At best, Performance agencies are a great way to help your brand reach new audiences, generate conversions using a combination of experience, specialized software, and lots of data.
At their worst (and, frankly, the most mediocre), agencies suck up a lot of money, create weak campaigns that don’t perform well, and that consume your brand’s advertising budget.
And their much worse chance, they can do such a terrible job that they can turn their customers away by advertising them and can damage the credibility of your business.
Unfortunately, there is little or no barrier to entry for people who want to start their own performance companies, flooding the market with agencies that may be equipped with people who want to earn high salaries, but without the experience to earn them.
It can be difficult to separate these agencies from the trusted ones that know what they are doing (although you should always check the reviews online before signing contracts). As a result, sometimes big brands end up in the hands of poor quality agencies.
If you are reading this post right now, you may be one of them, or you may be wondering how to evaluate the agency you just hired. The best you can do is to keep an eye on progress and campaigns and watch for these 7 signs that it is time to look for a new agency right away.
1. Your ROI is low
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There is an infinite number of goals that you can have for your advertising campaigns. You may want to generate leads, build brand awareness, get video views, or boost sales. No matter what your goals are, you want to see clear and measurable progress against the goal and you want a positive ROI.
For full disclosure, it takes time to get everything up and running and discover the pros and cons of the campaigns. Every brand has unique challenges, with many ideal target keywords, audiences, strategies, and more. Trial periods are normal, but after a short period of time, you should start to see progress quickly.
If you are actively losing large funds in advertising spending, even before considering the costs of hiring the performance agency itself, it is probably time to look for a change, especially after the first few months for most sectors.
By now, campaigns should be up and running to help you capture users who need a little more encouragement, and if you’re not seeing any progress, it may be time to look elsewhere.
2. There is no transparency
Some agencies are notorious for their lack of transparency. This may seem like a lack of detail on the strategies they are using or exactly how the agency is optimizing their campaigns, which they can say is due to keeping their “trade secrets” confidential. It can also appear as a confusing pricing policy to the point where you are not 100% sure of what you are paying or as a lack of reports.
You are a paying customer. The agency is working for you. You would be furious if you worked with a financial advisor who did not say exactly what you are doing with your money or why so why would you take it from a marketing agency?
Although they may not have exact answers outside of “our software suggested this optimization ” or “this is what best practices dictate”, you should never feel that your agency is being anything less than 100% correct with you.
3. No one can tell the strategy behind the actions
Here at Fator, we are proud to be one of the best in the field. Our account managers have a lot of experience, education, and training that will allow them to deliver great results for their team.
Not all agencies work the same way. Some agencies may hire novice marketers who may never have campaigned in their lives, teach them some best practices, and put the title “ad account manager” next to their names. This allows them to keep their labor costs low and their profits high.
When this is the case, there is usually a telltale sign: the account manager you are working with is unlikely to be able to explain the strategy you are using or why you are using it in a way that makes sense.
They may seem a little confused or have a hard time explaining why exactly this will work.
If no one can tell you why certain actions are being taken, it may be time to consider abandoning the ship. It can be a problem of transparency but it can also be a problem of incompetence.
4. Campaigns and strategies don’t look personalized
Each brand is different. Your products and services are unique and you are trying to reach a specific audience niche. This means that even if a brand has a lot of experience in its industry, you still need advertising campaigns and customized strategies for your specific products, services, and goals.
If the ad text that is coming back to you seems too generic in a bad way – to the point that it can describe almost literally any of your other competitors – that’s not a good sign.
While many agencies take a standardized advertising approach, it is also essential to remember that creativity is also an important part of the equation.
5. They are not sending regular reports
Even if you don’t have a lot of knowledge about pay per click advertising, the agency you’re working with should still be sending out regular, transparent reports. They will also be more than happy to explain what these reports mean if you ask them to detail them for you.
Unfortunately, many agencies only report that “things are working”. They don’t explain why, they don’t even list any of the results – you’re just expected to trust them on their word, and if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking at, you’ll be stuck.
Ask the media professionals you are working with to explain why the results are good and what they mean for your brand. If you’re not sure, you can ask to see the data that goes into calculating your advertising campaigns’ ROI, allowing you to check that everything is in order.
6. Questionable comments start to appear
This is a big problem and frankly, it can be one of the biggest signs that it is time to look for a new performance agency.
Unfortunately, it is entirely possible that if you are working with a newer agency that is not so good, it will take a while for the reviews to start showing up.
If, however, you start to see questionable comments pop up, take them seriously, especially if you are not 100% satisfied with the agency you are working for. While there are almost certain to be some dissatisfied customers, even with the best agencies (and all companies), you will find that the positive reviews outweigh the negative ones.
7. Ad quality is suspect
Sometimes this can be difficult to determine if you are not an expert yourself, but other times it will be obvious and it is not even about the results.
Are there grammatical errors in advertising campaigns or misspelled words? Do they read how it can be written by a non-native speaker? Are they so openly full of emojis that they look like spam?
All of these are warning signs that the agency you are working with is not doing the job right.
Another warning sign? The ads appear to be being taken down by the google ads platforms for violating rules and guidelines. While part of this is normal, ads that are consistently rejected are not a good sign. They can signal inexperience or carelessness.
Remember that these advertising campaigns represent your brand and can be the first impression that customers have of what you are doing. You need it to be great.