Business Owners Top 5 Problems Using a Digital Marketing Agency

For many business owners, working with a digital marketing agency can be a double-edged sword. 

While the promise of increased online visibility and growth is enticing, the reality often involves a series of frustrating challenges. 

In this blog, we’re cutting straight to the chase and addressing the top five issues you might face when partnering with a digital marketing agency. 

From unclear results to lack of communication, we’ll tackle these problems head-on and provide practical solutions to ensure your digital marketing efforts pay off.

1. Lack Of Results - Will SEO work for my business?

SEO is agnostic, if you invest into it, with the right skillset or agency, you will climb up the rankings. 

The solution for this question is to understand what success will look like, how long it will take to get to this point, and what the investment looks like, vs your services and margins. 

This is why SEO agencies need to be business minded and understand as much about your business before they start. 

You can also find companies that guarantee success, the devil is often in the details of the T&Cs here, whilst all accountability can be taken, we all work with a 3rd party platform who constantly updates the algorithm. Guarantees are usually made on low to no volume search terms, which they know a couple of tweaks and it will be on the first page relatively quickly. 

SEO works, but you also need to know your numbers, what do you convert out, if SEO drives 10 leads, how many of these will turn into jobs for you, how much is an average job worth to you, how much margin do you make on each job, and then you can understand ‘If SEO will work for your business’.

Success rate of SEO

2. Lack Of Trust - Will this company do what they say they will do?

This is a tough one, and the toughest one to spot. When you’re going through the sales process, remember it’s a sales process…

A Free Audit is not really a ‘Free Audit’, it’s usually a great opportunity for them to highlight your problem areas, which match perfectly to their solution and offering. Whilst you can get a lot of information out of these audits, potentially paying for a completely independent audit would be time better spent. This way you get independent advice and can then be much clearer on the way forward. 

One of the most common strategies I see is case studies from agencies, from years gone by, I know for a fact these clients no longer work with the agency, yet they continue to pump up a case study. If you get told about case studies, ask if you can ring that client to verify, it’s a really quick way to get a pulse on the legitimacy of it.

3. Knowledge Gap - Account Managers

This is all too common in agency land, you get pampered and loved by the CEO and directors, leadership team when you’re in the sign up stage, as soon as you sign the 12 month contract (I’ll get to this issue next), you never see those people again. 

Instead, you get handed off to a ‘Client Success Manager’ who is a fresh faced junior, 1-2 years experience in digital (if you’re lucky) who has all the enthusiasm in the world, but no real world knowledge if running a business and understanding numbers. They also have no say in the overall strategy, and are merely a mouthpiece for the company wanting to appease and have regular meetings with you, to tell you how good a job they are doing. 

This is the exact reason the rise of the boutique agency is trending, smaller team, closer knit, great knowledge doing great work for clients, without charging a fortune, and dealing directly with the experts.

4. Lock In Contracts - Never.

There is only one reason an agency will try to lock you into a contract, because they want certainty you’ll be around in 6 months. Red Flags everywhere. It is not in your favour to sign a 12 month agreement no matter what. If they are so good as they say they are, then keeping you on as a client should be no problems, with the guarantees and their made up case studies, you’d be crazy to leave after the results they will generate (hopefully you picked up a sarcastic tone). I do want to be clear here, SEO does take time and effort to get results, and you should be prepared to go into this strategy with a long term view, much like getting fit in the gym. But, I’m yet to see where the client benefits from a long term contract. They could even offer ‘contract’ pricing, again this is an incentive to lock you in. I’d get other opinions with agencies who do not lock in contracts and find one of those.

5. Doing What They Say They Will Do

Another common one, doing what they say they will do. I saw it so often in my last agency job. Meet with clients, commit to action, then nothing happens, after 3 months the changes may get done, but you’ve lost 3 months of growth. As per point 3, they love to talk a big game, you’re locked into a contract so no big deal, they’ll get around to it for sure.

Summary: So What Is The Solution:

Understanding – Understand your problem and what service you actually need. Generalists are dead in the water, skip these and go to a specialist agency. The digital marketing journey is rapidly evolving, and you need a specialist for each area. Generalists will suggest it’s better to have all strategies under one roof, so you take the learnings from each one and there is a nice cross over, however, if they are being completely honest, they are all generally known for one service anyways. 

Speak to a small agency, a mid and large, and find who suits you best, with the above in mind, ensure who you are talking to, will be doing the work. The more red tape and management layers to the specialists/experts, the higher the turnover of staff.

My previous agency experience is a great indication, they suggest they have a 97% retention rate. This is a complete non-truth. The problem is it’s hard to know what is and what isn’t when you’ve not met them before. 

Due Diligence – Any case studies they use, ask for the phone number. Any testimonials they use, ask to speak with them. There is not a single reason why, as an agency owner, I would not allow you to contact a current client to talk about their experience.

Author: Ryan Martin, Founder of the specialist SEO agency Remarkable Digital, and host of ‘eCommerce Australia Podcast’ 

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