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The Importance Of Working With A Digital Agency

August 6, 2016

There’s a check list of words that are really integral to the article I’m about to write so I’ll list them all now and address them as I go on. You’ll see where they fit in.

Relationship – People – Understanding – Alignment – Trust – Strategy – Reporting – Results.

Behind every successful company nowadays (that has any sort of online presence), there’s a really successful digital agency. They’re like a secret weapon and finding a good one can be difficult. I’m here to advise you as a business as to what you should be looking for…and here come the words…


A business’ marketing is often either handled by the business owner, Managing Director, Marketing Manager or Marketing Director. It doesn’t matter which one of these you are but either way you’ll end up sitting around a boardroom table opposite some digital folk promising you the world. Let your instincts kick in here. Are they for real, are they talking real numbers, do they have a proven track record, are they trying to get you to sign up there and then or are they prepare to go away and put a proposal together. You’ll know instantly if they are for you. It’s as much about the people you’re working with as what they are actually capable of. You’ll know if you’ve hit it off, if you can work with these people or not. Can you see yourself spending a couple of hours a week on the phone to them and enjoying coffee and donuts over a monthly report. The relationship is 50% of the success of what this agency will do for you so please make sure its right for you from the get go. Ooo and one last point. Never appoint an agency that won’t come and see you. Again more on that point later.


Consider this. An account manager from a digital agency is telling you everything you want to hear. They’re making you laugh, telling you great anecdotes about past clients and campaigns, promising you sensational results, but are they the actual person that will be working on your online marketing campaigns? Now it doesn’t necessarily matter if they’re not, its common practice for an account manager or even sales manager to start the ball rolling, but if not, then you must ascertain if you’ll even have direct access to these people. These are the people you’ll really be working with. These are the ones who will actually be getting your results so it’s important you know who these people are and you meet them. (There’s a little more to it than that but that I’ll fill in on that next).


So, you’re a week in, you’ve chosen your agency, they’re great! You get a buzz whenever you speak to them. The campaign’s in swing and you’re expecting epic success at the end of the month right? Wrong! Seven out of ten of the companies that I meet with to talk about their digital marketing campaigns have never met their agency. And out of the three that had, there was only one agency that took the time and effort to take their digital team (and by team I mean the actual specialists on the ground strategising and delivering the campaigns day by day) to the client’s premises, met their staff, saw their production and really understood the product that the client was trying to market. This for me is absolutely horrifying. How would you expect a mechanic to make the rattle in your engine better if he’d never seen, hear and driven your car. Think about it. So my point here is that the agency you choose must absolutely understand your product or service, they must understand what make your company tick they must understand where you’re going.


The alignment of two companies in a client/supplier relationship really comes from the understanding of your company, the people who work together from both camps and the relationship that these teams of people forge. It must be harmonious, it must play like an orchestra on opening night, it must be strong and it must last. It’s no good if the client has one idea and the agency has another. Both teams must listen, both teams must make their points and it’s likely that both teams are right in one way shape or form. But, I will say this. A good digital agency will be able to back up any recommendations with strong evidence that they’ll have access to, so you must trust them. This leads me nicely onto my next point.


If you’re handing over hundreds or thousand of pounds of online marketing spend for PPC campaigns, or in some cases tens of thousands of pounds a month like we look after then you really must trust the agency you’re working with. Now, sometimes your agency will have to use spend to test campaigns that ultimately don’t work or don’t work as well as others, but a good agency will minimise the damage of this financially to you. But on basis that if they didn’t try it they you’d never know, often curveball campaigns are worth a go. So again trust the agency you’re working with.


Back to some numbers. 82% of the companies I meet with that have previously practiced some form of digital marketing with an agency of some form and had absolutely no strategy whatsoever. In the context of a Pay Per Click campaign, across the board there was absolutely no thought or consideration as to what was going to happen. It’s as if the agency just took a few key words of main products of this company, auto populated a campaign for each, set a spend, they charged handsomely every month for doing nothing. These type of companies work on what we call ‘churn’. They’ll sign up 30 people a day, do minimal work, send ‘bob basic’ reports every month where the agency fee is often outweighing the spend. Then, every so often, a few clients eventually catch on and drop off but it’s ok because they’re signing up plenty more every day. Avoid at all costs. So, back to my main point here. An agency should be presenting you with a strategy and recommendations of breakdown of spends across different types of digital marketing.


Ive seen it all in the 13 years of building my digital agency, I’ve seen 80 plus pages of excel spreadsheets of reports with no context, i’ve seen a beautifully scripted A4 side of a paper which explains everything, i’ve seen an email with three bullet points on it and i’ve seen nothing. Yes nothing. A staggering amount of businesses receive absolutely nothing in terms of monthly reporting for their management fee. Wow hey! Now we’ve taken a few angles on this at Fifteen because people like different things. Some like really detailed reports, some like really brief reports. I won’t go into too much detail specifically about what we present but please make sure your agency is religiously reporting your results to you. If you don’t know what’s happening month by month then they probably don’t either and you’re wasting your money.


Now this is my favourite bit. This is the bit that is going to make or break the relationship I guess. Your agency must get you results. Of course, that’s what you’re paying for isn’t it. Now that might mean they need to be experimental occasionally, that may well mean they need time, 6 maybe 9 months to really get under the skin of your campaigns, especially if they’re tying to build you a social following, so in some cases, give them time and allow them the scope to adapt and manipulate your spends across the various online marketing practices to find out what actually works best for your business, because it really is different for every business in every sector and every product in every market. There’s no one formula, there no magic wand but an agency worth their salt will get you results.


Relationship – Do you get a good vibe from your agency?

People – Do you have access to the actual people working on your campaigns?

Understanding – Have they been to see you, do they know your product/service?

Alignment – Are you on the same page as them, are they as you?

Trust – Do you trust them with your online marketing budget?

Strategy – Did they initially present a strategy and do they present a strategy changes?

Reporting – Do you receive satisfactory reporting?

Results – Are they getting you results?


So, using the checklist, score your agency and if you’ve not got at least a 7/8 then you may wish to start the search for a new one.

Good luck.




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