13 Minutes

12 Common Agency Mistakes Most Marketing Managers Won’t Tell You

Written By

Sean Martin

When it comes to making a mistake, no agency wants to look bad and admit fault to their clients. It not only makes you vulnerable to counteraction and complaints, it also - perhaps even more damaging to the agency:client relationship - compromises your authority and sense of expertise. 

But, on the other hand, even the most on-their-game, analytical, fact checking digital marketers make mistakes. We’re all human here. So it’s no surprise that most agencies don’t want to fess up when something goes wrong. 

But, you’d be surprised how often it does. 

60% Of Agencies Make 6 Mistakes/Week

That’s right, you read that statistic correctly. When surveyed, it was the digital marketers themselves who admitted that at least 60% of digital marketing agencies make 6 campaign mistakes per week. 

These mistakes can range quite a wide variety, from things like accidentally leaving campaigns on or publishing broken links, to accidentally offending your audience with inappropriate copy or getting your ads flagged or disapproved. 

Looking for the human error
- Image Source

The list of possible agency mistakes goes on and on. But what’s more important is how your agency - your chosen partner - handles the situation when they slip and fall. If you’re dealing with an agency that is continually making these mistakes, or simply isn’t handling their slip ups well, it may be time to move on to a more sophisticated marketing partner. 

To help you filter through what issues are red flags and which are forgivably mundane, we’ve written up this quick 13 minute read to educate you on the 12 most common agency mistakes and how they should be dealt with. 

12 Major Mistakes Most Digital Marketing Agencies Make

Some of the following mistakes can arise before you even put ink on paper. So keep an eye out for these red flags when choosing your digital marketing agency. 

Other more technical mistakes can arise for a multitude of reasons. And that’s where you need to pay attention. Why a digital marketing agency chooses to charge a certain way, or which bidding strategy they choose to use, can enlighten you to their real values. 

  1.   Not Aligning To Your Goals

If during the onboarding process you notice that the strategies your agency is pitching seem to be targeting different goals than you originally discussed, that’s a huge red flag. 

Especially when certain agencies, like PPC exclusive brands, often charge a percentage of ad spend for their fee, you want to ensure that your agency isn’t hiking up your budget just to hike up their fees. 

There’s two ways we’ve seen this “mistake” play out. Either: 

  1. The agency completely admits to the misunderstanding, and corrects their goals and pricing to reflect your goals accurately. They still might not win your business, but it’s safe to say that they’re prioritizing what you want in the end. And that’s what matters when it comes to your money. 
  2. The other option is when the agency tries to explain why you need to spend that extra money. You shouldn’t hop off your discovery call and then be surprised by the quote you receive in your inbox. If your agency is insisting on justifying extra expenses that you didn’t initially agree to, you might be dealing with someone trying to exploit your industry naivete. 

  1.    Chasing The Wrong Metrics/KPIs

This is a more technical digital marketing mistake that’s reflected in the first mistake we discussed. Chasing the wrong metrics in your campaigns isn’t always a conniving mistake. But it can be a costly one. 

For example, if you’re looking to generate more sales and a better ROI from your eCommerce email campaign, the metrics you chase are important. While increasing your open rates always feels good and might lead to incremental growth, if your agency is prioritizing that metric as their North Star than their ignoring the one that really matters - actual clicks and sales coming from those eCommerce emails. 

The simple truth is that more emails being opened doesn’t boost your ROI, more sales from the same amount of emails does. It’s basic math that everyone can get behind. 

Blind Optimization from chasing the wrong metrics
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  1.    Letting Google Handle Your Bidding

Another dangerous technical issue that can be very costly to your ad budget is when your agency chooses to let Google handle your bidding. By that I mean relies too heavily on automated bid adjustments. 

While these are a great way to adapt your campaigns to micrometrics and fluctuations that we as individuals can’t keep up with, they can also over optimize and overspend if certain cases. 

Remember, in the end PPC is a pay-to-play space, which means that Google is getting paid for every click on your ad. The algorithm is going to work to generate you as many clicks as your parameters allow it, regardless of conversion or value. 

That’s something you can’t rely on Google for. That’s something only a true paid advertising expert can understand and optimize. 

  1.    Ignoring Keyword:Search Term Ratios

Here’s where things get really technical. Now, if you’re new to digital marketing you may know a thing or two about keywords. But there’s actually quite a significant difference between the keywords that we choose to define our SEO strategy, and the actual search terms that people use. 

A Keyword is a word - or set of words - that advertisers use to target ads towards search engine users. A search term is the actual words that the user types into the search bar. 

While a keyword is something like “Chatbot Automation,” a search term might be something like “building chatbot automation for sales.” 

And depending on what type of campaign you’re running, and how much you’re willing to spend, you want to make sure you’re bidding on the right search terms over the right keyword. Otherwise you can pay for highly competitive keywords that generate only low level traffic - which is a double negative for your ROAS (return on ad spend). 

  1.    Failing To Account For Traffic Temperature

It’s important for whoever is managing your campaigns to also account for the intent level of the traffic they’re generating, whatever channel or platform it may be. 

Certain search terms carry with them far more “heat” when it comes to conversion intent than do others. For example. The two search terms “how to build my own chatbot” and “best prices for chatbot builds” both have the same keyword (chatbots). But both have very different search intent

Mistakes like failing to account for traffic temperature can often lead to a rift between agency and client because the agency feels they're hitting the agreed upon goals but the client is still failing to see the sales/ROAS they're looking for. 

  1.    Reporting Over Optimizing 

One of the biggest pain points that businesses have when it comes to digital marketing agencies is complicated and confusing reporting. Or, worse, a lack thereof. 

The issues with Blind Attribution from lack of tracking and reporting
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To account for this, some agencies have really overcorrected when it comes to reporting. 

While monthly audits and 50 page long reports can feel comforting in terms of having a lot of data to support you, it’s also a lot of time that could have been spent...oh...I don’t know...making actual optimizations in the campaign

Don’t get fooled by agencies that overpriotize reporting over making actual adjustments in your campaign on the week to week or even day to day level. 

It’s not about how many stats you bring, it’s about how fast those few key stats are growing. 

  1.    Ignoring The Search Terms Report

Even the most highly researched and intuitive keyword plan is going to need adjustments along the way. Any PPC company (or Content Marketing company for that matter) worth their salt is going to be looking for ways to stay up to date on what people are using to search for your business. 

And that’s where the Search Terms Report comes in. 

Just as the name implies, the Search Term Report shows you what search terms actually triggered your ad to show. You can comb through these different search terms to find the actual searches that are leading to the most conversions - implying that they have the hottest conversion intent. 

Or, you know, you could ignore it... and just... burn the money I guess. 

  1.    Failure To Reallocate Budget Towards Winners

This is an innocent mistake that a lot of digital marketing agencies end up making because they’re afraid to ask for permission. Haggling over ad spends and budgets is already a big stress button for the agency:client relationship. And moving budget from one campaign to another without a client’s approval can look very suspicious. 

It’s important for agencies to take the initiative and explain to their clients the importance of having a flexible and adaptive approach when it comes to shifting budget around. 

If you recognize a certain campaign is vastly out-performing other low conversion strategies, shifting over budget towards that winning campaign should (at least in theory) increase the views and overall conversions of that campaign. 

You want the bulk of your budget to be spent on campaigns with the highest conversion rate - that’s where you see your highest ROI. The trick is keeping up with the moving target that is your “highest converting campaign.”

  1.    Changing Too Many Things At Once

I’ve spent the last few sections bashing agencies for not changing enough aspects of your campaigns to keep them adaptive and optimized. But, on the other hand, changing too many things at any one time can also cause it’s own headache. 

Implementing too many disparate alterations to your campaigns can make attribution very difficult. *Cough Cough* sorry - I just fell into my jargon voice there. 

What that means is that if you alter too many things at one time, it’s going to be tough discerning which change caused the spike (up or down) in your performance. 

Cartoon about cluttered, overlapping data due to too many simultaneous campaign changes and confused attribution
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And if you’re looking to find the “secret ingredient” to making a perfect recipe, dumping everything in at once is a bad way to go about fine tuning your dish. 

  1. Assuming All Impressions Are Equal

Most digital marketing agencies choose to specialise in a singular platform or channel of digital marketing. However, isn’t it funny how no matter which one they choose, they always end up claiming that their channel or platform is the most valuable of all? 

It’s a sad fact that all impressions aren’t created equal. Someone who sees your brand scroll by on an Instagram ad isn’t nearly as qualified as someone clicking on your every day Google Ads text ad. 

And someone reading your organically ranked blog post is even more likely to be loyal to your brand, while still possibly having conversion anxiety due to their placement in the marketing funnel. 

Ignoring the context of your specified marketing platform is to assume that all traffic and all users have the same qualifications and readiness to buy. And if you go into any business deal with that level of unfunded confidence, you’re going to be in for a brutal awakening. 

  1.    Growing Their Bottom Line, Not Yours

I’ve touched upon this red flag earlier in the post. But if you noticed that your agency seems to be chasing metrics that igrow your ad budget over growing your conversions, or seems to be prioritizing cheap tactics that boost their stats without your performance, you need to be on the alert. 

An agency that prioritizes increasing its fees overing growing your revenue is simply going about things all wrong. They don’t need a partner that prioritizes their gain over your growth, in life or in business. 

Great Gatsby meme quoting "cheers to that, old sport"
- Image Source

  1. Resting On Laurels  

If this doesn’t get under your skin as someone who’s paying a retainer, I don’t know what will. There’s a reason that we build our proposals with one-time builds in mind, here at Xspekt

We know that not everyone needs a full time marketing team after the initial implementation. And we aren’t going to try to trick you into paying for it if you don’t. 

Always make sure that if you’re paying for a hefty retainer, you’re getting your money’s worth month in and month out. 

Paying someone who’s already finished their work and who is now just kicking their feet up can only fester hostility, frustration, and debt.  

The Underlying Issue Of Ownership

There’s a single, more pertinent issue underlying each of these common digital marketing agency mistakes. And that is the issue of ownership. 

Whether this stems from an agency making a mistake and refusing to accept accountability, or a marketing manager being too tentative to take charge of their client’s account for fear of counteraction, clear responsibilities and guidelines need to be drawn out to help streamline any honest relationship. 

More importantly, these responsibilities and guidelines - for both agency and client - need to be drawn out transparently and with shared goals in mind. 

The reason this problem is so pervasive and rarely spoken about is because there is an issue within the digital marketing community itself that is the cause:

We, as third party agencies, are constantly having to justify our costs to our clients. And, because so many agencies specialise in a singular platform or channel while marketing in a multi-channel cross-platform environment, they are constantly trying to convince their clients that their solution is enough. 

Agency Flexibility & What It Means For You

This need to justify our own services can lead to digital marketers digging in our heals when it comes to pivoting strategies. 

Instead of adapting and partnering with new agencies to create cohesive, integrated campaigns, bloggers bash each other’s services for being “wasteful” with “low ROI” and “wasteful impression.” 

When what you - the client - really needs, is an agency that is able to adapt to their needs when they change instead of denying your changes for their needs. 

The ‘X’ Factor (Transparency & Adaptability)

So, where does this leave us? What options do you have left if the entire marketplace of digital marketing agencies is filled with highly specialized agencies vying for your exclusive hand in client:agency matrimony. 

Well, you have a few options: 

  • Partner with your specialized agency for that specific campaign, while handling the rest yourself
  • Partner with multiple agencies and pay multiple monthly retainer fees to achieve a holistic - but non cohesive - marketing presence 
  • Try to convince your different marketing agencies to work together to create a cohesive brand message

Or, you can find an agency that can create a customized, cross-platform marketing solution for you that will cater to your needs, your audiences, and your goals. 

The choice is yours, we’re waiting to hear from you. 

Takeaways: Don’t Pretend To Be Perfect

The takeaways are simple: we’re all human marketers at the end of the day. And humans make mistakes. It’s those that refuse to own up to the mistakes and make adjustments to grow and improve themselves that you should worry about. 

No agency is perfect, but the agencies that pretend to be are the ones that you should be most wary of. If you spend your time questioning if your agency really has your best interests in mind, maybe it’s time you speak with someone who does. 

x-act by xspekt

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