Agency relationships can be difficult. If you work with the wrong agency, it can be a roller coaster of emotional ups and downs. In fact, hiring and firing a marketing agency can feel a lot like dating.
There is the excitement of the initial phase of getting to know you, where the relationship is full of promises and the future looks rich and exciting. This is followed by the hopeful phase when things are not going exactly as you expected, but you still believe that they will work in the long run.
And then there is the separation phase.
You realize that things are not going well and that they will probably never be better than they are now.
Perhaps you remain for a while with a sense of loyalty or because they promise to make a big change that will make everything okay … but, deep down, you know it’s time to move on.
Eventually, you end the relationship and go back to where you started: frustrated, confused, and wondering: “why does this keep happening to me?
While there are a lot of bad agencies out there, if you find yourself in a revolving door of inter-agency relationships, it may be time to examine the common element in all of these relationships: you.
Creating a true partnership
When you hire an agency to help with your marketing, it’s easy to see things as a one-way street. You are paying them to do something for you, so they must do it. If they don’t meet your expectations, you can just find someone else.
This may be technically true, but your relationship with your agency is just that: a relationship. And you can’t buy a relationship… at least, not the kind of healthy, long-term relationship with the agency you’re looking for.
Like you, your agency partner wants things to go well in their relationship with you. A good agency will want more than your money. They want to be a true partner, contribute to the success of your business, and enjoy the time they spend with you.
To create this type of relationship, you and your agency need to come to the table with the right expectations. You need to create alignment and a shared vision. It’s a relationship, not just one night, so it will take investment from both sides to make things work.
With all of this in mind, here are four reasons why many companies go through the agency after agency. Now, none of that excuses the agency’s bad behavior, but that’s not what we’re focused on right now. Instead, let’s take a look at how you might be sabotaging your agency’s relationships.
1) Are you looking for a silver bullet
Often, companies hire a marketing agency because they are looking for a silver bullet – a secret that will completely change their business. Unfortunately, this “silver bullet” myth is perpetuated by many agencies and freelancers, who promise incredible results using their “methods” or “techniques”.
As a result, it is easy to believe that you can achieve great marketing success … if you could find the right agency.
The problem is, there is no silver bullet for marketing. Certainly, certain tactics, channels, or ideas sometimes produce uncontrolled success for specific companies, but even if the approach is generalizable to other companies, they quickly lose their effectiveness when everyone starts using them. Agencies exist because there is no silver bullet.
If so, why would you need to hire an agency to help you discover the right marketing approach for your business? You can use the same silver bullet as anyone else and make a profit.
Unfortunately, running and expanding a business is simply not so easy. But, if you see your agency as the “silver bullet” for all your marketing problems, you are preparing for disappointment.
Successful marketing requires a compelling vision and goal for the company, clear goals, and metrics for success, smart strategy, a willingness to fail quickly, and a ton of confusion to make things work. The point of hiring an agency is to gain access to the skills needed to do all of that.
If you’re looking for a silver bullet – either because you’re trying to save a sinking ship or because you’re waiting for a shortcut to get results – don’t hire an agency. Keep looking on your own. However, if you find this silver bullet, let me know and I will undertake the deal with you.
2) You are not sure what you need
Even if they are not looking for a silver bullet, many companies still hire agencies because they know what they want … but have no idea how to get there.
At first, this seems like a good reason to hire an agency. After all, isn’t that the goal of hiring an agency – to bring in new skills and knowledge that you don’t have?
But here’s the point: there’s usually a reason you’re not getting the results you want: you don’t understand the underlying problem.
And, if you don’t understand the underlying problem, how do you expect an agency to come in and fix things?
For example, many companies come to us because they think they need more efficiency from online marketing. What they don’t realize is that their campaigns are not aligned with their business goals and objectives. Making the wrong campaigns more efficient doesn’t solve the underlying problem.
If you are trying to work things out like that, all you will get is bad results. The right agency will take time to understand your customer’s buyer journey, first,
It will try to understand your sales process and your company’s goals and objectives. Only then will they begin to review the suggested strategies and tactics that can help achieve them.
Stop wiping out what doesn’t work and get to the main problem with your agency partner, even if it means approaching things differently than you originally thought!
3) You are focused on “Me”, not “We”
There are many agencies out there that would love your money and tell you what it takes to get your business. While this is flattering, a relationship with someone who just says what you want to hear is bound to fail.
If you expect your agency’s world to revolve around you, you don’t want an agency partner. You want an employee.
To be successful, you need to view your relationship with your agency as a partnership. A partnership is a relationship of equals, which means that both sides need to do whatever is necessary to create a win-win situation. If you are not fully invested in making the relationship work, neither will your agency.
However, there is another side to it all. When you and your agency are working as true partners, that’s where the magic happens. A good agency that feels invested in its business doesn’t just say what you want to hear, they do what needs to be done to make your business successful.
4) You are not communicating effectively
All relationships evolve over time. They have their ups and downs. Mistakes happen, priorities change and the unexpected happens.
In strong relationships, these challenges bring people together. Adversity leads to growth. But if you don’t communicate effectively, those same obstacles can destroy your relationship. This applies to relationships of agencies about the personal.
If you’re not putting things on the table, actually talking, and regularly aligning relationships with your agency, don’t be surprised if they fail.
Creating great relationships with agencies
When you are dedicated to this, your agency’s relationships are like any other relationship. It takes two to dance the tango and, if things don’t work out, sometimes it isn’t them … it’s you.
So if you went from agency to agency looking for something you just can’t find, it might be time to look in the mirror.
Are you expecting the impossible? (or at least, the unlikely?).
Are you looking for a solution to an unidentified problem?
Are you treating your agency as a commodity, rather than a partner?
Are you failing to communicate problems and concerns in a healthy way?
If the answer to any of the questions above is “Yes” or even “Maybe”, it may be time to re-evaluate your agency’s relationships. To develop a positive, long-term relationship with an agency – the kind that will generate real results in the years to come – you may need to change a few things.
The good news is that when you take the time to find out what you want from your relationship with the agency and the best way to get it, everything will get better. You prepare your agency for success and, as a result, they will also invest even more in your business.