Working with an Agency: Who Owns Your Marketing Assets?
Your agency likely has more control than you realize. If you break up, you’ll likely need to start over at square one.
Picture your best personal relationship. If it’s like mine, it has a quaint beginning and a promising future. It’s exciting. It’s rewarding.
And just like any healthy relationship, there are also clear expectations.
Like most businesses, you probably rely on strong relationships with trustworthy vendors.
And when you work with a trustworthy agency, you can make real progress. You have a promising future. It’s exciting. It’s rewarding.
But things don’t always work out, which is why you need clear expectations and procedures for when they don’t. These need to be set up from the start — because a hiccup in marketing can easily cause a hiccup in sales.
The security and consistency of your marketing efforts will allow you to continue building the reputation of your business.
The Importance of Digital Asset Ownership
You own your business. Why not own your marketing assets? When you start working with a digital marketing agency, it’s important to clarify which assets are already in place and which ones need to be built:
- Website platforms
- Email platforms
- Facebook ad accounts
- Google Ads accounts
- Customer data
Our advice for any business is to always retain as much control as possible over these marketing assets.
By letting an agency retain primary ownership and access to your digital accounts, you’re creating an unnecessary risk that could result in a messy breakup.
Owning your assets while your agency manages them will also let you transition those services more quickly to an internal team or another agency.
Every digital marketing activity results in data (think cost per click, contact lists, visuals, etc.), and data lasts forever. When you retain control over assets, you — and your marketing team — will also retain historical data and insights, which can help you improve your business over time (no matter who you choose to work with).
Additionally, by owning your own assets, you get honest reporting. When an agency controls your account, it can pick and choose only the data that makes it look good. When you control the account, you can log in and check the specific metrics that matter to you, straight from the source.
Why Would an Agency Want to Keep My Digital Stuff?
Sometimes, an agency will choose to create accounts on behalf of a client but not hand over the keys. This is a bad idea for the agency and the client.
Even after a breakup, a digital vendor can still benefit from your data and accounts. It can use its work for you to promote itself in the form of case studies, social posts, or other marketing content.
In fact, we ask for the client’s permission every time we publish their name (or their ad, email, page, etc.) as an example on this blog or in our other marketing content.
This is an expectation we set at the beginning of every relationship, and we encourage you to do the same.
What Kind of Digital Assets Are We Talking About?
Let’s take a closer look at each area of digital marketing services to see why asset ownership and permissions are so important for your business.
1. Google Ads
It’s true that you could “start from scratch” and begin running Google Ads on a new account at virtually any point, but there are several benefits to owning and keeping your ads in one account.
First, your Google Ads account is likely integrated with several other assets, including your Google My Business (map listing), YouTube, and more. Reconnecting or rebuilding those assets will take a significant amount of time from your operations.
Second, once your account spends $50,000 USD, you have the ability to run Google Ads to specific lists from your customer relationship management (CRM) system. This feature, called Customer Match, is highly effective — and something only a small percentage of your competitors can do.
To avoid a mess, and to maintain credit for your ad spend, make sure your agency knows right away that you expect primary ownership of your Google Ads account.
2. Facebook Ads
Your agency could put your Facebook ads in a shared ad account alongside other unassociated businesses with a variety of reputations. This batching is a risk, because Meta can scrutinize the entire account based on the reputation of just one ad for any business within that account.
Furthermore, if your agency is hoarding control and ownership of the ad account, you’re not benefitting from the historical performance of your ads.
In fact, if your ads are running in an account alongside another, less reputable client, Meta will require more frequent manual ad reviews, which can bog down production.
Every business that advertises on Facebook should be managing its assets via its own Facebook Business Manager. You can use Business Manager to create and control individual access to your ad account as well as to Meta pixels, Offline Events sets, your business page, your verified website domain and more.
If another agency has verified your website domain within their Business Manager and is refusing to release it, this is a huge red flag. The website domain, as a result of iOS14 updates, must be verified within the Business Manager account that will be running ads. Your business owns your website domain. It should be verified within your business’ Business Manager.
Before you start a relationship with another Facebook ad agency, make sure it’s set up correctly and running the ads on your account using your assets within your Business Manager.”
3. Email Marketing
Every email marketing platform — HubSpot, Marketo, Mailchimp, etc. — relies on email servers to deliver its emails. Your business has a “reputation” on these servers, which affects email deliverability.
Your agency could be hoarding access to your email platform. It may also be mixing your sender IP reputation with those of less reputable (dare we say “spammy”?) clients.
Solid strategies rely on solid data. Just like your advertising accounts, your email platform contains a boatload of historical data. Isn’t that something you’d like to keep in your control?
4. Lead Tracking & Data
There is a running joke among digital marketers that if you go to install a Google Analytics tag on a client’s website, you’ll need to delete a few others. (PSA: Don’t actually do this. It’s just a joke. Chill.)
Most business websites have been through their fair share of digital managers, pixels, tags, and analytics accounts.
In fact, you can type your own website into BuiltWith.com to see all of its various tags and integrations. If it’s like most aged websites, you’ll see a messy list of leftover accounts.
Many marketing software platforms integrate contact information with websites, email, and advertising services. This creates an incredibly rich database that can easily be “held hostage” by an agency when negotiating terms.
If you approach another vendor that offers lead tracking, targeting, or analytics services, keep a firm grip on your contact data as well as the accounts that manage it.
Demand Ownership and Admin Access
Your organization has a right to maintain primary control over your marketing assets. Make owning your assets a priority when vetting your next marketing agency.
If you can’t get ownership and admin access to your own marketing assets, it’s time to break up.
Better Agency Relationships Start with Clear Expectations
To get started, request a marketing assessment. Matt, our outreach manager, will take a look at your current marketing efforts and provide recommendations for the future.
Questions are important, and that’s why we ask a lot of them. We choose to work with clients who share our values. If it works out, you can expect a relationship that is both exciting and rewarding.
Our eBook, Questions to Ask Your Agency, will help you find the right words to apply in these situations so you can secure your assets and also ensure performance over time.