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Written by Caroline Cox on Oct 8 , 2021

Having problems with your marketing agency? Here’s how to get back on track.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to approach discussions about marketing agency problems
  • Best practices for optimizing your marketing strategies
  • Tips for aligning expectations
  • Why communication is key for an effective agency partnership

Whether you’ve felt overwhelmed with marketing tasks, had underperforming campaigns, or repeatedly blew your ad budget without seeing the ROI you wanted, there are plenty of great reasons to partner with a marketing agency

An agency partnership can be the key you need to succeed… if you do it right. 

But what if, after several months, you feel out of touch when it comes to exactly what’s going on with your digital marketing program? 

If your agency is hard to get in touch with or isn’t sharing any performance results, it may be time to realign the relationship. 

Don’t feel like you need to terminate the partnership because you’re not hearing much from them. Sometimes no news is good news. But you do want to feel confident and in the loop. After all, it’s your program and your money!

Below, we explain how to get back on track.

marketing agency problem

If you hired an SEO agency, it may take time to see significant results. (Image via Unsplash)

Revisit goals and expectations

If you’re hitting bumps in the road with your agency, schedule time to realign — first with your internal team (if you have one), then with your agency. 

Your internal discussion will help ensure everyone has all the facts and is on the same page. This is where you could find out that someone has a report you don’t have access to, for example.

The agency discussion should involve revisiting goals and expectations set at the beginning of your relationship. This is an opportunity to get answers to questions like:

  • How are your marketing efforts tracking towards the set goals?
  • What is currently live or in motion?
  • Do goals need to be reconfigured?
  • How does the current status line up with projections or expectations you had or that the agency promised?

Before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s worth noting that there may not be much data to share if your partnership is only a few months old. 

In particular, if you hired an SEO agency, it may take time to see significant results. (The team should, however, be able to show you the initiatives and plans they have in play.)

Ask for the search terms report

The search terms report shows how well your ads perform when triggered by actual searches within Google’s Search Network. Basically, it tells you how the chosen keywords for your paid search ads are performing.

“I’ve had many new clients think they’re running campaigns with relevant terms, but in reality the entire account is broad match, and they’re matching to low-quality traffic,” says Frank Gasparetti, an account manager at HawkSEM. 

While broad match keywords may work for some accounts, your agency should know they don’t work for all. For example, the broad match keyword “women scarves” triggers many different search queries that aren’t 100% relevant. 

A small scarf company wouldn’t want to be running on “clothing for women” or “women’s hats.” It’s not relevant and would be a waste of budget for them. Those are the kind of terms, however, they would match to while using broad match.

marketing agency problems

These days, Google won’t even be fully transparent on all the terms you’re running on. In their own words, “Starting September 2020, the search terms report only includes terms that a significant number of users searched for, even if a term received a click. You may now see fewer terms in your report.” 

This becomes an issue with Broad Match. We see many new clients with Broad Match-heavy setups that have a majority of their spend under the unviewable “Other Search Terms” bucket. It’s important to know how much of your spend is on viewable search terms vs. “Other search terms.”

You can also ask your agency if you’re likely to see better performance (and bang for your buck) by leveraging more targeted, long-tail keywords.

Even if you have an in-house marketing team, partnering with an agency can give you access to resources such as:

  • A broader view of your program
  • Insider access to the top platforms
  • Insight from people with years of marketing experience
  • More time to focus on other initiatives
  • Extra sets of eyes on your competitors

Get a breakdown of the conversion actions

There’s no “one size fits all” rule when it comes to conversions. How you measure these depends on your digital marketing goals. 

A conversion could mean a newsletter signup, a webinar RSVP, a form completion, an online purchase — the list goes on.

Both you and your agency should be clear on what a conversion means to you. Otherwise, they could be reporting a high conversion rate that actually just translates into button clicks that may or may not result in sales. 

Once you’re on the same page about how you define conversions, you’ll know the rates you’re getting are accurate. 

Know what’s being tested

Testing should be baked into the process of any digital marketing initiatives your agency conducts. 

If the team you’re working with has adopted a “set it and forget it” mindset, you may want to reflect on what exactly you’re paying for and whether or not it’s worth it.

Seasoned marketers know testing is crucial. It helps you stay competitive by showing you what resonates with your audience. If your agency is conducting tests, make sure you know just what those tests are and how the agency is optimizing based on those findings. 

Are they testing ads? Landing page variations? Copy and imagery? Once you know the answer, ask to follow along with the results. These tests can inform in-house initiatives, from social media and content to sales and everything in between. 

In the market for an agency that’ll help your efforts soar? We know just the place.

marketing agency problems

You’re likely working with an agency because you know a hands-on approach is often way more effective than an automated strategy. (Image via Unsplash)

Get familiar with their bid strategy

There are various schools of thought for bidding strategies. Not only that, but Google Ads offers a handful of different bidding types that can map to different goals. 

Because of all the moving parts, you should know how your agency approaches their bidding strategy on behalf of your brand.

You’re likely working with an agency because you know a hands-on approach is often way more effective than an automated strategy. With a person at the helm, they can analyze and adjust bidding based on your budget and goals. 

Just make sure you understand what their strategy is and the reasoning behind it.

Pro tip: When it comes to the bidding auction, keep in mind that Google factors in your maximum cost-per-click (CPC), Quality Score, and how relevant your ad extensions are for that keyword. 

Align on next steps

Once you’ve asked all the right questions and gotten on the same page with your agency, it’s time to make a game plan. 

You don’t want to end up right back where you started with the same marketing agency problems — feeling like you’re in the dark when it comes to the details, what’s being tested, and the results.

Before ending your meeting, come up with some action items:

  • Do you want to put monthly check-ins on the calendar? 
  • Do you want the agency to send a bi-monthly breakdown of your program’s status? 
  • Would you prefer video calls instead of phone chats, if possible? 

These are all questions you should feel comfortable broaching.

The takeaway

Marketing agency problems can happen. So, it’s important to remember why you decided to partner with an agency in the first place. 

Ideally, you wanted to put your program in the hands of capable experts to give yourself more time to put effort towards other goals and tasks on your to-do list.

You should feel aligned with your marketing team, understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and trust them to input strategies that’ll help you crush the competition and bring you the highest ROI possible.

This article has been updated and was originally published in March 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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