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How to demand results from your marketing agency » Portal Insights
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Your company grew, the world changed and, suddenly, you realized that having a Digital Marketing strategy to sell over the internet is the next step towards the exponential growth of your business.

When analyzing the options, you decide that the best cost-benefit is to hire an agency. After all, you don't have time to learn, no one in your company wants to commit to it and, at the end of the day, it's smarter to pay a specialized company than try to recreate the wheel.

You talk to some people, define the scope and sign the contract with the one you felt most confident about. In the first weeks, the work consists of briefing meetings, planning presentations, feedback, access releases and other initial adjustments.

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At the end of the first month, you start to wonder whether the work will be limited to planning and briefing. After all, you have already participated in at least three meetings but, so far, there is no sign of progress in sales.

In the second and third month, the agency carries out a series of tests. It’s a channel test, a creative test, a strategy test… There are even some sales, but far from what you expected.

You noticed that they are no longer paying as much attention to the project as they did in the beginning, so you decide to “pick on them more”.

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The fourth and fifth months are similar: some opportunities and sales do arise, but selling a lot, as you expected, still seems like a distant dream.

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So you decide to cancel and look for another agency.

Where is the error? That's what we're going to talk about in this article.

There is an illusion in the market – perhaps even the fault of the agencies themselves who make unrealistic promises – that someone, somewhere, has an infallible formula to make your company sell a lot over the internet.

The very term “project” that circulates in this segment is confusing. After all, if every project has a beginning, middle and end, it's natural to expect that at some point the formula will work and then you won't have to worry about it anymore.

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But the blunt truth is that this formula does not exist. Yes, there is a set of good practices and some validated processes, but no business is the same and creating a process (not a project) over the internet that is consistent and scalable is a four-hand job between the agency and the client (you).

The role of the agency is to have the know-how and tools to execute a strategy defined together with the client.

The client's role is to provide internal resources, such as experience, details about products/services, access, etc., so that the agency can execute the strategy.

I like to imagine that the company (client) is the plane, and the agency is “just” another turbine. The plane already has its structure and turbines but uses the agency as a catalyst.

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No. An agency with expertise and a good organization will be essential for you to achieve success on the internet.

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But, at least in my experience, you're much more likely to be successful when you do your part (as a client) and have a “so-so” agency, rather than the other way around.

If just hiring the best agency on the market and “delegating” everything with them was the solution to getting a return on investment, all your competitors would have already done that and this agency would probably be the most valuable company in the world.

Before anything else, define with the agency what the project’s objectives are – I really like the OKRs methodology. Also remember to set realistic goals with deadlines – for this I recommend following the SMART method of goal setting.

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Attention! Don't make the mistake of confusing scope with objectives. Scope is the type of deliverables the agency can make to help achieve objectives.

Objectives are the goals you want for your company, regardless of scope.

A realistic example of an objective for companies that are just starting to create an online sales process is to obtain ROI 1 on at least two acquisition channels (for example, Google and Facebook Ads).

Based on this objective, the agency and you can talk to define what actions will be taken to achieve it.

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At this stage, understand that your role as an entrepreneur is to provide your vision of the market and internal processes, and the role of the agency is to provide expertise in Digital Marketing processes, tools and methodologies.

Yes, some things may not sound promising, maybe you've already tested something, but it just doesn't make sense to pay someone with expertise if you're not going to take them into consideration.

And that's why having clear objectives is so important: the agency, knowing where you want to go, will take this into account in decisions and it is in its interest to achieve the objectives to maintain the project.

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Without clear objectives for both parties, no one can demand results.

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The second step after the objectives is to define check-ins to monitor the project’s progress. Check-ins are nothing more than recurring meetings (online or in person) where:

  • the agency brings the results since the last check-in
  • the agency shows how much is needed to achieve the objectives set
  • the agency shows the mistakes and successes so far
  • the customer (you) brings feedback and concerns
  • both parties take into account the content presented to define the next actions

I always recommend that check-ins be repeated weekly and, if you realize that it is better to space them out more to have more data to analyze, move to biweekly or monthly.

A tip is to always leave check-in with two to-do lists: one from the agency and one from the client. Remember that this is a four-hand job.

Assuming you were unable to meet your objectives within the defined deadlines, before canceling with the agency it is a good idea to make some reflections:

  • Did you provide all the information and resources necessary for the agency to execute what was in scope?
  • Although the objectives were not achieved, was there any progress in terms of results? Did the pointer move or stay in the same place?
  • Were the results not achieved because the agency did not execute the actions as expected, or because the results were lower than projected?

If the answer is no to any of these questions, it's worth calling the agency to talk and, if you feel confident in them (especially in the technical and consultative part), set new objectives and start a new cycle.

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It is rare, very rare, for any strategy to work the first time. I've always used the concept of the PDCA cycle a lot because of this – we know that we need to polish the process, regardless of the level of expertise of the people involved.

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As I said above, no business is the same, even when the product is identical. If it were Disney Plus, Netflix, HBO Max and Prime Videos would have exactly the same results.

Now, if the answer is yes to some of the questions, everything will depend on whether you believe that this agency is mature enough to absorb feedback, recognize flaws and evolve along with the project.

Remember that no agency will have the formula for the success of your internet business. What will make the difference is that some are efficient in analyzing, testing and implementing – while others have no idea about it.

As a rule, any agency will need at least 6 months to show any significant results.

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An unfortunately very common move by some businesspeople who are dissatisfied with their agencies is to simply give up on Digital Marketing. “If I tried for X amount of time, with Y agencies, and it didn't work, this internet business doesn't work for my niche. Right?”

No, wrong.

It's difficult to imagine a niche that can't gain traction with the internet. Even if your sale is completely offline, people's attention is increasingly on the internet and, at the very least, you can gain their attention to take them to your point of sale, or generate interest for your sales team.

I see that this withdrawal comes from a misalignment of expectations that, as I said at the beginning, Digital Marketing is not a project with a beginning, middle and end. People hope to find some formula that will work on the first try and then forever.

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That does not exist.

It can take a while for a strategy to work, no matter how good it is. And, when it does, many things will most likely need to be constantly adjusted to continue bringing results.

It's not easy but, as they say, if it were easy everyone would do it.

I hope the text was useful and that it makes things clearer for anyone who has hired or wants to hire an agency. It's sad to see companies with potential giving up on the most important sales channel of the century simply due to a failure to align expectations.

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