4 Mistakes Big Companies Make When Using a Digital Marketing Agency

4 Mistakes Big Companies Make When Using a Digital Marketing Agency

Whether it’s a one-time project or multi-year strategic engagement, investing your company’s valuable time and money into a digital marketing agency partnership is a big decision. That effort and investment are best served in an environment that removes barriers to success, like reoccurring and avoidable mistakes.

From business mapping to customer surveys to creating a culture of education – we’ve found ways to work more efficiently, create more impactful deliverables and expand our core capabilities – but what can your company do to ensure improved service and results from your digital marketing agency?

Here are 4 common mistakes we’ve seen big companies make that directly impact the relationship (and results) with their agency:

1. Lack of Definition Around the Agency’s Role

As a digital marketing client, it’s important to show your team the “why” behind the agency’s role to help them understand the long-term value of the partnership. Without this transparency, members of your team may view the agency as a disruptor or breed insecurity amongst your team. This can erode the quality of the agency partnership and its associated work.

For example, if you delegate something to your agency, such as an SEO audit, and someone on your team previously owned that responsibility, they could view this as a negative overstep without proper context.

2018 Course Correction Resolution

Secure buy-in from your team – both up and down the company hierarchy. Accomplish this by clearly illustrating:

  • What objectives the digital marketing agency is aimed to accomplish
  • Why you believe they’re the best choice to complete this work
  • How they will directly benefit from the agency’s help
  • How this frees up time to contribute to their own KPIs

By defining the digital marketing agency’s role, your team will view them as necessary to their own success. This can go a long way when creating a collaborative environment that drives results.


2. Absence of Project Ownership and Execution

Your agency can, and should, have all the resources in place to create a project framework and execute every aspect of the project under their control. But unless you give an agency carte blanche to do everything from strategy to implementation, you will have to build out your own project solutions.

Areas where the absence of client-side project ownership and execution affect outcomes are:

  • Failure to carve out time to review agency work. This can create stress, cause project gridlock, and is a real disruptor for success.
  • Not planning for implementation. In one of our workshops on amplification, we ask the question, “Would you spend all your money creating a TV spot and never air it? No.” The same holds true for the work you create with your digital agency. Have a plan to implement, prioritizing the work that has the greatest impact on business results.
  • Keeping the C-Suite happy. Project execution leads to results, and that’s what your executive team cares about. If implementation stalls, a sound project driving towards valuable results may seem like a costly project that isn’t driving results to your boss.

According to research from Content Marketing Institute, only 28% of B2B companies believe their projects are moving along efficiently.


At the onset of every client engagement, client/agency onboarding is critical. It’s here where both teams align with expectations, project timelines and the steps it will take to be successful with digital marketing.

On our side, we have an internal onboarding session and strategic meetings to ensure our team is aligned with our roles and responsibilities. Your team should do the same. With optimal and balanced levels of ownership and execution, results will thrive.

2018 Course Correction Resolution

Create internal onboarding and reoccurring meetings that establish roles and responsibilities around project ownership and execution, ensuring project delays aren’t misconstrued for poor performing work.

3. Not Making Time to Share Information

When you sign up with an agency, you expect a lot from them in terms of expertise and results. But the agency doesn’t have a monopoly on valuable information. Your team brings a level of expertise and knowledge about your business and industry that no agency can match.

Remember, you’re the subject matter experts in your industry. When a client doesn’t make time to give or receive information, it can negatively impact the value the agency relationship returns. Areas where this occurs:

  • Strategy: If your agency doesn’t have all the inputs to identify the right strategy or a way to convey their own ideas to you, the strategy will lack the necessary vision to accomplish your goals.
  • Project: If left to their own devices, your agency is adept at creating a solution that wraps up a project. But it will fall well short of what the project would look like infused with your expertise.
  • Accountability and Governance: It’s vital to have a pulse on how everyone involved thinks things are going. As important as this is, it’s often deprioritized. There is a stark difference between how challenges are viewed when accountability and governance are in or out of place. With the latter, challenges are magnified, and solutions are harder to come by because there isn’t a strong foundation to problem solve from.

2018 Course Correction Resolution

Input is helpful and should be consistently conveyed throughout the partnership at multiple junctures via a few different channels. Ensure communication at the strategy, project and governance levels. Offer the necessary input or feedback to help your agency make the best strategic and project-related decisions.

Where governance lacks, create a good structure with your agency. Below is a good initial structure:

  • Establish appropriate expectations on what each organization will and won’t do
  • Hold each other accountable to those expectations
  • Address what happens if one group is not holding up their end of the deal

4. Lack of Trust

Think back to the dozens of hours (likely 100+) exceptionally smart people at your company put into vetting an agency relationship:

  • The consideration that went into what you want that partnership to look like
  • Making the leap and deciding to search for an agency
  • The upfront research learning about agencies
  • Sifting through RFP after RFP
  • Making the decision – “We want to partner with your agency.”

The purpose of these actions is to create a beneficial arrangement, where victory is predicated on mutual success. Trust is the constant that assures that happens.

Trusting your agency doesn’t mean, “As long as you do everything right 100% of the time, you have our trust”. That won’t happen. But by taking action and providing your agency access, trust can increase the likelihood everything is “done right”.  Are you:

  • Reviewing deliverables in a timely fashion?
  • Implementing recommendations?
  • Providing your agency with access to key data?

If you’re hesitant to do these things, you’re fostering an environment that will lead to you low agency trust. Instead, set them up for success and watch your trust grow.

Stop thinking of your agency in this way.

2018 Course Correction Resolution

Approach your agency relationship from a position of trust. When you see an issue to fix or outcome to achieve, directly communicate it to your agency. Trust them to listen, create a plan and execute it with your guidance. To trust our process, our team and you.

Fostering a Healthy Relationship with your Digital Marketing Agency

With these course corrections, you should see a marked improvement in your agency partnership and the results your agency drives for your business. Remember:

  • Define the agency’s role among your team members to establish a collaborative relationship.
  • Find a balance of project ownership and execution to ensure important milestones don’t fall through the cracks.
  • Communication is vital. Give and receive information throughout the marketing strategy. You are the subject matter experts in your industry, your agency can help project that authority to your audience.

Build a trusting environment among your agency and internal team. Trust them to listen, create a plan and execute it effectively.

Not ready for an agency? How about a personal coach to help your marketing team build a solid digital strategy? Check out our digital marketing training and mentorship program!


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Jonah Deaver

Jonah Deaver is an Account Manager at Vertical Measures who is always striving to help deserving businesses achieve success through search. +JonahDeaver