How NOT to be Disappointed in Your Marketing Agency

Posted on Nov 29, 2017 by Kerry O'Malley

It starts like this, everyone is excited! The Client is excited because they are sure THIS marketing agency “gets them” and understands what they want to accomplish. The agency is excited because they have a new client, which represents a clean slate and an opportunity to prove themselves once more. There is the romance period, where the agency is working hard to learn all they can about the Client’s business and the Client is cooperating fully in allowing that to happen. Websites are built, ads are designed, blogs are written, social media pages created, and the posts start flowing. All is well for a while. After all, the agency cautioned the Client not to expect much for 4-6 months.

It is usually at about the 6-month point that things can begin to go off track. When the agency said not to expect “much” before the 6-month point, the Client heard, “you can expect results at 6 months.” And with each passing month, if the results are not what the Client deems to be “success,” the relationship becomes more strained. Other things can set the stage for disappointment. One of the client’s original team members may need to be replaced. A project may not turn out as the client envisioned, not necessarily the agency’s fault, but rather the result of an inadequate budget. The client may feel they’re having to invest too much time in the relationship – after all, they hired an agency so they wouldn’t have to worry about the marketing. These are just a few of the issues that can spell the kiss of death to the relationship.

I can lay out the scenario because as much as I hate to admit it, my own agency has been in this situation. I don’t expect this never to happen again. (Now THAT would be an unrealistic expectation.) But in the interest of better client-agency relationships, I’d like to point out some of the biggest unrealistic expectations that clients have, and define more realistic ones.

Unrealistic expectation #1:

If Agency does A, B, C, and D, we are GUARANTEED results.

If a marketing agency promises to generate new business, or any other tangible result, be very suspicious. The nature of marketing is mysterious: 25% strategy based on proven tactics; 25% experimentation; 25% creative concepts; and 25% human psychological response to the marketing. Do you see anything in that potion that would lead you to believe there is a guaranteed outcome? A good agency will use past experience and successes on which to make recommendations; but no two businesses are alike. Plus, there are countless factors that contribute positively or negatively to any marketing initiative, and few are predictive.


Agency will perform all agreed upon tactics (A, B, C, and D), meet all agreed upon deadlines, and will be accountable to explain the results to the best of their ability.

An experienced marketing team will understand the nuances that influence results, be they good or bad. They will be able to analyze metrics and other key performance indicators (KPIs) in order to provide insight into the factors that contributed to less than stellar performance. Going a step further, a good marketing team will have suggestions for ways to improve going forward. THIS is what should be guaranteed – not results.

Unrealistic expectation #2:

This Agency will understand what we do and take care of everything.

Most companies hire a digital marketing agency because they simply don’t have the internal staff with the time or competence to perform the day to day activities required for a successful online marketing program. Many have struggled to manage inbound marketing themselves, and finally accept the fact that it can’t be done internally. This sets the stage for unrealistic expectations about TIME. Marketing agencies have the expertise to perform marketing functions but they do NOT have the knowledge inside their clients’ head. Things start derailing when the client is depending on the agency to “make things happen,” and the agency is forced to get creative without input from the client’s subject matter experts (SMEs). When that happens, if blogs, emails, or other communications lack depth and insight, it is because the agency wasn’t given the SME’s time.


 If we make ourselves available to the agency, they will create quality, relevant content and maximize its exposure online.

Digital agencies know how to make a company look good online, and how to draw more traffic to a website. This is where their true value lies. They have tricks, tools, and proven methods and they are experts at using them. They do NOT know their clients’ industries or businesses like they do. A successful marketing program is dependent on a partnership between client and agency. Clients must provide agencies access to SME’s or rough content written by SME’s that  can be fleshed out. In turn, the client should expect the agency to create quality content and use their expertise to maximize its exposure, online.

Unrealistic expectation #3:

We will always be working with the same people.

There is usually a team, 2-3 individuals at the agency, who work together to obtain a new account. The team builds relationships with the soon to be client, and in fact, these relationships usually sway the decision about which agency to hire. People do business with people; but the reality is that a marketing agency is no different than any other business. Employees will come and go.


If our account is turned over to another individual, the agency will take the time to train them and get them up to speed on our business.

Agencies cannot control employee turnover. The larger the agency, the higher the chances that someone on the client’s team will be replaced at some point. When this happens, it is reasonable for the client to expect the agency to do whatever it can to make the transition as seamless as possible so as not to disrupt the work flow. The person who leaves is not always around to train their replacement; but there are usually others on the team who can fill them in about the client’s work style, preferences, etc. It is then the new person’s responsibility to do everything they can to build a relationship with the client.

Unrealistic marketing expectation #4:

We may have a low budget, but this agency will know how to make it work.

The old adage, “you get what you pay for” is a simple truth that many clients refuse to accept. They think the agency has some secret formula for budget stretching. After all, they’re in the “biz” and they know the right people. They can take a high school play budget and produce a Hollywood movie – right? This simply isn’t true – and never will be. And clients that refuse to acknowledge that a quality product demands a quality budget will forever be disappointed in the end-product AND the agency.


Whatever our budget, the agency will know how to maximize its potential.

An experienced agency is used to working with clients who have lofty goals without a lofty budget. There are very few agencies that get to work with the Nikes and Coca-Cola’s of the world, those companies with deep marketing pockets. They are adept at taking a budget and figuring out how to get the most bang for the buck. A good agency will listen to a client’s vision, then gently help them see reality. A realistic expectation is that they will offer some options and help the client to envision a new path to the goal.

Every client-agency relationship will eventually come to an end. This is just the nature of business. But it takes a lot of time to interview, hire, and educate a marketing agency, and then work with them to create whatever campaigns you agree on. Make the most of that investment by adjusting your expectations to what is reasonable. Not every agency will deliver, even on reasonable expectations, and when that happens you have every reason to terminate the relationship. There are plenty of top notch agencies out there who WILL work hard to ensure client satisfaction, and Marketects is one of them.  If you’ve been disappointed in the performance of other agencies, give us a call to experience the Marketects difference.

Author: Kerry O'Malley

Marketects was founded in 1999 by Kerry O’Malley, a proven marketing communications professional in international, manufacturing companies. Working on the “other side of the desk,” she hired ad agencies to manage her employers’ advertising and P/R programs. Frustrated over the lack of attention and level of enthusiasm she was looking for in the marketing agencies she worked with, Kerry realized that there was a definite need for a full-service marketing firm that specialized in working with industrial companies. She resolved that her clients would always receive the highest level of service possible and never feel like the last kid chosen for the team.

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