Here are five ways to know your agency sucks.
Now if you are an agency and you’re watching this please don’t hate me because actually I’m doing you a favour, I’m telling you five ways that your customers will probably work out that you suck.
Now if you do suck, that’s not on me that’s on you, so agencies raise your game, do a great job and make sure you deliver. Because if you don’t you give all of us a bad name and there’s plenty of people in marketing who give all of us in marketing a bad name.
For those of you who are agencies, enjoy, make sure you get better.
For those of you who are client-side and using agencies don’t give up on agencies, there are good agencies out there, I work with loads of them.
But here are five ways to know your agency sucks.
The first is task anxiety.
If you have task anxiety, feeling like “I’ve got to get that done for the agency, gotta get this out, got to get that content created, gotta do this, gotta do that.” It’s not the agency’s fault that you need to do stuff because you signed up to work that agency and you should have known that in advance, you should have prepared for that and been ready for it and therefore you can own it.
However if task anxiety has crept in after the deal is done, if everything was going to be easy and perfect and all of a sudden you find yourself being given loads of work by the agency — for me that makes me feel uncomfortable. I don’t like it when agencies give me work that I wasn’t expecting.
So yes by all means work is one thing. You might have to produce some content that you agreed to as part of the plan when you signed up so it’s not a surprise. Or after the deal you made with the agency you agreed on a new campaign that was gonna result in you having to do something to contribute to that campaign, fair enough.
But if you find yourself battling against a rising tide of task anxiety, I would say there’s a problem there. It shouldn’t be anxiety-inducing working with an agency, it should be manageable. They are the agency after all, they should be doing the heavy lifting and you need to ask yourself why you’re doing all that work? Is it work you need to outsource? It may not be on them, it may be that you need to outsource that work to someone else. You need to say to them “I need to outsource this” or “I thought this was included, why am I doing this? Why are you throwing tasks at me?”
So that’s the first way I think you could know if your agency sucks or if the relationship sucks or if the deal you agreed doesn’t work. If everything is perfect and you’ve still got task anxiety, it may just be your problem but the reality is you’ve got to get that off your desk, you’ve got to get that out of your head, you don’t need the anxiety. But my experience tells me most of the time when a client has task anxiety it is because the agency is pushing stuff at them..
The second way you can know your agency sucks is they give you an inferiority complex.
Your agency shouldn’t make you feel bad. Yes, they know more than you about marketing, of course they do, they’re a marketing agency, it’s a given.
When my plumber comes around to fix something he knows more about plumbing. I don’t feel inferior to him, I know I’m inferior to him, that’s why I’m paying him, that’s why I’ve called him.
The same thing with my marketing agency. However if they’re giving me an inferiority complex, if they’re making me feel more inferior, if they’re compounding the reality of how much I need them — alarm bells are starting to go off. I don’t need them to justify their existence by telling me I need them like a parent or a drug dealer.
On the contrary, if your agency is behaving that way I would look at resetting that relationship. Because you’re the client, you’re paying them.
Now some people may take issue with this, I don’t really care, after 20 years, this is how I feel about it and I’ve experienced it with agencies myself directly. And I’ve had clients who’ve experienced this with other agencies and we’ve had to repair that, and we have.
Sometimes the agency doesn’t realise what they’re doing, sometimes there’s someone senior in the agency that will win your business and then the delivery of the business will be someone more junior.
Sometimes it’s totally accidental.
But if you’re getting task anxiety or an inferiority complex from your agency, you at least need to understand whether it is intentional?
Is it designed to make you more reliant on them?
Or is it completely accidental?
If your agency owns it or when you ask them about it they take ownership of that and solve the problem — it’s a good agency. If they push it back onto you, if you feel a bit of passive aggression, it’s not good. That’s the time to really think about your relationship with the agency. Good agencies don’t do that, and don’t act that way. Good agencies own that problem and help solve the problem for their clients to help them grow their business, not be a part of their problem but be a part of their solution.
I’m not telling you anything you shouldn’t already know.
Now the third way your agency might suck is who is chasing who?
By the way when I say your agency sucks I mean the relationship, I don’t mean the actual agency.
I’m sure you know there are accidents and situations in agency life where the intention might be great but the delivery might not. The key is how agencies react, so if you call them out on something how do they react?
Are they putting your needs first or their needs?
So the third is who’s chasing who?
I don’t like it when I have to chase an agency.
As a marketing consultant I often bring agencies in, I work with agencies with various clients and I never ever want to chase the agency. Whoever is being paid does the chasing. It’s not any other way round, it’s literally that simple. If I’m bringing you onto my books as an agency to work with myself or a client, you are doing the chasing.
It’s your problem, it’s your responsibility, so be a pro-active agency absolutely. Be proactive as much as you can, leave the client, help the client, whatever it takes. But if you are the client, the people that are paying, and are constantly chasing, there’s a problem for me.
The fourth way you could know your agency sucks is there’s a lock-in.
I’m always nervous about lock-ins.
The only time I ever have a lock-in anyway is on my mastermind or my coaching and that’s because it’s about building relationships, it’s just not an overnight experience. And agencies will say it’s often not an overnight experience for them too, but they’re delivering something operational to deliver an immediate result in relation to campaigns and operational marketing activity and ROI.
In masterminds and coaching it’s slightly different of course because we’re explaining how to do things and people are doing it for themselves, it’s not a done-for-you service. But on operational matters whenever there’s delivery involved, I really don’t want a lock-in. What I want to see are results.
What I want to see is an agency that knows their business enough to own the problem if there is one or if the result doesn’t come, to be proactive about it. Whenever I’ve had an issue with a client I’ve always led on the front foot, I’ve always dealt with it straight up about what hasn’t worked.
Marketing is about figuring out what does and doesn’t work, and not everything is guaranteed to work. So the lock-in for me, in my experience can make people a little lazy. That doesn’t mean every agency with a lock-in is lazy but I would ask yourself how you feel about it.
And the final, fifth, way to know your agency sucks, is that ultimately it’s a gut feel.
Whose corner are they in?
Are they in your corner?
Or are they in their corner?
When push comes to shove are they gonna fight for you or are they gonna fight for them?
Ultimately it’s that simple.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you’re an agency does any of that resonate?
How can you get better?
And if you’re a client using agencies have you had any of these experiences?
I’d love to know.