Digital Marketing Agency Horror Stories and How to Prevent Them

Digital Marketing Agency Horror Stories and How to Prevent Them

I think this may be the soapbox you’ll find me on top of the most.

A rising tide raises all boats. The higher standard to which digital marketing services providers are held, the better everyone will be. So don’t settle!”  

Many clients we’ve worked with have a digital marketing agency horror story. Even right here in Sioux Falls, S.D., we’ve heard about digital marketing agencies doing some shady things. Here are some of those horror stories and how to prevent them from happening to you.

The Digital Marketing Agency Hiring Process

It all starts with the agency hiring process. First, make sure you need and want to work with a digital marketing agency. Once you’ve decided to hire an agency, have your questions ready.  A lot of bad actors can be sifted out in the hiring process. 

All right. You think you’ve done a thorough job of vetting an agency. Now what? Hold them accountable. If you don’t, you could be the victim in one of our horror stories.

Horror Story 1: Bait and Switch

I think this is the number one most common horror story. People didn’t know how much of their ad spend was being spent on ads, and later found out it was only a small portion of what they were paying the agency.

Many marketing agencies make money by putting a commission on the ad spend. Know if your agency is charging a commission and what percentage they’re taking.

(At 9 Clouds, we don’t charge commission on ad spend because it doesn’t feel right. Although it’s been the business model for marketing agencies since they came into existence, we’re not subscribing to it.)

Horror Story 2: Reverse Psychology

In this story, the agency convinces the business that they should create and provide the creative to the agency. The agency will just do the ad placement. Unless the agency is charging you close to nothing for their services, this is suspect.

The creative in an ad impacts the performance as much as or more than the placement. If you’re hiring an agency, you’re looking for expertise you don’t have. Unless you request it yourself (and it’s your idea, not the agency’s), the agency should be making the creative as well as placing the ads to truly give you the value and return on investment you’re looking for.

Horror Story 3: A Hostage Situation

This story really gets me steamed, and I hear it all too often. A client comes to work with us and can’t get access to their accounts from an old agency.

Make sure that you maintain access to your accounts and you have access to all the accounts your agency is building assets for you in. Especially if you built them and shared them with the agency, they are your property. It’s theft if they take possession of it and don’t give you access.

Horror Story 4: Shoplifting Tags

When we’re talking about tags in digital marketing, we’re talking about tagging our work so that we can drill down to the results of a specific piece of marketing.

First, make sure that your agency is UTM tagging their work so the results they are talking about are specifically from the work they’re doing.

Second, make sure they are claiming the results of tags that are theirs. This is something we recently encountered with a client. An agency that is working with a different department at this company tried to claim the results of the work we were doing as part of their results. We put the kibosh on that real fast. 

Make sure your agency isn’t shoplifting results and is truly reporting on what they’re doing.

Horror Story 5: Clear as Mud

When engaging with a digital marketing agency, you’re looking for expertise you don’t have. This doesn’t mean you should be talked down to or told something is too complicated for you to understand.

This is not uncommon for agencies to do but it isn’t right. At 9 Clouds, we believe in transparent services based on data. We will tell our clients as much as they want to know and even teach them how to do what we do if they have the capacity to learn and want to take the digital marketing services in-house. 

You are intelligent enough to run a business, and if you have the desire and time to understand what your digital marketing agency is doing, you have that right.

Accountability is Key

You are paying a digital marketing agency for a service, and you have the right to make sure you’re getting what you pay for. Don’t become a victim in a digital marketing horror story. 

Be diligent in your hiring process, and hopefully you won’t have to worry about any of these horror stories.

At 9 Clouds, we hold ourselves accountable and live each day according to the tenets of our manifesto. If you’ve fallen victim to one of these horror stories or want to avoid it, look into getting started with us

Want to read the opposite of horror stories now? Check out our digital marketing “fairy tales.” (I couldn’t help myself. 😉)

Read The “Fairy Tales” (a.k.a. Case Studies) »