We love working with other agencies. Our expertise in search engine optimization and content strategies has been a resource for all of our agency partners and we continue to grow that portion of our business. We work with a lot of great development, design and public relations folks and what we have in common with all of them is the pursuit of business results.
Without business results, your agency simply doesn’t matter. An optimized site that can’t convert is useless. A beautiful site that can’t be found is useless. Research, design and writing you pay heavily for that you can’t repurpose is useless (beyond the initial publication).
We’re continuously shocked at the number of clients that come to us that have spent virtually all of their budget but aren’t realizing results. The expectation for us is to take whatever funds are left and try to get results with it. At times, we simply can’t make it work.
That’s why our business model is a bit unique in the industry. We charge flat fee engagements and then work to results. Most of our clients are spending the cost of a single employee, but have our team and all of our partners working to ensure measureable business results are attained.
Before you sign your next contract with an agency, we’d encourage you to ask the following questions:
- What other clients have they worked with in your industry? You may think I’m asking about conflicts that could arise, but that’s not the only reason. Our agency continues to have incredible success with marketing technology related companies but we’ve fallen flat with some B2C product companies. For that reason, we focus on one segment and anyone who wants to work with us outside that segment is well-informed to ensure we can meet their expectations.
- Who owns the source files? This is often the largest problem we run into. The agency will design whatever you need but they maintain ownership and control of all the source files. Do you want to repurpose the work? You have to ask the agency. Do you want to leave the agency? Then you have to start all over again. Very frustrating. Holding your customer hostage is not how you grow your business.
- What happens when it doesn’t work? Every agency promotes the great work they do but they don’t often speak to the failures. We’ve had our share as well. The question is what happens next. If you’re working on a retainer, you may have to pay all over again with the current agency or a new one to try to get what you need. We work flat fee so that the pressure is on us to deliver. And in a worst-case scenario, our clients also know how we end our engagements before they ever sign (we do a full turnover of strategy, reporting, documentation, and assets).
- What’s included, what’s extra? I’m blown away by how many companies launch sites or strategies only to find out that the project isn’t optimized for search or mobile. When challenged, the agency responds, “You didn’t ask for that.” Huh? Are you serious? If your agency is looking out for your clients, you’re going to insist on doing everything to maximize business results.
- How do we manage ownership? It’s okay if you have an agency buying domains, hosting, themes, or stock photography… but who owns them? There’s nothing worse than an agency getting unresponsive and walking off with your domain (yes, it still happens). Be sure that you have an ironclad agreement in place that any ownership is yours. It’s why we often get a credit card from our clients and buy services in their name. Having a group email address where you can add/remove your agency is a great way to manage those accounts where you’ll never lose them.
- What tools are they utilizing? Even though we’ve privately whitelabeled some platforms for our clients, we still are open and honest with them on the tools we’re using. The advantage of being an agency is that we can purchase enterprise licenses on software that we use for several clients. Alone, our clients wouldn’t be able to afford them but collectively we can provide them access. This not only provides our clients with an understanding of the value we’re brining, it also let’s them see for themselves the quality and reputation of the tools we’re using.
- How else can they help you? Alright – I’ve been negative so far so let’s get positive. You’d be amazed sometimes at the wide array of talent and projects under an agency’s belt. It’s our own fault, but sometimes we find out our existing client just hired another resource for work that we could have completed for them. There’s nothing more frustrating! Make sure you’re communicating with your agencies on the great work they’re getting done and some of the other areas of focus they have expertise. Since you already have a relationship, adding on other services and projects is often much easier than starting fresh with a new resource.
We shared a funny infographic a while back on the sometimes abusive client relationships that agencies get into. But the abuse can happen on both ends of any relationship and it’s imperative that you don’t get abused by your agency. Not only can your strategies suffer, but you could lose your budget as well.
I suppose this could all be summed up in one question. Is your agency working to ensure your business results or theirs? We believe when our clients benefit, so do we… so that’s always our priority.