A creative marketing agency’s purpose is very different from an agency focused on delivering marketing strategy. Some agencies offer single services—such as social media—to broad audiences. Others offer a suite of services to a particular sector, and then there’s those who do a combination of both.

What type of agency is Propero? Propero Partners is a full-service strategic marketing agency that specialises in lead generation activity. We work primarily in four key industries: Law, financial services, I.T. and management consultancy.

We’re not in the business of bad mouthing other marketing agencies, because truth be told there’s one out there for everyone. However, we are happy to call out bad marketing agency behaviour when we see it.

If your firm’s marketing agency is providing you with strategy or lead generation services, there are six things you should definitely be cautious of. They are…

ONE: They don’t ask about your business objectives

How can a marketing agency demonstrate return on investment OR contribute to business objectives if they don’t know what they are?

Of course, not every business objective will be specifically relevant to a marketing team (internal or external) however, understanding those that do should be non-negotiable.

And this shouldn’t be a one-and-done conversation. This understanding should be at the forefront of a marketing agency’s activity, whether they are specifically delivering the creative, research, videography or a combination of services.


TWO: You can’t remember the last time you met them face to face

If the relationship between your firm and its agency is long-distance, it’s unrealistic to expect that you will have the level of face-time that businesses in the same country have. However, there’s only so much value you can get over email or the phone.

Over email or phone your firm’s business objectives, priorities, tone, and position can easily get lost in translation, and if the agency you’ve hired isn’t willing to go the distance to truly understand them, they are going to struggle reflecting them in your firm’s marketing strategy.

Even if marketing is not your firm’s priority, it should be a priority for your agency.


THREE: ‘Proactive’ isn’t a word you’d use to describe them

Part of delivering a valuable service is making sure the service you deliver is constantly improving and evolving with the requirement of the client and its industry. The key here is proactivity.

If your firm’s marketing agency isn’t proactive, what’s the benefit over having an in-house marketing team?

The advantage of working with a marketing agency instead of having the work carried out in-house is that an agency shouldn’t rest on its laurels. As a service provider, they need to consistently deliver excellence in order to justify their fee and win recurring contracts.

Good marketing agencies are confident in their value and will question and contribute within their remit—as such, they can act as an off-site extension of your firm, pushing it forward and applying the best practice knowledge they learn from the broader work they do.

FOUR: You dread asking more of them

A good agency is flexible to the needs of its clients. This doesn’t mean taking on work outside of their agreed scope for free BUT it does mean being open to conversations about additional work.

If you know that asking for additional work to be done is potentially more trouble than it’s worth—therefore creating extra work in-house—it’s a clear sign that there’s a breakdown in communication. An agency-client relationship should have all the benefits of a partnership—you’re working towards the same objectives—and of working with a service provider—they are incentivised to produce the highest quality work every day.

If you aren’t seeing either of these benefits, then your partnership is off-kilter.


FIVE: They’re doing the same thing they were two years ago

Agencies have a unique position. Because we work for multiple clients, we have an insight that in-house marketing professionals can’t achieve. Learnings from one client can usually be applied to others and in-turn better decisions are reached quicker.

As well as this, the nature of a marketing agency means that its culture is fast-paced and constantly changing. Because we have to respond to opportunities and threats in real-time, there should be a culture of having your finger on the pulse.

These are qualities marketing agencies should use to their advantage, but many don’t.

Marketing agencies can get lazy, particularly within the professional services industry where contracts are stickier and decision makers are at best reluctant to change, and at worst actively avoid it.


SIX: Conversations are always marketing-related

An agency that truly understands your industry should be able to ‘talk your language.’ This is especially important in an agency you rely on for strategic marketing support.

Their value shouldn’t be limited to simply knowing marketing knowledge and trends. They should be as comfortable discussing your firm’s position in the market and future challenges as they are talking about the technical aspects of the strategy that will ensure you meet your objectives (like Google AdWords, content, and video, for example).

This is where the real value is added.

What to do

If you relate to any of these, don’t simply discount your agency. There’s real value in recognising that you don’t have the right resources in-house and that some jobs can be performed better elsewhere, where skills are more refined.

However, a marketing agency focused on strategy and client generation is usually a significant investment and you should have high expectations of the service they deliver.

Therefore, it’s important to identify these bad habits, feedback your expectations and demand more.

And if you don’t get what you want, look elsewhere and use this piece as a benchmark for good agency behaviour.

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