Why We Fired our Digital Marketing Agency 3 Times

The tools available to the modern digital marketing agency are continually evolving. At the same time, the expectations of key stakeholders are putting increasing pressure on digital agencies and in-house marketing departments.

Customers are expecting to be provided with useful, interesting, relevant content that will educate, inform and engage them. The days of just shouting about your product or service are over.

At the same time, senior management are expecting to see marketing decisions backed by hard numbers that demonstrate ROI.

Having run and sold a successful company in the b2b service space I hired a number of digital marketing agencies before deciding to bring all of our digital marketing in-house.

I now spend my time sharing the digital marketing system that I developed with other companies that are looking to generate more business online through inbound marketing.

So what led me to finally bring digital marketing in-house and fire our third digital marketing agency. Each time, at least one of these 4 reasons contributed to the decision:

1. They were selling services based on ranking for keywords in search engine results pages

If your digital marketing agency is selling to you on the basis of the rank that they can achieve for your website in natural search engine results, they’re not up to date on latest SEO best practices.

In my experience of hiring digital agencies to help with SEO, those that sell on rank use “black hat” tactics such as link farming, link buying and keyword stuffing to achieve a good rank quickly. This seems great but as soon as Google spots this your ranking will plummet and your digital marketing agency will probably stop returning your calls.

In 2016, there’s no way that any digital marketing agency can promise to “get you on the first page of Google” or guarantee any specific rank, for a specific keyword. What they should be talking about is how they are helping you to identify your target audience, connect with your target audience and drive new leads for your business.

2. They weren’t willing to tell me how they were spending their time (my money).

Chances are you’re paying a fixed monthly fee or retainer for ongoing support from your digital marketing agency. At the end of the month they send you a report telling you how they’ve improved your rank for certain keywords in the search engine results pages, how they’ve increased your social reach, how traffic has improved to your site and the open rate of your latest e-shot.

Now try asking them how they did it – how many hours work did your fee translate into and what did they do during each of those hours? 

In the new world of inbound marketing, it’s important that you are confident that your digital marketing agency is working hard to make a real contribution to your bottom line – not just fobbing you off with stats that show some improvement this week that might change completely next month.

3. They didn’t understand ROI.

I had one digital marketing agency tell me that our website had generated over 50k in leads in 1 month. They couldn’t understand why I wasn’t jumping for joy.

The problem was that these were poor quality leads that had almost zero chance of conversion into paying clients. In fact, the agency had produced their figure from data from our CRM system that showed this. The weighted value of these leads was 4k of revenue in our sales pipeline with an estimated gross profit of 1.5k.

When looking at spend on inbound marketing – especially paid advertising, it’s important to understand the real contribution that any leads generated make to the bottom line both immediately and taking into account the lifetime value of the customer.

As they say, turnover is vanity, profit is sanity.

4. They went off, did their research and didn’t involve our team.

Inbound marketing is no longer just about ranking for keywords that will push visitors to your site. It’s about creating content that will drive the right kind of visitors to your site and convert them (depending on your company’s objectives) into paying customers, job applicants or new suppliers.

No online marketing agency is going to be as good as the people that talk to customers every day when it comes to understanding what they are looking for.  Even if you do outsource all aspects of your digital marketing, your digital marketing agency is still going to need input from you – particularly when it comes to setting strategy and designing content calendars. If they say they don’t then run a mile.

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