Digital Profits Podcast – Episode 3: The 5 Reasons Why Digital Marketing Agencies Fail 

If you’re looking to get the most out of your digital marketing agency, it’s important to build a strong partnership with them. Here are some tips on how to do just that:

1. Establish clear objectives and communication channels from the outset.
2. Set regular check-ins and performance reviews to ensure everyone is on track.
3. Be transparent about budgets and expectations to avoid surprises down the line.
4. Get input from your team and agency partners throughout the process.
5. Keep an open mind and be willing to try new things – success seldom comes from doing things exactly as they’ve always been done!

By following these tips, you can develop a productive, long-lasting relationship with your digital marketing agency that will help take your business to the next level.

Do your research and choose an agency that you feel confident in and who has a good track record   

With so many choices, you need to be sure that your decision is the right one. Do your research and choose an agency that you feel confident in and has a good track record. Look for customer testimonials, ratings, and reviews, as these will give you insights into the level of service and satisfaction offered by an agency. Speak with prior clients, if possible, for honest feedback about their experiences.

Draw up a contract that outlines both parties’ responsibilities, including deliverables, timelines, and payment terms   

Setting up a written contract between two parties helps to keep everyone accountable and organized. Instead of leaving the details to be sorted out later, crafting a contract with agreed-upon deliverables, timelines, and payment terms will ensure that expectations for both sides are spelled out clearly at the outset. Not only does this make life easier for all involved in the long run, but it also serves as legal protection in the event of any disputes that may arise. Writing an effective contract to codify such agreements is always time well spent.

Communicate regularly with your agency partner, providing feedback and updates on progress   

Regular communication with your agency partner is essential for maintaining a successful working relationship. Keeping your partner updated on progress and providing feedback as needed will allow them to better deliver on the agreed-upon objectives. Having open, honest conversations before, during, and after projects will create an atmosphere of collaboration that produces the most beneficial outcomes. Not only that, but also making sure you stay connected – this way you will have a better understanding of their operations and they will understand yours. Establishing good communication channels upfront will ensure that both partners are able to work together smoothly throughout the entire project, resulting in a great final product for both parties!

Celebrate successes together and learn from any setbacks to continue improving the partnership   

A good partnership is all about celebrating success and learning from setbacks. When both sides can come together to do those things swiftly and effectively, the partnership thrives. Every time the partnership makes an accomplishment, it’s important to take some time to reflect, recognize the achievement, and celebrate what was accomplished. On the flip side, it’s just as important to not get discouraged when things don’t work out according to plan. Every setback should be embraced as an opportunity for improvement, so that the next step of the partnership can include new lessons learned from trial and error. In this way, any successes or setbacks are simply fuel for a positive forward momentum.

Partnering with a digital agency is not only beneficial, but it can also help your business reach new heights. Taking the time to plan effectively and create an actionable structure will take some effort, but it will set your business up for better success in the long run. Involving your team throughout the development of the partnership will ensure everyone is on the same page while still having their ideas heard. By defining goals, researching potential partners, outlining expectations, and staying connected through ongoing communication – you’ll have all you need to launch an effective and successful agency partnership. Leveraging a dedicated partner’s web design and development knowledge allows you to stay focused on running your day-to-day operations. And if you ever find yourself needing some extra support or advice, be sure to listen to the latest episode of the Digital Profits Podcast, EP 3: Partnerships with Your Digital Agency for helpful tips on how to create successful agency partnerships that create real impact!

Ray Sawvell  00:04
Welcome to the digital profits podcast, where you’ll learn how to grow your business faster using paid traffic and SEO. Each episode will feature a breakdown of digital marketing trends and answers to your burning questions that will provide actionable takeaways to make your marketing better. So join us Ben Page, Ray Sawvell and Blake John, as we guide you on your journey to higher profits. Remember to join the profit squad at join profit and get ready to profit in three to one.
Ben Page  00:41
Hey, squad, we’re back in the studio, Ben here. And I’ve got Blake, hey there, and Ray. Hello, hello, with me. And we’ve got an exciting topic for you. Especially if you’re a brand you’re in house, your client side. This one is for you. So Blake, what are we going to cover today?
Blake John  00:58
Today we’re talking about the five reasons why digital agencies fail their clients.
Ben Page  01:03
Wow, what a great topic. I think so it seems like there are definitely patterns that we’ve seen over our careers. Blake, while working at an agency. Have you ever had a client leave or fire you?
Blake John  01:16
No, like, not once? Of course, of course, I’ve had a partnership has fallen through or a client has left. It’s kind of the nature of the game a little bit. But there are specific patterns or things that we’ve seen in the past and why clients leave that I think will be we’ll talk about in a little bit. I think it’d be really interesting.
Ben Page  01:34
Yeah, Ray, how about yourself?
Ray Sawvell  01:35
Same. I mean, there’s a bunch of different reasons on why a relationship may fall through, but hoping that the topics we cover today will kind of shed some light and deliver some value
Ben Page  01:44
kind of an icebreaker question to kick it off, then, you know, we’re from our perspective, right? We’re approaching this from the agency side. So the kind of the other side of the table from a lot of our listeners, what would be, from our perspective, a normal churn rate per year, right? Or kind of an average or maybe a goal like your agency side, you’ve got a book of clients, you’re working with many thoughts on percentage wise, what you guys have seen for an annual churn rate?
Ray Sawvell  02:09
Yeah, I mean, that’s a pretty tough one. I mean, it probably depends on like, what exactly your services like if you’re doing like, you know, like, we offer a PPC and SEO? I’m sure, it probably varies by like, if you do web or what have you. I mean, maybe five to 10%. I mean, it’s gonna vary, obviously, but I would say, return rate in that area.
Ben Page  02:28
Yeah, I think that’s fair. You’re right to it probably varies between are you primarily project work primarily retainer work? Yeah. And the nature of your engagement and also the size, right? Because if you have two clients and one leaves, you have churn rate, that’s, that’s gonna be pretty rough. First, what I think if you’re looking at a more mature agency that’s established, and from a retainer basis, the number that popped in my mind, right, it was something like 10%. And if more than that number kind of leaves, you probably have to start taking a hard look at are you attracting the right partnerships, I want to quickly kind of define what we mean by fail. Blake kind of alluded to this, right? We’re talking about how do agencies fail their clients? And what are some of the common reasons that clients or brands would leave their digital agency? So we’ve all got experience, I think, in various of these pillars, these pillar areas, there are some that we’re not going to cover today, there are some obvious ones, I think, like performance, right? If after a given amount of time, there’s been non performance, that’s a pretty obvious reason why a client would part ways. So we’re going to try to dig into some of the trickier ones that are often under the surface and sometimes don’t even get communicated about as that relationship is unfolding. So Ray, let’s dive into the first one.
Ray Sawvell  03:43
Yeah, I mean, the biggest, in my opinion, is probably trust. And like, that’s probably one of the biggest pillars that we’re going to talk about today. Like Ben said earlier, if in any relationship, if you don’t have trust, it’s not going to work, especially if there’s a lack of follow through. And that’s going to be one of the biggest damaging factors. So being able to say what you’re going to do, and then actually following through on that is going to be paramount in ensuring that you start to build that trust. And a lot of the time you haven’t worked with this person before. So being able to start the engagement off in a good way is going to be really important. Yeah.
Ben Page  04:15
So this is one that you’re right. It’s important from first contact in the sales cycle, all the way through through that handoff. And every single day, when the team is showing up and delivering for that client, you can either be engaging in trust building, or you can be eroding trust. Blake, how do agencies fail their clients when it comes to trust,
Blake John  04:37
there really are like a whole host of different things. But I think it comes down to maybe three main factors. The first is communication and having a good foundation and a good partnership with whom they can communicate regularly and have quick response time to get back to them with detailed information. Right. And then going into that further. I think that also goes to transparency specifically is a really big one. A lot of agencies will kind of hide behind the numbers, they’ll kind of build a narrative that doesn’t tell the truth, the true story of what’s going on, and they can kind of try to maybe trick their clients. I’ve seen some scary examples of that in the past where it’s like, okay, well, you’re not telling the full story here. So that can be problematic. And then the last is basically accountability when you’re not really taking ownership of what you’re responsible for and the KPIs you’re supposed to hit. I think those are kind of maybe the three main factors that go into trust and building that trust. And each one is just extremely important.
Ben Page  05:30
Yeah, to me, I think about this isn’t a philosophy podcast. But I think about what is the essence of trust and its definition and its truth, it seems like it’s truth, telling the truth, which is something very basic and fundamental. But I think it can get overlooked. I mean, to your point, Blake, in some cases, we build a narrative, whether that could be intentional or unintentional, right, I’ve seen cases of both write, that may not represent the full truth. So maybe it’s an error of omission, or probably less frequently of commission. But so first, it’s telling the truth, even when it’s hard, even when, you know, it represents a lack of performance or diligence on the agency side, right? Or even if you if you want to invert that right, think about like not telling the truth to the client about a hard reality that you’re seeing in their numbers, or in you know, hey, we’ve tried this strategy, this approach, it’s not working, we need to change, it’s hard, right? When people have beliefs that they cling to on either side of the table, and they cling to them strongly, and you get data back, that suggests that’s maybe not the truth, it can be hard, depending on the dynamics to bring that up. And so you want to facilitate an environment that allows for those truths to come to the surface on both sides of the table, and so that you can move forward together productive manner.
Ray Sawvell  06:49
And I’d like to add on to that quickly been like a key trap that I got caught in early in my career is saying, yes, a lot of the times to things that I think like on the trust building side, like being able to say no, for something that you believe in, there’s data to back it up, you’ve had experience from that standpoint, I think being able to say no, and back that up is a key building for for like building that trust and a relationship. And if you don’t have that trust, it’s likely not going to work out long term.
Blake John  07:13
Yeah, I’ll add to that. And I think what I’ve learned over my past experiences, the clients who stick around and you start to develop that relationship with like, You on the other end, if you’re listening to this, you want your partnership to say, hey, this isn’t working, like we need to pivot, right? You want to have those hard conversations, because really what happens on the other side of that is you come out so much stronger, and now you position yourself in a much better place overall. So clients who do that are going to provide way more value because they’re willing to kind of stick their neck out there for what is the truth? And what needs to be talked about and what needs to be addressed? Ultimately,
Ben Page  07:47
yeah, that’s such a good point. So right, it’s like, can we create that environment of safety together, where you could say, on either side of the table, hey, we were wrong about this. And here’s what we want to do, instead of being solution oriented, and Ray, like you said earlier, going back to telling the truth and trust building, it’s making commitments and following through, but I think there’s always a tension on our side, or at least this is how I view it as being a servant of the client. And being just being a high level operator in client service, when you want to constantly go faster, deliver more value, and do all the things. However, you’re doing everyone a disservice if you over commit, and under deliver, and especially so when maybe you’re making commitments to things that aren’t aligned to the end game incentives that we all care the most about. So like from a prioritization perspective, but we’ll get into that in one of the next pillars here. Any other thoughts on this idea of trust, building accountability, and so on? I mean, what about is there an accountability component here in the inverse, like, you can think of right agency accountability? Hey, so you’re gonna build this campaign by this time, you didn’t do it? Or it was not done to the agreed upon level or cetera? Like, what about the inverse?
Blake John  09:04
From my perspective, what I’ve seen in the past is clients in like marketing managers, and the other side of the relationship, where it crumbles and fails is oftentimes when they don’t have someone accountable for communication on their end. And maybe there’s a group or like a three or a group of 10. But there’s a huge team on their side. And no one’s really the champion of communication to get back to the agency. And there can be huge pitfalls where, you know, hey, I’ve sent three emails over the last month, no one’s gotten back to me. And then we hear this, we might hear feedback, like, where’s the communications like, well, we don’t know who to even reach out to. So on the other side, if you’re working with an agency, maybe you have a large team, but I think ultimately, what you need to do is put somebody on your team in charge of communicating with the agency, it’s going to help you in the long run. It will also help make for more like efficient relationship with that agency.
Ray Sawvell  09:51
And we’ll talk about expectation setting later, but that’s going to be a big one. Like setting those expectations early on in the relationship. How often can we communicate who’s the key point of contact at This engagement like that’s going to be so big and ensuring that this relationship does not fail and why we fail as an agency. So that’s that, that’ll be a big one.
Ben Page  10:06
Yeah, that’s so cool. It’s like, let’s lift up the rug and get really clear and really direct. And maybe it’s a little uncomfortable. But let’s talk about expectations. Let’s talk about accountability and roles and all of these things in the spirit of just aligning together to produce great work and great outcomes. Yeah, that’s really cool.
Ray Sawvell  10:26
I’m a little sad that nobody’s had trust fall as an exercise, because I thought that was gonna be big. But it’s, I know, you’re a big trustful guy. Truly.
Ben Page  10:33
So what about the next pillar, we want to talk about being proactive, and this is one, I feel like in the last year or two, it’s probably just subjective experience. But the folks I’ve talked to, especially some that I’ve chosen to come and work with us, they’ve mentioned this lack of their current agency partner being proactive, they feel like it’s gotten stale. And they’re looking for a driver from the agency side of the table to kind of help them lead strategy and push them. And so I get the sense that there’s almost a desire for some healthy friction or some healthy challenging in this bucket. What have you guys seen or heard or observed when it comes to failing to be proactive for clients?
Blake John  11:18
Yeah, I think a lot of times, what happens is, the agency just gets kind of caught up in the numbers. And what they do eventually is they report or they deliver what’s there, but they’re not explaining why, or how or what they’re gonna do about it, essentially, right, like, maybe traffic is up 10%, revenue is up 15%. And that’s great. But it’s like, okay, well, why did this happen? Let’s peel back like what’s working? What can we build upon what can we try next year in the mean, and so I think agencies kind of just get complacent a little bit truthfully. And then it kind of goes back to the communication and taking accountability and realizing like part of as an agency, part of our responsibility is not just to report on the numbers and just sort of be there to help manage that, right. It’s also about figure out what’s next, and bringing that to the table. And I’ve seen this as well, but And it’s good that clients themselves will bring ideas to the table, that’s always really, really helpful. But when it gets to be too one sided, that becomes an issue.
Ray Sawvell  12:12
Yeah. And then like to add on to that, from my perspective, I feel one of the biggest reasons why a client wants to hire an agency is for them to be led. And if you’re not bringing that strategy to the table, and you’re not responsible for executing and the client is, it’s just going to cause like, that’s a big reason why it’ll fail. There’s a big difference in my mind from like consulting a client on strategy versus waiting for the client to tell you what to do. If you’re being proactive and bringing those strategic ideas to the table. And you’re saying, I think we should do X because of y, it’s big difference versus a client, what do you think we should do? That’s not a recipe for success, that’s going to end in failure every time, right?
Ben Page  12:47
That’s not a good way to frame a suggestion or an opportunity, right? It’s not taking that leader frame in presenting it. This one is so interesting to me, because I put myself in the client’s shoes here. So in the shoes of a lot of our listeners, right? And I think about what’s most attractive, when it comes to hiring an agency, what are the reasons that I’m thinking in my head that I would really want an agency to team up with? When it comes to being proactive? I’m thinking about reasons like because they’ve got experience across a number of clients. So they’re seeing different patterns, different trends, I’m thinking about based on their specialization and the disciplines they work in on this example for ourselves, like paid traffic and SEO. Oh, because they’re getting a lot of reps and those disciplines, they’re on top of those industry changes in that they’re bringing value from that perspective. So thinking through that, and how that would maybe inform the expectations I would have of the agency and being proactive. Yeah, I would want them to be taking a growth mindset, sort of not complacent mindset and to also surface to me, those instances where they’re seeing wins for other clients, or they’re seeing emerging trends or opportunities with technology or in just in the industry generally, in that so I’m thinking about from that lens, what Proactiv could look like I think how it can break down to is if an agency has developed a process or procedure. And if there’s no innovation in their DNA, if there’s no process on top of the process to help them evolve the process, or some agencies have gone this route of actually having a role focused on strategy, a role focused on growth for the book of clients that can sit sometimes on top or sometimes adjacent to the subject matter expertise groups of client service folks on the agency side to be that driving force. So you have a growth contingent and also maintain contingent or there’s like optimization and efficiency, but then you’re looking you have someone whose role it is to actually look at what are the moon shots that we could make for this client that could 10x our conversion rate or our total revenue or whatever.
Ray Sawvell  14:56
It goes off of the idea like if I see something working really well on paid search or blink See something working well on like organic, it’s surfacing that to the client. And even though we’re not responsible for email, potentially or like another channel, they can take those key insights and then take that into their strategy for another channel to help elevate all ships. So like, that’s a big opportunity,
Ben Page  15:13
ooh, I didn’t even think of this Ray, but it definitely factors in, it’s like, if the agency side doesn’t have enough clients specific knowledge or knowledge of the client’s customer, it’s going to be really hard to be proactive. In other words, if they’re siloed, and only thinking about their particular craft or discipline, like the agency that’s in charge of our email, right? And so they’re going to just bring email, email, email things to the client to make themselves look better, potentially, potentially, right? Or it’s just like not even intentionally, but it’s just kind of the default response based on their experience and the way they operate in their box. But like, again, thinking about, where’s the value? It’s like, going to that higher level place and saying, Look, I’m seeing something work well in this discipline? And I know that organic search is one piece of that customer journey for our clients customer, right? Oh, but how would this inform, ray, like the paid strategy? How this inform the content we want to put into that email? Or how could we change our overall acquisition mix based on what we’re seeing here? Or how would that inform budgeting, for instance, so having that bigger picture and almost reframing it, this is from the agency side, your clients, clients, you want to think their terms to really be proactive and really inform your strategy?
Ray Sawvell  16:29
Yeah. And in my experience, being able to speak to that level, and not only to your channel just makes you so much more valuable as a partner in most instances, because then you’re not only thinking about your discipline, you’re thinking about, like the business as a whole and how you can help other channels.
Ben Page  16:42
Yeah. All right, Blake, we’re going to move on to the next pillar. And we’re going to talk about misaligned incentives. Blake, how much do you love when someone asks you to rank them on page one for a keyword they care about? Don’t do it?
Blake John  16:55
Yeah, just send me an email. I’ll be there tomorrow. No, I mean, this is such a big one. Because what happens is in the sales process, a lot of times, there’s really two ways that this can happen. Like this can be a problem, misaligned incentives, the salesperson, either one sells something that like his service team can’t really do or can’t really deliver on or can only deliver half on, for example, right. And then that breaks down when the service team starts working with the client. And we get there and like, oh, well, this isn’t really the right fit like this was kind of doomed from the start. And that’s a bummer for everybody. Because as the service person, like the account manager, or the person doing the work, I can’t really do much at that point, I could just try my best. And that one hurts, and then people get really disappointed. But the other one, though, is the handoff between the salesperson and the service team. Because that is such an important moment in the like lifecycle of sales to like getting boots on the ground getting work done, if the service team isn’t aware of your goals, and maybe the client has already explained them to the sales team. But there haven’t been transferred and key information is missed. And maybe the service team doesn’t know understand, like, Oh, we’re prioritizing this part of our business. And this other part of our business just isn’t as important. And we don’t have that information. It can be like a huge pitfall and things can be get off to a bad start, essentially, that one’s not quite as big of a bummer, because I think you can rectify and you can move things in the right direction. But that one hurts as well. And those are, in my opinion, probably the two biggest results of essentially misaligned incentives and not understanding the true expectations and goals that the client is trying to reach.
Ben Page  18:29
That’s yeah, those are excellent points. When I think of this, I’m thinking of it almost from an economic standpoint, because incentives are powerful drivers of behavior across like all domains of life, effectively, habits and relationships and just everything right. So I’m thinking about, like agency fee structures. That’s one that I’ve obsessed on for just a long time. And, for instance, one of the classic PPC agency fee structures as a percentage of spend, there’s a lot of debate on it. It’s easy, how much did you spend last month, we’re going to charge you 10% of it or whatever. And great, here’s your bill. The problem is that brands clients, every business, right has a business to run, they have an economic financial reality. And so if you Stephen Covey this thing, and you begin with the end in mind, and from like Blake, you were talking about that sales to service handoff process, if you begin from the very first conversation with a prospective client or with an agency guys that are listening, and you frame that discussion in economic terms, in terms of the business outcomes, you’re looking to try the things that you care about marketing director, CFO CEO, like the business level outcomes, that the sort of executive leadership team cares most about driving and you frame your marketing engagement. On those terms, things are going to go a lot better for you. Yeah, and again, there’ll be some when the due diligence is being done and sort of the research the projections, the benchmarks are being set in the growth forecasts are being run. Sometimes you run into situations where I’m thinking here, guys, instead of an agency, like percentage of spend model for PBC, I’m thinking about like a performance based or an affiliate based agreement, right? Like a dollars per lead, or, you know, percent of revenue or percent of profit kind of engagement. Sometimes you run the numbers, and you find that it’s not going to work in the current situation, either. The margins are too thin, there’s not enough cash, there’s not enough scale, the payback periods too long, or most commonly, what I’ve been seeing is that there’s insufficient or inaccurate data that prevents that kind of model from being deployed. But in general, the further down the funnel, you can get to that business level outcome you can when you’re working with an agency and comping on that and aligning on that that KPI as well, from a measurement standpoint, that’s gonna go a lot farther. I mean, Ray, what do you see in this area? I mean, how much of a difference does it make optimizing for gross profit instead of clicks to the website? Or?
Ray Sawvell  21:01
Yeah, yeah, I mean, obviously, if you’re optimizing for CAC, or profit, or what have you, you’re actually making more business related outcomes versus just driving as much volume as possible. So you’re actually making you’re delivering business results versus just like vanity metrics. And not saying that vanity metrics aren’t important, like, you know, clicks and impressions, and all that good kind of stuff. But if you’re able to optimize towards profit, for example, you can go back to that CFO or whoever your main contact us and say, Here’s how hard you’re marketing, or PPC, or what have you, is working for you and actually have a bottom line story to tell versus we got your 10,000 clicks last month, yay. Versus we delivered $10,000 worth of profit, like it’s a big difference in the way the conversation is being had
Ben Page  21:42
1,000%. And one tip I’ll throw out there as if you’re on the client side currently, or working with an agency or you’re even measuring on something like cost per acquisition, or you’re measuring on something like a return on adspend a row as right. Sometimes those numbers are stuffed, and they can add or they can lie or not tell the whole story. Again, intentionally or not, right, there might not be enough data that the agency has access to really report on what’s actually happening. But there are many, many, many scenarios, I have seen where a positive ROI is being reported on the agency side. But when you back out things like leads to qualified leads to close rate to lifetime value, or on the E commerce side, gross margins, and average order value and repeat purchase. Like when you go all the way through the funnel, and build the model based on what’s really happening in those cohorts that are being acquired from paid traffic. You can do it for other channels too. Suddenly, a 5x row as is you’re actually losing money, every dollar you put into Google ads, you’re losing $1.50. And that’s a sad day, because it’s kind of it’s hard to track down in many cases. But it’s one of those hard realities.
Ray Sawvell  22:51
So it sounds like if you build trust in the relationship early on, you can have those types of conversations that are actually leading to business objectives,
Ben Page  22:58
perhaps and I think, again, beginning with the end in mind is critical. So what about mismatched expectations? I mean, I’ve seen this one before. Sometimes, I think we could get overconfident right on the agency side. What have you guys seen client comes in big expectations, big, big goals? When does an agency fail a client when it comes to expectation setting and kind of aligning on expectations?
Ray Sawvell  23:23
Yep. I mean, we’ve kind of hinted at this throughout a bunch of our conversations that kind of in my mind goes with those misaligned incentives. So if you’re not rowing in the same direction, if you don’t have the same goals as the client, and you’re not setting those expectations, one, are they reasonable, that’s a big one. So ensuring that they’re reasonable, but also like, how much time is it going to take you to get this result? So you know, back to Blake’s example, Mr. Blake will speak to it. If a client wants to rank page one on google and they want to do it tomorrow. Blake, Is that Is that realistic? Is that going to happen? I’m guessing if you email me, Oh, yeah. Blake, what about chat? GPT. Now I’m just gonna go back to the first episode.  But yeah, I mean, like time money, like how big of an impact you’re looking to make, like these are all really big conversations to have, because on the flip side of the tube, and kind of going back to the agency fee side, if you’re paying a low agency fee, and you’re asking for a lot, you have to really set those expectations with the client or with the agency to say, like, here’s what I here’s what I want to get. And then it’s our job to say that is realistic, or it’s not realistic and to have those conversations and again, it goes back to building that trust early on. Because if you don’t have that trust, it’s not gonna work out. Right.
Ben Page  24:32
Either the conversation won’t be had or Yeah, it’s gonna be sad. Yeah.
Blake John  24:36
And I’ll just add to this, you just touched on it, Ray. But if you’re going down the route, where you’re pursuing, like an SEO agency, you have to have a long term outlook on this, right? It’s not like we were joking around, when can you get the page one tomorrow? I mean, maybe if you’re the 11th position today, right? Like maybe, but if you’re not on the map, and you’re looking at this key, a specific keyword like a head term and say, Let’s get there tomorrow. Well, it’s not it’s not realistic. It’s Not possible, it’s, it’s gonna take time. And likely, it’s probably going to take two to three months. That’s, like quickest. So those expectations and those, like boundary settings on the agent side are really important because a lot of times client come in and say we want the world of course, like that does happen, but they’re like, Well, how long is this going to take? That’s such a big question that I get all the time, the truth of the answer is, it’s probably going to take three months, and it might take six months for SEO, specifically, you’re talking about SEO and the timeline for going from not on the map at all to page one, like, you’re gonna need to take some time, some hard work is gonna have to be done to reach that. And I think it’s just so important to actually like, set those expectations and be really clear about what you’re looking at. And again, having that long term outlook.
Ben Page  25:39
Yeah, that’s a great point.
Ray Sawvell  25:40
Yeah. And I think it also sorry, but I think it also allows you to build that trust and be proactive early on, because if you’re clearly setting those expectations, you can be proactive and say, in 60 days, here’s what we’re going to accomplish. Here are the milestones, here’s what success looks like. And then you can build, build, build versus being like, here’s what we saw over the last 30 days, and not being new being reactive versus proactive. So again, all this builds on each other. And by setting clear expectations, it allows you to be proactive, once you clearly execute your plan, you’re building that trust, so everything just kind of like continues to build on itself.
Ben Page  26:11
Yeah, positive feedback when you have the trust and you set the boundaries and you set clear expectations. This one for me, guys, I sometimes when I talk to clients or prospects, I’ll ask them, What do you have more of time or money? Right? Because like even your point, right, it’s, it’s somewhat of a arbitrary, but he gave a guideline, you’re like, hey, it’s gonna take some months realistically, because in most of these marketing channels we’re talking about, they’re fully matured, the competition levels are extremely high. Obviously, there’s some variance like in paid with cost per clicks and saturation of the SERP with competition and auctions and stuff, and an SEO like, okay, sometimes you get lucky, it’s pretty rare, right? Because everyone has all the same data generally. Now, in terms of like keyword research and stuff, like on occasion, you’ll find a gym, and you’ll be able to exploit it and stand up an article or something that can rank more quickly. But in general, the prospect of ranking for a matured search results in a competitive keyword space or topic space, like how can I build the best possible resource for users and stand up here and get data and make improvements and iterate on it over some period of time, so that I can go from zero to on the radar, you know, and that’s a huge undertaking, and thinking about lots one, that’s one article or one service page, for instance, now do that at scale for your site, it’s a huge undertaking. So I did on the on the paid side, there are cases, there are scenarios I found where it’s more prudent to take a slow conservative approach, go for a really high row as are really low cost to acquire a qualified lead situation, and allow them to kind of build on that take, like an iterative approach where, okay, great month one, you’re like 10%, to your goal, and then one to your like 25%. And then also kind of compounds when you it’s like a land and expand approach. I mean, there are cases where, hey, we’ve got cash flow, hey, we’re spending a lot today on paid, we don’t have a lot of time, maybe we’re running hot, or breakeven, or we’re actually losing money on a lot of our acquisition efforts on Facebook ads or something. In these cases, it’s like, Alright, we gotta go. We gotta go now. And we got to make a big change. So I think that’s key. And I. The other thing I want to point out with mismatched expectations is what’s great when a client comes to an agency, and they’ve got a clear idea of what they want to achieve. There’s always talk of SMART goals, hey, hey, agency, we’d love to achieve this return on adspend. In 90 days across these channels, great. Sounds cool, or, Hey, we want to grow our organic revenue by 20%. This year, well, fantastic. But this is where that, again, that trust comes in. And that data, that reality piece, is it realistic, right? What’s your history of growth? Are you going to resource this initiative to the extent that it needs to be to achieve those or Ray we’re seeing this in the travel tourism activity space, right, so many market specific variations in search demand and search volume. So client, great, you want to grow 20% Search demand for your market or your activity is down 50% year over year, oh, that’s gonna be brutal, right? You’re gonna have to be the best and pretty much no stone unturned to achieve that kind of result.
Ray Sawvell  29:16
So gotta set those expectations.
Ben Page  29:19
You got to do it, you want to align them to and come to an agreement. The next one guys, the next pillar, lack of expertise. Ray, what are your thoughts?
Ray Sawvell  29:26
How do agencies fail clients when it comes to lack of expertise? For me, it’s like shotgun approach versus being surgical. So if you’ve got somebody who is managing your pain, managing SEO, doing local doing email, doing everything there, in my experience, there’s nobody that good who can do like everything unless they just have like a bunch of like time that they’re working on. So in my experience, it’s better to have someone who is working on specific facets of the business based on like how large you are. So having that generalist versus specialist in my experience has been like huge. So again, somebody’s focusing so specifically, unpaid somebody on SEO Dev, like all that kind of stuff. And my experience has been really big. Another key thing that I’ve seen as well is if you have this rockstar person who’s working, so back to my first example, they’re doing everything and they happen to leave that agency, oh, like a bomb just went off, they’re like, there’s gonna be a big issue from that standpoint. So like, in that realm, those are probably like two of the biggest actors that I’ve seen. Blake, I don’t know what you’ve seen on your side.
Blake John  30:26
Yeah, on the organic side of things. We’ve talked about this actually like off air a few times. But what happens is one of the main reasons that an agency will fail really is because an SEO team or agency or whatever, they don’t really have a true process. And they give clients to like, basically a really green SEO analyst, right, who doesn’t really know their way they don’t have the experience to like put out fires when they arise, or they don’t have the experience to come up with new ideas and really, like push the boundaries and execute work, because they’re just new to it, right. But what happens is, essentially, your service as the client, as the company was working with this agency, your services as good as that, like analyst, and then that’s full stop, right, there are only as good as the analysts, because that’s what you’re working with. And that’s what I was doing your work. So the problem there is basically, agencies will like to look oftentimes just like cheap labor interns or Fiverr, freelancers type in the I mean, to try to like execute, and things will just break down because it’s not quality work. And you’re not getting a true experts opinion, or input or feedback throughout that process. And it’s a huge problem. I think, just like globally, in the SEO industry, where a lot of the times the way it works is you are getting cheap labor. And it’s unfortunate. And there’s ways to say that, but it’s yeah, it’s kind of a pitfall of a lot of times when people are working with SEO agencies,
Ben Page  31:50
you know, something weird, I’ve thought about in the past guys is like, Should our industry have an apprentice program? Almost like you see in the trades, like seriously, not like Star Wars. I mean, I love that sort of like, you know, kind of vibe to it. But you don’t I mean, like, oh, like you’re a journeyman electrician, should you be like an apprentice SEO and have more structured ways to come up in the craft, because I just feel like the way it’s kind of like the Wild West, though, right? Like very little regulation, very little structure, like people just make it up. And just to get kind of weird for a second. Like, if you zoom out 30,000 foot view, and you strip away like, Hey, we’re agency partners, or the people listening our marketing VP or something client side, like strip all that away, the clients incentive at a base level is always to extract maximum value from agency per dollar, right? And the agency’s incentive is always to extract maximum value from per employee that like, from an economic standpoint, and like the way that most of these if you think about how an agency financially works, we think about how most businesses financially run, right? That’s kind of like the reality in a weird way, if you think about it, so those are at odds, clearly, right? It’s like, just market dynamics, like buyers and sellers, right supply and demand. And so it’s like agency grows, agency hires more junior talent or entry level folks and aspires to train them up in the craft, and so on and so forth. But then some of the dynamics like that you pointed out tend to happen. And re obviously, it happens on the paid side as well, clearly. That’s what I wonder is like, should there be more clarity? Should there be more formalized structure to it, where you could say, Oh, these are the expectations for a journeyman or an expert or a grandmaster SEO? You know what I mean? That’s an interesting concept, Grandmaster SEO, right? I mean, I like that. Do I get that badge today? It’s like a triple blackbelts. I truly, I think that’s a really great idea. We should look into it. Alright, squad, you heard it here first. But yeah, I think you know, my last point on that is the turnover of the point person. So because individuals vary in their capability, in their knowledge, their client’s specific knowledge, their domain knowledge, etc, just 8020 Rule period, perhaps at the start of engagement, you had the best person in that discipline on the agency side assigned to your account, and 18 months later, they get assigned to a new account, they leave or whatever, and you get new person. And I’ve also run to this just countless a dozen or more times over my career, right? Like, Hey, why aren’t you know, why did you give us a call? Oh, we’re working with agency. We had an awesome person we’re working with the left the new person we barely hear from them. We don’t know what they’re doing. Why did this have to happen? This is terrible. You know, okay, all right. I got you. But again, a case where you want us have that transparency that trust. Who are you working with? Who’s your point person? Yeah, and have that long term perspective as well. Ray last pillar. I mean, I guess this is a bonus pillar, lack of process. Tell us more about that bonus chapter.
Ray Sawvell  34:45
The hidden pillar Blake you hit on this earlier, but that lack of process or that lack of handoff can make an engagement start off in a really bad like foot and like you said, like we can maybe recover from that. But if your first engagement with a new agency starts off and you are promised all this stuff, Often the sales process, oh, I’m gonna get you a 4x row, as Blake said, he’s gonna get me to page one on google and all this great stuff is going to happen. And then all of a sudden, you’re handed off to the ops team. And none of that is communicated. The expectations are unrealistic. You the client said, yes, they’re all excited to get started. And then it’s just like, when you first start, it’s hard to recover from that. And that retention number that we talked about earlier, it’s gonna be hard to retain that client as the point I’m trying to make. So it’s having that clear process early on, like, you start off on sales. And you’re cleanly handed off to ops that that makes the world of a difference.
Ben Page  35:31
Yeah, that first impression matters. So much like first touched by the client service team. And so that sales to ops handoff piece is huge, as is within a given discipline like Blake, you hinted at this earlier, having a way having a method having a process having clarity, and like the actual work that will be done. Yeah, to to achieve the desired results.
Blake John  35:52
Yeah, I think there’s like, again, this is a pitfall of the agency for the agency life and the way that it works specifically on the SEO side, I don’t know how much this impacts paid. I’m sure it does. But like having a documented process for how to do keyword research, how to develop a content brief how to actually, like tactically complete a task will make that agency so much stronger, because again, it comes down to less of the individual’s capacity to do the work if they’re new, that might not be as strong of an analyst. But if they have a strong process to lean on, well, now we’re not worrying so much about how good is this analyst? Or what’s more about how good is this process, and it’s work and it’s tried and true. And we know that this works, and if you do it, and if you check every box, and it’s not a checklist, I don’t want to make SEO sound like a checklist. But if you check every box sounds like a checklist. Yeah. So he’s just email you guys. For all this really strong process that we’ve done in the past for five years. And we know it works, because we’ve seen it over the years, that work can be so much stronger. And it’s so important that if you’re working with an agency that they have these processes in place, love it.
Ben Page  36:53
Quick shout out to Atul Gawande with checklists manifesto. Great book on checklists. If you’re interested, let’s guys, let’s move into some q&a. Let’s do it. So first question here. What are red flags when hiring an agency? So what advice would you give to a client, maybe their agency shopping for the first time or they’re looking for that next partner in some area? What are red flags that sort of signal, pay more attention or possibly keep looking
Ray Sawvell  37:21
for me, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true. And not saying that guarantees are always a bad thing. But they’re probably mostly like, like a bad thing. So if somebody’s saying, again, back, we make we make this joke a whole episode about somebody’s guaranteeing they’re going to rank you a specific way. That’s a red flag. If someone’s saying we are going to increase your row as by XYZ percentage in this amount of timeframe, it can be a red flag now, I’ve seen it work where it’s like, hey, we’ll maintain euro as or beat euro as over longer timeframe. But again, that’s having the end in mind. So if you say something like over a six month period, we’ll maintain your row as or like something along those lines, that can be helpful. But in my mind, the biggest red flag is if it sounds too good to be true, like you might want to get like another opinion.
Ben Page  38:06
Okay, so being bogus is what I’m here and making bogus claims, without a case to really back it up.
Blake John  38:12
Yeah, I think specifically, if you’re working with an agency, like if you’re looking to hire an agency, I’d want to hear our goal is to do x. And this is how we’re going to do it, right. Instead of say, we’re going to do this, trust us, trust us, but like I would want okay, here’s what we want to achieve. And here’s how we’re going to achieve it. That’s ultimately I think, what you need to hear on the hiring side like love perspective company looking for an agency site, because yeah, I was gonna say specifically on the SEO side, if anybody is making you guarantees, it’s a huge red flag and there’s two things so that one if you’re hearing guarantees from an SEO agency or SEO specialists or whatever true truly run away No, no SEO analyst worth their weight and water will guarantee anything you can there’s so many variables outside of your control. Yeah, there’s just too much right. Cousin works for Google and knows how the algorithm works. The people that Google don’t really even know how it works. So Coca Cola recipe. Yeah, but the other thing and I think this might honestly be controversial, this is again, this is like a specific SEO agency type tip. Yeah, take it ready. If the agency’s plan is like more than half to build backlinks and like they’re really relying on backlinks. Oh, we’re gonna build 100 backlinks a month. And that’s like the majority of their plan. I personally see that as a red flag. There’s going to be SEO analysts out there who will probably disagree with me but backlinks and this is kind of getting more pragmatic. And maybe even another episode. I don’t know. Backlinks are becoming less important over time. They used to be extremely important and it’s kind of dwindled in value. So if their primary method for achieving the goals that they’ve set is through backlinks, I would personally consider that a red flag.
Ben Page  39:50
So to recap we’ve got bogus claims from Ray we’ve got no roadmap no proven process from Blake for me I’ll throw in asking for budget before providing pricing. I’ll call this one, I’ll label it the used car sales situation, right? The well, how much is this new SUV? Well, how much? How much do you have? That’s about how much it’s gonna cost guys, one of those situations so interesting, exactly what a coincidence, I think goes back to that plan piece, right? If you’re working with an agency, they’ve done this before, they have a strong sense of the roadmap, and the plan that will get you from point A to point B, they have some sense of how many resources that will take to achieve regardless of the format of their fee structure, right? Hourly project retainer, percent of x, whatever. The other one, too is, like, not transparent, or won’t let you own the accounts, or won’t tell you about the team that will be working with you. When you sign on, you know, if any of those happen, and they seem reluctant, or like they won’t share some of that basic information that you’d expect from a quality long term partner, I would say keep looking head for the hill, head for the hills, head for page two. So next, next question, what are signs, you know, let’s say client is working with agency currently, things are feeling stale, maybe they don’t have great data, or it’s just like that gut feeling you’re like, and this thing is getting long in the tooth here, we better start taking the tires looking elsewhere. Just seeing what’s out there. What are signs, you should maybe get a second opinion,
Blake John  41:20
I think one of the big signs is if you so you should be meeting with your agency, probably at least monthly, but maybe bi weekly, whatever the cadence is, if you’re meeting with them, and you feel like those meetings aren’t valuable, maybe they were at the start, and they’re becoming less and less valuable. And you’re like, you end that meeting and you don’t feel like you’ve learned something or you’re walking away with clear action items, or you know what I mean, it just doesn’t feel valuable, like I just wasted 60 minutes of my day, that’s a clear sign that you should probably start looking for a new agency and kind of trust your gut a little bit. And maybe if you have a strong partnership with the agency or something, maybe you can say that these meetings are very valuable, and I think something needs to change. Or if you’re starting to feel like okay, maybe they’re selling me snake oil. And this is a whole a little bonkers baloney. Maybe it’s time to just say, Okay, let’s like start shopping around bunkers and baloney. Yeah. There was another viewer that I was looking for. I had decided not to use Okay.
Ray Sawvell  42:15
Yeah, I mean, I’ve got to so if you’ve got someone managing your paid ads today, here’s what you should do. Log into your platform, go to Google ads, Microsoft ads, Facebook ads, go there, there’s a change history feature for all these platforms, Google how to do it, it’s really straightforward. Select the change history. And look how many changes have been made in your account over the last 1430 6090 days, if there’s not a lot of work being done in your accounts, that’s like one of the like health metrics that we like to look at, if a lot of work isn’t being done in your account. And you’re like, like, what gives? Yeah, exactly. Like, what the heck, that’s one big thing you should look at. So that’s like, number one. The other one is like if you’re flatlining in like your performance. So if performance has been the same, you’re maintaining the same revenue numbers, you’re maintaining the same row as numbers. And there’s not a lot of conversations being had on like, you know how to grow that number. Again, like maybe your goal is to maintain with paid traffic, but like most businesses, they want to grow, and they want a strategy on how to do that. If your numbers are flatlining, that might be another reason to get a second opinion.
Ben Page  43:12
Yeah, that’s so cool. Ray, I am so torn, like change history is a great sign of activity and value. I’ve heard this from prospects before, like, I feel like I could fire the agency, or they could stop managing my account. And in a month, nothing would be different, I’d have the same exact performance and you’re like, Okay, that’s probably a sign but it’s like, I’m torn because I feel like they’re 8020 principle, right? There are certain changes you could make in an account that have an outsized impact. Yeah. However, on the invert that and and very much what we’re staking ourselves on is consistent action, consistent small improvements, make all the difference in the world. 1% better every day, that’s gonna make a big difference over the lifetime of that account, or, you know, over the time frame, you’re working on them, right and having that dialed process and that consistent action is what will get the result it can it matters more to do that than to be the smartest SEO that ever walked the planet or the best PPC, the Grandmaster SEO or right What was that call? Grandmaster? Grandmaster? I triple blackbelt. Yeah, nice. Yeah, maybe we’ll have that as a badge in the squad. So those are some signals that you should get a second opinion. Start having some conversations. So overall hope this was helpful squad kind of takeaways, quick recap on the five plus reasons why digital agencies fail their clients. One was trust. Two was being proactive. Three is misaligned. incentives. Four is mismatched expectations. Five is lack of expertise and the bonus was lack of process. We bonus we gave you some red flags, some signs that you should start looking for a new partnership. I hope this was really helpful and shouted us with any questions. We’re happy to have conversations with you guys anytime. Email Blake at 2100 want to rank on page one?
Ray Sawvell  45:00
Google, Gmail. I’m your guy.
Ben Page  45:05
Thank you so much for listening. Your support means the world to us and allows us to help more people and grow the community. Please take a minute right now to subscribe and share this wherever you listen to podcasts, and sign up for the profit squat at join profit This will get you insider access additional tools and swipe files and help you elevate your marketing game to the next level.