5 worrying signals when working with an agency

After attending hundreds of sales meetings, I have noticed that marketing directors, entrepreneurs and salespeople list the same five most troubling signals of working with a marketing agency. This knowledge allows me to continually learn lessons and improve our relationships with clients. I decided that I would share them with you! Why? Because proper usage of those signals may save a lot of time and money - whether you are an agency owner or a client.

  1. Communicaton

Marketing requires cooperation - Regardless of its form, scope, complexity. Communications between you and the agency should be clearly defined and accepted by both parties. 

If you don’t possess informations about with whom, how and when you may contact, there is definietely an issue. The agency stops understanding your business, and you stop understanding the agency. Sooner or later, small communication problems will start turning into a growing frustration that is reflected in the results. You will stop being informed about what stage the agency's work is at, you will have no real influence on what is happening with your brand.

The openness of communicating needs during collaboration is essential to carry out activities correctly. I often see this already at the stage of preparing for meetings. It's not about saying what the other side wants to hear, but about talking frankly and openly about expectations, challenges and problems. 

Is the agency only trying to please you or you both have the same goal?

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  1. Timeliness 

If you're concerned about marketing to meet your company's business goals, and about laying out one consistent, complementary plan of action for each
of the departments, then timeliness is an absolute must. 

Verify IF that the agency is delivering the promised milestones on time. Transparency of the agency's work - reporting on the stages and progress of activities - is not a differentiator, but an obligation. You can expect it! 

Do you know what the agency was doing the previous week? do you know what they are doing this week? What work plan it has for next week? You don’t? Ask for it! Ask for a detailed work schedule, you have the right to do so. Point out that not answering these questions makes you feel insecure. 

You'd think it sounds a bit cliché, after all, no one likes being late.... 

Well, the reason I am writing about this is that regular lateness is ALWAYS the result of SOMETHING. A poorly managed project, lack of accountability of the members of the team that handles your project, bad pay, work motivation, atmosphere, capacity.  

Each of the reasons mentioned above will translate directly into the quality of work done for you. Sooner or later there will be a fuckup. The question is - how big and whether you can afford it. 

  1. Development plan and concepts

"I have the impression the agency I’m working with can’t help me", he says. 

According to Byron Sharp's famous quote - "never go off air" - never stop broadcasting! Promotional activities must be planned and prepared
in advance to maintain their continuity. I conclude that it is already the first schedule of work that should include preparations for the next design stages.

After all, you know perfectly well what is a recreational activity and what is a planned concept for advertising campaigns well in advance. In the first situation you receive practically the same creations for approval, and in the second you receive a complete concept for an advertising campaign. 

It’s good to think spontaneously, but only if you are commissioning an agency for a one-off seasonal advertising campaign. Otherwise, agency should present you with their idea for a long-term development of your brand. This is not about detailed planning. All you need is a vision, in which it is after realizing point "A" that you smoothly move to point "B", "C", etc.

What is the consequence of unplanned activities and lack of awareness from the opportunities that Internet marketing gives us? First of all waste of time.

  1. Rotation of people working on the project

No or little turnover of people in charge of your project or implementing it is a very good sign. Especially if the cooperation has been going on for a long time. 

If, on the other hand, over the course of a quarter, the team working on a project rotates several times this is a signal that there is an unhealthy atmosphere in the agency or it is undergoing quite a transformation. 

I know from experience that if you do not yet feel the clear effects of these changes, sooner or later it will come. Take it as a signal - "be careful".  

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  1. No effects 

If it were that simple, I probably wouldn't be writing about it. Periodic lack of results is not the problem here. The real problem arises when the results of cooperation are not there, and the agency Cannot answer key questions:

  • What is the reason for the lack of results in the advertising account? 
  • What is the plan for restoring the results in the advertising account?
  • When can we expect to see improved performance in the advertising account? 

Some time ago, an advertising account fell into our hands with a request for a detailed audit of the work of another agency. Each specialist, performing such an audit, aims to provide objective information on the account analyzed. For the past 6 months, almost identical ad creations has been included in the advertising account and it didn’t bring in a penny to the client's wallet. The agency believed that "optimization" and "time" were needed here.

I really like when clients ask me about how does the plan B looks like - in the case if plan A didn’t work as expected. I appreciate it because we do have well-defined procedures work for projects that don’t produce the established results. We implement them whenever such a situation arises.

In my experience, most professionals count on getting up the next day and all the metrics will skyrocket thanks to "optimization." They don't really do anything until the client expresses his frustration. 

It's not that the agency needs to know the answer to every question. Factors affecting conversions are plentiful. Finding the answer requires specific actions on the agency's part; they won't come by themselves, after all. 

What might it look like?  

The agency believes that it is most likely that your potential customers are lost at the stage of finalizing the transaction in the online store. After all, this can be proven - with analytics or recordings of user sessions on the site. Is there a cause? Is there a plan? Is it possible to define an implementation schedule? Sure there is! 

There is really no point in continuing discussions and cooperation with an agency that, after several weeks of expectations, cannot explain to you what might be the reason for the lack of results.


I have read several good articles on how to choose an agency well according to your expectations. Unfortunately, but regardless of your experience and intuition - some things you can't predict. 

I would not want the result of reading this article to be making hasty decisions about your cooperation with the agency. 

Communication is the core. Openness in discussions with the project supervisor shows the agency's approach to the problems mentioned above. Lack of solutions to these problems, or shifting (wrongly) responsibility for them, is a real risk during cooperation.

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