The truth is that many, if not most, marketing agencies fail to deliver on the expectations they set when taking on new customers. Why is this?

Misaligned Expectations

For me, the most important part of a new relationship with a marketing agency is at the start. In this first set of meetings you set expectations that guide how the results are to be assessed. It is here the relationship is made or broken. Two mistakes can be made. Either unrealistic expectations are set regarding ROI, what results you should see and how long the work should take, or you focus on the wrong success measures. Listen to what a marketing agency is promising you when committing to activity. Are the goals you are to focus on directly linked to financial gains, or are the financial gains dependent on other measures, such as your number of Facebook likes

Short-Term Thinking

With most businesses working on tight budgets they expect to see results quickly, certainly within the first 3 to 6 months of engagement. Marketing agencies are therefore under pressure to demonstrate visible results as quickly as possible. This guides their choice of tactics. For example, a popular hallmark of success, for instance, is number of Facebook likes. Depending on the tactics used, this can be fairly easy to achieve quickly. If a marketing agency delievers this for the client, they may be satisfied with the results and renew their contract. Thus goes the thinking. This isn’t the agency being devious  – it is simply that the business logic of the marketing agency model favours quick win solutions.

Not surprisingly, these aren’t always the best long-term strategies, nor do they always translate into qualified leads. Long term strategic thinking, pursuing multiple marketing channels, always delivers a higher marketing ROI than a short term focus.

Activity Focus

Another reason many marketing agencies fail is their overemphasis on marketing activity at the beginning of the contract. This is linked to the pressure to demonstrate competency and credibility but can have a knock-on with results later on in the relationship. Te activity plan may, for example,  include on page SEO, schedule blog posts and a PR campaign, all within the first 6 to 8 weeks of a six-month engagement.

After this point, activity slows down, with results declining, leaving the customer disappointed. There is also the challenge of what to do with any leads generated in the first couple of months. For most marketing agencies, this is where their job stops. It is left to the customer to follow up the leads and turn them into sales, something they are not always equipped to do. Typically it is the marketing agency that gets the blame for this especially if the correct expectations were not set from the beginning.

Time to Get Better

Let’s be clear, the majority of marketing agencies are good at what they do. It’s just that they don’t often look at the whole picture. For example you may engage a marketing agency to bring in new leads, but what happens next? If you engaged a marketing agency because you didn’t have the people resources to carry out marketing in-house, how well equipped will you be to follow up on all the new leads?

This is why any marketing agency you engage isn’t guaranteed to make you any money. For this you need a clear marketing strategy that focuses on revenue growth taking into account your skills, systems, budget and goals. Only by starting with this can you improve your ROI from any marketing spend.