This article was first published in Forbes Agency Council, an invitation-only community for execs in successful PR, media, creative and advertising agencies. Read the original article here.
I’ll say it: I think the vast majority of businesses should fire their marketing agencies. And no, this isn’t a ploy to get you to hire my firm instead. It’s a call to action. It’s a call to stop allowing mediocrity to permeate your organization. It’s a call to stop wasting your money. Fundamentally, it’s a call to excellence for both agencies and clients.
Why should you fire your marketing agency? Because you aren’t getting results, and you aren’t getting value.
One of the first things we articulate to clients in the sales process is that they should fire us if we aren’t generating the results we both agree we can hit. Just taking money for the sake of marketing is a poor way to do business and doesn’t help anyone succeed in the long term.
The sad thing is that I know the vast majority of agencies do business this way. It’s marketing just to market, and the results are exceedingly underwhelming.
If you find yourself in the position of a client who is getting mediocre results, fire your agency. If you find yourself as an agency generating poor results, step up and fire yourself. Or, more importantly, get with the client and develop a solid plan to get the results you all deserve.
If you find yourself spinning your wheels, here are just a few of the reasons you should fire your marketing agency.
You haven’t identified solid goals or key performance indicators.
If you don’t have solid, defined goals and the supporting KPIs to track them, you shouldn’t be hiring an agency in the first place. Nothing is more frustrating than when the client says, “We know we need to market ourselves; we just don’t know what we are trying to do.”
Often the agency is able to jump in and help frame the goals, but the client should have a firm idea of where they are trying to go. An agency might have a very different idea of what success looks like. That idea might include great messaging, a cool new brand, impressions or a new fancy website.
If the client is looking to just double sales, there are a lot of methods that might take priority. That needs to be established up front so that the agency can deliver on what is expected. Nothing kills a relationship faster than misaligned expectations.
There is no return on investment for your activities.
When there is no ROI, there is no reason to market. The term “ROI” can be terrifying to most agencies. It means accountability — and sometimes accountability can mean the loss of a client. At Magneti, we embrace the accountability. We are competitive and we love to win. Well-defined ROI gives us something to measure our success by.
In order to be truly successful, we have to have the client’s best interests in mind. Getting a strong return on the investment a client is making is just that. It’s also a really good way to do business.
You aren’t a partnership.
The relationship between the agency and client should be a partnership. If you don’t have a mutual level of trust, find another agency. You and your agency are in this together. You win together, and you lose together.
In his great book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni lists the “absence of trust” as one of the core dysfunctions of a team. I might even argue that it’s the core dysfunction. Trust allows relationships to flourish. Trust allows feedback, which is crucial to your success. Make sure you work with those you trust, or success will be a mirage on the horizon that you are constantly stumbling to find.
Your marketing company won’t push back on your bad ideas.
Staying on the theme of trust, if you don’t trust your marketing agency to point out your bad ideas and all you have are a bunch of “yes” men, fire your agency. While you know your product, you might not know some of the finer nuances of marketing. Agencies have done this a time or two and have seen what works.
That being said, on the agency side, we need to take a client’s concerns and advice to heart. Things change rapidly in this world, and something that failed with your last client may need to be reanalyzed to see if it’s a good fit.
Don’t let the past determine your future. Be honest about ideas — and most importantly, be open to new or old ones.
Your product or services are bad.
Or even worse, they don’t exist. We recently had a client getting bad results. The cause? The client kept pivoting in hopes of finding a solid product. Constant pivoting makes it impossible to establish metrics that keep each other accountable. The solution? We encouraged the client to pause the relationship until they established a reliable direction.
The hard part was the fact that it was our favorite client. We loved working with them, and had a significant level of trust built, but a strong partnership can only go as far as the product you are trying to sell. The good news is that we know we have a long-term opportunity with this client. Our goal now is to support them as they find the right path forward for their business.
I recently listened to a great podcast featuring Manoj Bhargava, the owner of 5-Hour Energy. During this podcast, Bhargava mentioned all the consultants that tried to get him to change the name “5-Hour Energy” to something catchy like “Zip” or “Zap.”
The agencies wanted to make a great brand. Bhargava wanted to sell product. Part of Bhargava’s brilliance was his upfront expectation-setting. He was clear that the goal was sales, not awards. He had a clear goal, identified a target ROI, worked with people he trusted, treated them as partners, and had a great product. That, my friends, is a perfect recipe for success.