Choosing a digital agency: once twice, three times an agency… - Showtime Digital

Choosing a digital agency: once twice, three times an agency…

30 October 2018 Read 981 times

How many times do you turn over your cars? Every 3-5 years, maybe more.

Most sane people will keep their car until the lease is up or until it dies on them.

Why is that?

Because it does what it says on the tin. It’s a vehicle to get you from A to B and back again.

But what about another vehicle, the one which drives growth in your business, your lead generation agency. Why do some companies discard them faster than empty tissue boxes?

It comes down to the ability for both parties to set the rules of engagement and the expectations for growth.


We’ve heard of the Good, Fast, Cheap model. You can only have two and the bit in the middle doesn’t exist. It’s applicable with your agency relationship as well.

An agency wants to keep you happy, even if they don’t deliver for you. And they won’t tell you what you might need to hear. So here’s some pointers to make an agency relationship work…this time.

Avoiding the Cheap

Who’s got the issue here? - If you keep having bad experiences with marketing agencies and you are now looking for your third supplier in 12 months warning bells will be going off for the savvy agency representative and they’ll run a mile. If they do a runner, you’ll be left to choose from the same suppliers you chose the last three times.

You tell me how much I need to spend, you’re the expert - The budget is always a contentious issue and if you’ve chosen poor performing agencies you may have found someone cheap. They may also have told you what you wanted to hear as well.

When defining a budget around 85% of your competitors have the same margins as you so there will be a lot of parity in what each is prepared to spend online. Rather than focusing on the return of the immediate sale think in terms of the lifetime value of the consumer.

Lifetime value of the consumer - When considering this position, include additional products and services which you may promote over the engagement. You may strengthen referring relationships by sharing services the client needs.

If 50% of your clients refer family of friends or a testimonial encourages others, are these points you can consider? If you bought these benefits to the equation how much would you be willing to spend to acquire the customer?

Every lead costs you money – You must value leads as much as your agency. If an incoming lead hasn’t been picked up immediately they need to be called back within 5 minutes, end of story. Until you personalise the experience for the consumer by starting the conversation you’re just another company they forgot 4 minutes ago. I’ve had companies call after only 10 minutes to hear the person had already chosen a competitor.

Is it a conversion or a lead? – There can be a disconnect between what the agency calls a conversion and what you call a lead. The knowledge of what constitutes a lead needs to be discovered from the outset.

If the agency believes their responsibility stops when a phone call is made, or a contact form is filled in, then warning bells should go off for you.

This cultural mentality can stem from having to work with companies who won’t allow them access to sales results. So be cautious, you’re about to engage the exact same supplier you’re trying to avoid.

The Fast – If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

I need leads now! – Did you hear about the person who went to the nightclub smelling of Anxiety by Calvin Klein? That’s this person. They ask everyone for a dance and they go home alone? There’s a very good reason for that…they’re awful to work for. If a decent agency hears you need leads yesterday, they won’t see it as a good fit. A less honourable agency will see it quick buck in it.

I like the consumers to wait…it shows them I’m busy – No, no, no, no, no. Agencies work damn hard to please their clients and consumers demand action, especially when they called 3 of your competitors as well. So, it’s really frustrating to hear the phone isn’t being picked up and the lead hasn’t been contacted for 24 hours. You just can’t do this with online leads.

As I’m writing this a company I had contacted 7 weeks ago to do some work for us (I was spending $10,000 with their competitor) has finally called me back. 7 WEEKS!

Quality or quantity - Ask yourself if you’re looking for quality or quantity leads? Nervous companies often say they want both and in the beginning of a campaign, when you’ve got nothing to work from, the quality must come out of the quantity.

It’s like that special moment when your 6-year-old says, ‘I love you’ and gives you a big hug at 4.25pm when you’ve spent the whole day together.

Quality moments come out of quantity time. As the campaign becomes more mature the ratio will stand in your favour but if you’re changing agencies every 6 months you’ll never see what your competition already knows.

Defining the Good

Define a lead – This must be determined from the first conversations. What are the must haves and what are nice to haves? But show some flexibility here. Ask yourself if your website’s contact form really needs to ask, ‘How did you hear from us’? If your offer is not strong then less fields in your contact form will help because it lowers the hurdle for the consumer.

A lead is not a sale – The best lead generation agency can’t make people pick up your phone call, but they can set the expectation. The reality is, you will have a drop off from the time people fill in a contact form to when you call them. In the B2B sector this number is generally low but some B2C industries have much higher non-contact rates.

Oh look, whistles and bells – Most agencies have a cornerstone service they like to promote. The challenge is they may be selling their services over the needs of the consumer.

To avoid this and before you go into the sales process, write down what you want to achieve from the relationship. Take the piece of paper, place it into an envelope and put it in your desk draw.

Go through the process of talking to the vendors and before you make your final decision go back to the envelope and make sure you are getting what you originally wanted. Make sure you’re not swayed by the whistles and bells and the increase in budgets this incurs.

Let’s start small – If you want to engage a more credible agency there’s a fair chance they’ll charge you more. If you’re confident in their approach and every dollar is important to you then start small. Do one thing well and get some wins on the board. Then you can progress. It’s amazing what can happen with a pragmatic approach over a 3- 4 year period.

Communicate - I’d also recommend that you regularly communicate with your supplier. Talk about the good as well as the bad. Show them the good conversations you’re having, the strong possibilities and the sales you’re getting over the line. Give them read only access to your CRM. Avoid making blanket statements about lead quality and be as specific as you can. You’ll be surprised how much the agency will do for you if they know how much you value their work.

The best relationships happen when the client and agency are on the same team working hard to find the consumer.

With greater visibility you can identify specific buyer types who convert more readily with you. The agency can then go back up to the top of the sales funnel and identify details like, which keyword Search they came in from or what hour of the day they searched the category. What question on the FAQ page they clicked on.

Now you’re getting inside the head of your ideal buyer. Hey presto, this agency relationship may just work.

In closing understand when you choose well and respect the relationship it’s common to be with a one digital agency for several years. Really.

Start your agency relationship on the right foot

If there’s one thing that will have your digital agency relationship off to a great start, its being clear about your goals and timelines to achieve them. Complete our easy to use SMART Marketing Goals template and include it in your agency brief.

Steve Palmer

Steve Palmer is the Joint Founder and CEO of Showtime Digital. Steve has been in B2B sales since 1997 but influencing people and behavioural science has been a long-term passion.

The magic he brings to his clients is in knowing how to engage their audience. His goal is to help businesses understand the deeper reasons of why consumers convert online with them.