Is your digital marketing agency ripping you off? 

Date: October 11, 2023
Author: Kristin Zhivago

Seems like a strange question for a digital marketing agency owner to ask, I guess. But we hear so many horror stories when clients come to us that I thought I could provide some useful information on this topic. 

Before I dive in, I should add a disclaimer here. 

What I’m going to be talking about here are digital marketing agencies and specialists who are not making life easier for their clients. 

These are the people we don’t hire, because they didn’t fit into a team of professional, strategic, helpful specialists. These are the people who cause clients to go searching for a digital agency or digital specialists who will offer them a positive, revenue-generating experience. 

I am not saying that all digital specialists or agencies are like this. What I am doing is helping you recognize the characteristics of those who will cause problems for you, so you can take action sooner rather than later.

1. “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing.” 

This is a phrase made famous by Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen, speaking to his engineer, who was trying to give him advice via the radio while Kimi was racing. Niki (“The Iceman”) is a man of few words and is notoriously blunt. 

Kimi’s reaction while trying to win a race is understandable, but this is not the kind of attitude you want in one of your digital marketing vendors. 

Unfortunately, it is quite common, especially among online advertising experts. They are “numbers people,” rather than “people people,” which means their happiest place is putting campaigns together, then tracking and tweaking. They are not as excited about meeting with clients, and they are only peripherally interested in discussing business growth strategies. 

If you’ve hired an online advertising expert, or are using one via your digital agency, you should meet at least 1x or 2x a month, even if the campaign is going along smoothly. The expert should be showing you weekly stats for impressions, clickthroughs, engagement, and conversions.You and your expert should make decisions about which campaigns to continue, modify, or cancel. 

At the same time, you should be discussing any changes that need to be made because of changes in your business, products, and services, and any that need to be made to:

  • Satisfy a requirement placed on the campaign by Google or any other channel you’re advertising in

  • Continue to improve the quality of the leads you are getting

  • Any landing pages for the campaigns (ALL ads should have appropriate landing pages)

You should also be talking about how the whole sales process is going after the good leads are pursued. And, there should be a plan in place to “nurture” those leads. 

If you’re not meeting to discuss all this on a regular basis, you are not getting your money’s worth. 

Online advertising can be one of the most successful digital marketing campaigns, but only when it’s done right. 

2. “You don’t need to know.” 

This is related to the “leave me alone” problem, but it’s different. 

Let’s say that you are working with a website designer or a social media expert, and some technical issues come up for the site or your images aren’t showing up properly on a particular social media channel. 

You all agree that there is a problem, but the conversation then gets vague, and you start to feel like I did a few times in my younger years when someone said, “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.” (Which, of course, made me resolve to learn everything I could about that subject!) 

You are a smart person. You founded and run your own company. You solve problems and make hard decisions every day. And you are open to learning things; you have to be, to be a successful business leader. So it is actually a bit insulting to be treated as if you can’t understand the technical details. 

Your digital agency rep or the professional specialist should always be willing to explain something to you, in a way that makes sense. You are the client, after all, and you want to understand what is happening behind the scenes. 

Yes, if you’re not strong in the technical area, you will need to keep asking questions. In fact, even if you are strong in the technical area, you still need to keep asking questions, because tech is always changing. 

Also, if someone can’t explain something so you can understand it, then they don’t understand it well themselves. There is always a logical explanation for “things that happen to sites” and “what will work and what won’t.” 

3. It’s too difficult to get things done.

So many clients have come to us after they are tired of begging their agency or specialist to get something done. These frustrations are caused by various factors. 

  • The agency might be understaffed. 

  • A freelancer is overly optimistic about what he or she can get done in a certain amount of time. 

  • There may not be enough attention paid to processes and systems that work efficiently.

  • One or more people may simply not care enough to stay on top of things, or there aren’t enough people who relish the details. (Some of the best project managers on our team have spent their lives living with the “OCD” label, but that’s precisely what makes on-top-of-it project managers great at their jobs. As long as they are also pleasant to work with, everything gets done on time and nothing falls through the cracks.)

  • The managers of the agency don’t stay in close touch with their specialists and make sure that their workload is manageable. 

  • A project turned out to be a lot more difficult than first assumed, and the specialist kept trying to fix it without communicating with the client.  

A well-run agency will get things done in a reasonable amount of time and get it over to the client to be approved. It will be the agency nudging the busy client more than the client nudging the agency. And the client and agency will have regular meetings to discuss the status of various projects, so everyone knows what is going on. 

4. You can’t tell if the campaigns are working or not.

We’ve had clients come to us having paid an agency a very high price for some aspect of their marketing, such as social or SEO, for more than a year—and they still don’t know if the campaigns are working or not. For all of the above reasons, they are in the dark about what’s being done and how effective it has been. 

All of this makes us sad. It’s your marketing and your revenue and your company. You should be able to see what is going on at all times. When we bring a client on board, we build a customized, easily accessible and controllable dashboard that lets them see the results of the campaigns at any time. 

You don’t need to suffer.

There is absolutely no reason for you to go through this kind of pain. We know because we’ve found our way past all of these all-too-common problems, with a combination of team members who care and super efficient systems and processes. 

All you need is a digital marketing agency whose top priority is your success. 

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