The subject of agent transparency is nothing new, but it usually involves the scruples of large media agencies about buying media and the setbacks they get on your behalf.
But there are also other areas that are not subject to optimal clarity, and in 2021 there are fewer and fewer reasons why you as a customer should not expect complete transparency – across strategy, task planning and critical. Results.
While many clients have a very open relationship with their agency and know exactly what is going on, it seems the majority are still not asking the right questions, which leaves them open to receiving less value for money for their monthly client and a lesser chance of meeting their business goals. Hit insult, hurt.
Questions to ask
The truth is, it’s all too easy to hide behind a wall of jargon, technology, or false insights when you don’t want to know what your agency is up to and how it is committed to addressing your marketing challenges. and ultimately, get even more profit from your hard-earned cash while delivering a fraction of your business’s potential results.
Take the test yourself – if you can’t answer all of the following questions right now (or you can easily find the information in your emails), chances are you’ll have to crack the whip with your agency a little more:
- What medium-term strategy are you pursuing to get results?
- What tasks are you working on this month to get results?
- What results did you get last month and how did these compare to your expectations?
- How are they reaching your audience and why did they choose these channels to help achieve your goals?
These agencies rely on you to be too busy with other priorities to bother with what they do every day. And if they can hide behind not bad results (or even quite good results), why should they try harder? The reason for this is, of course, that they can increase your traffic / conversions / sales and help you achieve or crush your goals. However, as long as they get the same amount, it is not enough of an incentive to push for better.
Let’s take a closer look at the most important area where I think agencies often fall short: reporting.
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For many agencies, the reporting process consists of pulling out a sheet of numbers that make them look their best each month and trying to draw your attention to them. Whether or not they are worth something to your company is another question. There is seldom any indication of WHY we saw these results, or how these results compare to the expectations they set.
You don’t have to settle for it though – ask them to do better. As a bare minimum, you should get a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the performance of each channel every month.
I know if I were a customer I wouldn’t mind a bad month of results too much if there was a clear indication of what caused it and what was done about it. Really all you want is to know that someone has been thinking about what’s best for you instead of sleeping through the same old actions as the week before.
Transparency in task planning
You should also be able to request a similar level of transparency in task scheduling – a critical but often underrated process that will ensure your agency is sticking to the strategy you set, rather than wandering aimlessly through the digital wilderness every month.
For any agency worth their salt, this is a standard activity that they do of course, so the information is available within minutes. But if they are panting and it takes a few days to come back, you can be confident that the strategy will only be considered when the holder is ready to renew.
A decent task schedule should include time estimates as well. This will help you understand if your budget is hiding behind ambiguous expressions: “tweaks” are a classic – depending on the amount of activity you do, that shouldn’t be more than a fraction of the monthly allowance.
What should I do
My recommendation is not to suddenly ask for tons of details from your agency – that would be a waste of your and their time. But make sure you are asking the right questions and getting the right answers that indicate that you have your finger on the pulse of your marketing: focus on the right tasks, point in the right direction, and strive for the right results, to take your business to the next level. And if you don’t know it’s them, then it probably isn’t.
Incidentally, perhaps we should encourage the same level of transparency from the major media agencies mentioned above when it comes to buying media. A friend of mine who works for one of the big boys has admitted that he has never (not once!) Planned a media campaign based on what is best for his client, not just what inventory it needs to get rid of and will look best on balance.
At Hallam we pride ourselves on having an open relationship with all of our customers, but it’s not just an option. We challenge our customers as much as we expect them to challenge us. That makes us better.