At Metric Theory, we tell our clients that we view ourselves as their marketing and business partner, not just their agency. This might sound like a cheesy slogan; a digital advertising agency’s version of “Buy the world a Coke.” But in truth, our account managers do serve as marketing partners, helping our advertisers better understand their margins, set business goals, and find the best opportunities for business growth. When our clients invite us to their Christmas parties, we know we must be doing something right.
Holiday parties aside, there is a difference between having a good rapport with a channel-specific vendor and actually treating them like an extension of your business. There are major advantages to treating your marketing agency like a partner:
- Shared objectives beyond standard front-end KPIs. Do you want better CTRs, or do you want an account manager who understands your revenue streams and finds ways to access new growth opportunities? If you open the lines of communication about your business beyond the channel your agency is managing, you will see better results.
- Ability to leverage the full skill set of your account manager and team (not just their area of expertise). Most people can create campaigns and adjust bids. Don’t you want your account manager to understand how digital marketing contributes to your bottom line?
- More education about digital advertising strategy. A marketing expert stays up to date on the newest releases and strategy opportunities, and understands how these can benefit your business. A partnership with your account manager will open you to these new opportunities.
- Better relationship with your agency overall. Do you want an account manager who quietly does what you tell him, or one who tells you what you can do better and helps you implement improvements?
We have clients (a small minority, thankfully) who want to define every aspect of the work that we execute on their digital marketing campaigns. These clients view themselves as project managers, and they see their agency as hired help that needs to be told every keyword, ad extension, lookalike audience, or placement to add to the account. The truth is that those advertisers shouldn’t hire a top-tier performance agency: they’re paying for top-tier service and then using it to execute simple tasks. That’s like buying a buying a Maserati to drive 30 miles per hour to the grocery store every Sunday.
Imagine the following scenario: Google AdWords has been a key channel for your ecommerce business for the past ten years, and revenue has grown every year, albeit at a slower pace for the last two years. Six months ago, you started to see a major drop-off in revenue growth, and suddenly your CPCs are rising, causing your ROAS to drop. On top of that, a larger percentage of your revenue comes through Amazon, which affects your margins.
If you are the type of client described above, you might send your account manager on a frenzy of increasing bids, testing new ad copy, or a number of other old-school PPC techniques that you think might increase your ROAS and growth within the PPC silo. But in this case, increasing bids and changing ad copy is unlikely to get you back on track for revenue growth. Instead, you need a new strategy that accounts for the increased impact of competitors, the greater prominence of Amazon, and shifting ROAS goals based on your margins for each channel. You need a partner who understands both your business and changes in the larger marketplace.
A true marketing partner should weigh in on goals and projections, understand your business and products, collaborate on ad creative and landing pages, discuss the digital path to conversion, and so much more. So how do you make your agency your partner?
Strategy is Agreed To, Not Dictated
In a partnership, you aren’t dictating every move made within the account. Just as importantly, you aren’t wiping your hands entirely of strategy and saying that it’s completely up to us. Your account manager should lead a discussion that helps you develop strategy jointly, and you should both understand what audience you are trying to reach, with what message, and what is the desired outcome.
Before settling on any one strategy or goal, you should also understand the different options and the pros and cons of each. As an agency partner, we should provide recommendations, but ones that come from collectively weighing options and establishing consensus around goals and next steps.
Share in Victories and Setbacks
Drawing on the above point, if you have mutually agreed that a certain strategy makes the most sense to achieve your desired goal, you should share in both success and failure. Pointing the finger and telling us, “this is unacceptable” when a new initiative that you agreed to doesn’t work out is going to make us more gun-shy about proposing new opportunities. As a result, you could miss out on new initiatives and ideas that could drive stronger performance. Focus instead on what you can learn from the setback and how you can apply this to your strategy moving forward.
Ask What You Could be Doing Differently
We love it when we get this question! But our clients ask so rarely. Let’s be honest, you are the client and we’re the agency. While we will provide ideas and recommendations, we are not going to offer up unsolicited constructive feedback very often. Asking this question will make your agency feel comfortable to give suggestions on how you can improve your company’s digital ad efforts. We’ve told clients we thought they were too conservative with goals, that they’re not placing nearly enough emphasis on landing page creation, or that their development team’s pixel placement delays were a bottleneck to growth. In many cases, this feedback comes as a big surprise and helps the advertiser make adjustments that will improve performance moving forward.
Give Them Feedback
You almost certainly provide both positive and constructive feedback to your employees to perpetuate activities that they’re doing well, and drive improvements in areas they’re not. Why wouldn’t you do the same with your most important partner? While it’s certainly our responsibility to ask, don’t hold back on letting us know if there’s something that you’d like handled differently. That’s what you would do if we were an actual employee on your team, so what better way to cultivate a partnership with your agency than treating us like one!
Also, let us know if we’re doing a good job. Humans inherently want to do their work well, and are motivated by doing so. Acknowledging strong work or performance makes us that much more excited to keep knocking it out of the park.
Ask for Opinions Outside of Core Services
Yes, you hired us to run digital marketing initiatives, but we have insight into how hundreds of advertisers approach everything from goal-setting to organizing a sales team to approaching a website re-launch to hiring marketing employees. You’ll get additional input on key business decisions, and we’ll gain a better understanding of the decisions you make, which we can then leverage to improve marketing performance.
If you hire a top performance marketing agency, you’re not just paying for someone to add keywords or interest targets into AdWords or Facebook. You’re accessing a team of intelligent marketing professionals. Treat them like a partner, or an extension of your own team, and you’ll be amazed by the impact that they can have.