1 million followers.
If the agency has handled multiple accounts, it can share with you the experiences of clients who are in the same industry or faced similar challenges.
When should you expect to hit these benchmarks? The digital agency has to establish the estimated timelines for each goal or objective. The keyword is “estimated”.
A digital agency can project or give the best-educated guess as to when you can attain a benchmark but it cannot predict with 100% accuracy when this milestone is achieved.
For example, if your goal is to increase inbound traffic to your website. Blogging is a proven strategy for generating website traffic but it takes time to bring up the blogging schedule from 4 posts per month to 16 posts per month.
It takes time to develop a blogging strategy. The content writers will continually search for the top-performing keywords while the Digital Marketer will refer to analytics to fine-tune the blogging guidelines.
Ownership of Assets –
Ownership is when things can go south pretty fast. This is especially true if the digital marketing agency was also commissioned to set up your website.
The website, blogs, images, and other forms of digital content are your assets. Many business owners who hire a digital marketing agency are oblivious to the possibility that they might have unwittingly sold off their assets to a second party.
You have to clarify the issue of ownership of assets with the digital agency and this should be covered by a provision in the Memorandum of Agreement.
Services Covered –
To avoid misunderstandings, it’s important to define the services that the agency will provide.
For example, if the digital agency was hired to create content such as blogs, videos, and infographics, the MOA must define the specifics of this arrangement. If the ownership of the assets resides with the client, then the agency should be paid for creating the content.
Usually, the budget or the projected cost of the agency’s digital marketing services is included in the MOA or Service Agreement (SA) and features a detailed breakdown within the provision or as an addendum.
But to be sure that everyone’s on the same page when it comes to the budget, you can mention it in the scope of work and include an explanation that the details can be seen in the SA.
The budget must present a detailed breakdown of the expenses. The services must be itemized and the cost calculated based on the schedule of deliverables.
Step 2: Require the Agency to Set Up a Process Flow/System of Collaboration
After you’ve finalized the scope of work, the next step is to set up a system that makes it easy for you to keep track of the agency’s progress. You don’t have to be involved in every process. You can assign someone from your team to represent the company and be included in the agency’s process flow.
The idea is to promote collaboration between you and the agency. Collaboration doesn’t mean that you micro-manage the agency. They are the experts and you hired them for their skills and experience. You have to let the agency do its job.
A key component of the process flow is the submission of performance reports. The schedule for submission must be included in the scope of work under “Timelines”.
The digital marketing agency knows how to read website and social media analytics. Ask them to print out the analytics and to submit a monthly report including their analysis of how the campaign is performing.
Having a process flow in place not only allows you to monitor the progress of the campaign but you open up a channel of communication that the agency can use to relay their immediate concerns or recommendations.
And it works both ways. Through your representative, you can relay some ideas, concerns, and suggestions that you want the agency to look into or consider.
A good analogy would be of the right hand knowing what the left hand is doing. Trust is a quality that’s earned over time. While you don’t want to hover over the digital marketing agency, you shouldn’t be left in the dark as well.
Step 3: Schedule Regular Meetings
Going back to Step #2, don’t assume that the digital marketing agency’s report on your site’s and social media’s reports is the absolute truth. You must have someone on your team who is experienced and knowledgeable in reading analytics.
It would be a good idea to schedule regular meetings with the digital marketing agency to discuss the reports and the current status of the campaign. In fact, weekly meetings might be the most ideal schedule if you can set a time for it.
There should also be a QBR or Quarterly Business Report where the digital marketing agency will present a summary of the activities, results, improvements, and other relevant actions that were undertaken in the last 3 months.
You must also prepare your company’s evaluation of the agency’s performance. The metrics could be different such as the ability to meet deadlines, professionalism, attention to detail, quality of deliverables, work ethics, ability to manage the budget, and client support services.
A reliable and trustworthy digital marketing agency would welcome a performance audit from the client. If the agency you hired shows hesitancy for an audit, consider that as a major red flag.
As the old saying goes, “It takes two to tango.” An agreement is an arrangement between two parties whereby each party is accountable for delivering on his obligations.
The fourth and final step is to hold yourself accountable.
Yes, you’re not off the hook in the event the digital marketing campaign goes sideways. Did you deliver on your end of the agreement?
- Were you able to provide the information and materials needed by the agency?
- Were you able to answer all of the questions cascaded to you accurately and in a timely manner?
- Did you consistently review all of the content drafts sent to you by the agency and give your inputs within a reasonable time frame?
- Did you lend manpower support when the agency requested it?
- Did you pay the agency’s invoices on time?
A client-service provider agreement becomes effective and delivers the desired results if both parties view the arrangement not as a contract but as a relationship.
Your digital marketing agency consists of people who have emotions. They are more inspired to do their best when the clients they work for are likewise engaged and motivated.
As we mentioned earlier, a digital marketing agency is first and foremost, a business. The agency operates for profit. The principals signed you up for the purpose of growing their business.
But for many, the key to sustainable success is to establish long-term relationships that are based on having a successful track record. In truth, the agency’s interest to succeed in its business lies in its ability to deliver results for your business.
Instead of adopting a mindset of the agency working for you, work with them. Collaboration is a proven way of realizing the preferred outcome.
If you’re thinking about promoting your business via digital marketing, give us a call and we’ll work with you in developing a step-by-step process of effective collaboration.
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