I’ve put a lot of time and effort into this post and hope everyone reading finds it valuable. Typically a post like this will just attack what the client is doing wrong and how it inhibits the agency from getting results. In this post, I wanted to break it down across both the agency side as well as client side because as of right now, there’s still a lot of room for improvement on both sides.
Let’s start agency side because most marketers working for agencies have no problem pointing the finger of blame the clients way because they are “the guru”, not the client. I think it’s important to take a good hard look at yourself before you start blaming others. Let’s go…
Not Enough Man Power
One of the biggest reasons that agencies aren’t getting it done for their clients is because of a lack of man power. I think all leaders in online marketing companies can attest to this, one of the hardest things to do within an agency is to determine capacity and when it is time to hire. Because of this, clients often times aren’t getting the work they paid for and when that happens, results suffer.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to prevent this if you are the client. You can stick to your guns and hold them accountable for every item in the statement of work and deliverables. You can also question them on their capacity and ability to give you the attend you are paying for, but that’s easy to cover up.
Far Too Much Outsourcing
Another huge problem is that agencies are looking for ways to get more work done without having to hire. When they do this, they look to partners to outsource to as well as going to the Philippines or some other low wage country to take care of fulfillment. Don’t get me wrong, neither are necessarily bad, what’s bad is when too much work is getting outsourced, or they’re outsourcing strategy and difficult tasks and you lose control of quality. It happens almost every time.
As a client, you should ask your agency, what do they outsource, how much of it, and to whom. Again, outsourcing is not bad, too much or the wrong kind of outsourcing can be detrimental to a campaign.
Not Enough Expertise In-House
The next is extremely hard to gauge, that is, not having enough expertise in-house. Great digital marketers hard hard to come by and when you find them, you have to pay through the nose to get them to join your agency. Not only this, but if it is a full service agency, you have to have several A-Players well versed in different verticals. When an agency starts putting untrained individuals managing strategy and execution, regardless of vertical, the work dramatically suffers.
As a client, you should be asking your agency who is heading up strategy and execution. If it is someone who has less than a year of hands on experience, you probably aren’t getting what you are paying for.
Not Current With Best Practices
This is probably less common than the others, but still a problem. From time to time, you’ll find an agency that isn’t up to date with best practices. Maybe they are still keyword stuffing on page optimizations and building links from blog networks. Maybe they are spamming social media in hope to get a few new customers. Not only will this hurt your results, but it could penalize your site for the foreseeable future. Not good! All the more reason you need experts working on your campaign!
As a client, you should be asking your agency what they do to stay current with best practices and industry changes. What blogs do they read? What conferences do they attend? How often do they train their staff? These are all critical components to a well trained and up-to-date agency.
Not Holistic In Their Strategy
Lastly, and a big problem as well, your agency is not holistic in their strategy. They are not looking for the best ways to grow your business, but the ways they are most comfortable with, which might not be in the best interest of your business. That is why it is extremely dangerous to hire an agency that specializes in just SEO, or PPC, or Social. You want a company that can take a step back, look a the big picture and put together a strategy that blends several strategies together to supercharge your business.
As a client, you should be asking tough questions like, why aren’t you considering (SEO, PPC, Email, Etc)? Why are you only focusing in one vertical? And so forth.
Alright, that’s enough beating up on agencies, let’s transition the beating to clients (kidding, no beating is happening, just loving nudges). To start off, I believe that most problems that happen on the client side are because they are not properly educated pre-sale, which at the end of the day, is an agency problem. Some are not, but most are. Let’s go…
Haven’t Made SEO A Top Priority Internally
A huge frustration for agencies is when a client is on boarded, however, the internal team is not bought into or haven’t made this a top priority. SEO and other digital strategies require a shift in the way you approach your marketing initiatives. It isn’t a pass the baton strategy, instead is an all hands on deck strategy. Digital needs to be incorporated into everything you do within your organization, so get with it!
As an agency, you need to help educate and sell the idea of getting buy-in and everyone supporting the effort. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a ton of time and effort, however, receiving a few blog posts and social media updates from each team member per month goes a long way.
Fail To Implement All Recommendations
Another big frustration for agencies is when clients fail to implement recommended changes to their website or alter the changes significantly. When a marketer recommends changes, they’ve put a lot of time researching, performing keyword research and competitive analysis and need those exact changes in order to add fuel to the fire. Not making the requested changes is like cutting someone off at the knees, they are then forced to crawl instead of sprint. Don’t’ do it!
As an agency, you need to get firm commitments from your clients before you make recommendations that they will implement them on their site in a timely manner. We put it right in our terms that if the recommendations are altered or not implemented within two weeks of delivery, we cannot be held accountable for poor performance. You should as well.
Probably the biggest problem is that clients don’t want to spend the money necessary to get results. I’ve got news for you, SEO and other digital strategy and execution isn’t cheap. Yes, there are hundreds of companies who will do your SEO for a few hundred bucks, heck, there are dozens here in Utah alone, however, to get real, sustainable results, you have to have a proper budget.
As an agency, it is your job to educate the client on budgets. You need to put in the time to research competitiveness and understand what amount of resources (tools, man power, etc) to get the job done. You are doing no one a favor by doing things on the cheap and you give SEO a bad name… so stop it!
Focus On The Wrong KPIs
Another problem is when clients want to focus on the wrong KPIs from the beginning of the campaign. It’s not uncommon to hear, I want first page rankings, or I want to triple traffic. These are not great KPIs. Yes, in most cases, these KPIs lead to something greater, however, when you really get the client to open up about their business goals, you can put in place KPIs that matter and that drive performance. Getting hung up on rankings or traffic most often will send you in the wrong direction and that’s never good.
As an agency, it is vital to your success to sit down with the client before you begin the campaign and discuss their business goals, define KPIs and then work toward them. It will take some education as to why you won’t be focusing on growing traffic rather focusing on brining the right traffic, but in the end, everyone will be much happier. I promise!
Refuse To Provide Insight Into Results
Lastly, believe it or not, it is a massive problem when a client withholds crucial data like leads and conversion data from their agency. Without that information it is almost impossible to optimize campaigns and drive the results the client is looking for.
As an agency, I would highly recommend that you turn away any client who is not willing to set up goal tracking and put a value to each goal or ecommerce tracking. It’s just too hard to run a successful campaign without it.
So there you go… Like I mentioned, there is a ton of work to do on both sides. I’m hoping that this post will help clients and agencies understand the pressing issues on both sides of the table and that they will work together to make things happen.
About The Author
Greg Shuey is a digital marketing executive for Stryde and Signs.com. In his free time, which is minimal, he hangs out with his wife and kids as well as performs technical SEO audits for small and large businesses.