3 Common Problems When Working With Marketing Agencies

4 min read
Nov 1, 2022 7:13:42 PM

Did you know that according to the Content Marketing Institute, 49% of organizations are outsourcing at least one content marketing activity, with content creation (86%) being the most requested task? So if you are looking to hire an inbound marketing company to help you create content on a consistent basis, you are not alone. 

However, many organizations need help finding agencies with adequate topic expertise to create truly helpful, high-quality content. Outsourced writers often don’t have enough insights to properly understand or empathize with their buyer personas. This leads to longer-than-anticipated review cycles, putting more work on the client. 

Moreover, the vast majority of agencies focus on quantity over quality of content and are not able to prove the return on investment in the content they produce. Now, you, as the client, are stuck in an unproductive yet often expensive relationship that is hard to get out of. Here are some red flags to look out for when hiring a marketing agency — and one way to completely avoid these issues altogether. 

Red Flag #1: Your Marketing Agency Is Only Talking About Keywords, SEO, & Traffic

Long gone are the days when keywords really mattered. Yet, I cannot tell you how many times in the last three years someone said to me something like, “I will give you a list of keywords, and I want you to create a series of blog posts! That will get us on the map!” A lot of times, they were approached by an SEO agency that pitches itself as the lighthouse in a sea of garbage content. And, don’t get me wrong, good SEO and keyword research are still important today. They are just not the goal; they are the means.

What to do instead: Be sure to ask every agency you interview how they are measuring the return on investment of every piece of content they are creating. Can they show you how many leads a particular blog post generated and how much revenue it directly influenced? How will they measure conversion rates? 

Red Flag #2: The Content Marketing Plan Wasn't Influenced By Sales

The vast majority of content produced by the marketing team is created in a complete silo because most marketing and sales teams are still operating in absolute isolation. 

While marketing often has good intentions and produces helpful, high-quality blog posts and lead generation assets, like guides, whitepapers, and eBooks, the sales team often finds that they have no clue what is available, what was published recently, or what is coming down the pipeline next. Oftentimes, they also need very different things, e.g., videos that answer 80% of the most common questions so they don’t waste time but can focus on creating value. 

This all gets exacerbated when working with a marketing agency to create the content as the agency will often only have one point of contact within the customer organization, and that's usually the marketing manager. This often leads to fluff content that the sales team may be convinced to share on their LinkedIn but certainly will not use in the sales process to engage a prospect. 

What to do instead: This is a tough one to get around when working with a marketing agency. Look for an agency that asks to interview the sales team, is willing to write up a Service-Level-Agreement (SLA) between marketing and sales, and defines a clear hand-off between the two departments. In addition, you could create a so-called revenue content team that meets every two weeks to discuss the content calendar and performance.  

Red Flag #3: You Increase Your Dependency On Your Marketing Agency

For most organizations that have one or two full-time marketers in house, hiring a marketing organization sounds like a good idea as opposed to hiring an inbound marketing strategist, content writer, editor, graphic designer, campaign specialist, social media marketer, and so on. In addition to a wide range of skill sets, you often get indirect access to otherwise expensive tools like BuzzSumo or SEMRush. 

In reality, this results in an ever-growing dependency as time goes on. You don’t invest in these skills internally but rather have to rely on the agency to get even the smallest tasks done, e.g., uploading and optimizing a blog post in HubSpot. Although HubSpot, for example, has an extensive academy and some agencies encourage the internal marketing teams to learn how to do many of these tasks over time, there often is no time (and sometimes no will) to learn something that the agency is supposed to do.

This is all well and good as long as things go well. However, multiple surveys have shown that companies are often unhappy with their marketing agencies after just three to six months of working together. Besides the contractual implications, now the company is left in the lurch and has to figure out how to close the gap. Should they hire another agency or is there a better way?

What to do instead: Rather than viewing marketing agencies and outsourcing as a long-term approach, use them as a short-term solution until you can do the work yourself. Have a “watch and learn” attitude to gain the skills and experience required to one day create your own content internally.

The Alternative To Hiring A Marketing Agency

The problems mentioned above are just a few reasons why marketing teams in large organizations (more than 1,000 employees) are now drastically reducing their outsourcing. Smaller companies struggle with the same issues, but due to their team size, they might not be able to cut ties with their marketing organization as quickly as their larger counterparts. 

The alternative is to look for a coaching program, like the They Ask, You Answer Mastery program. Within 18 months, a qualified coach (I am in the process of getting certified as a coach) will align your entire organization to have a customer-centric mindset, help you hire a content manager internally, and coach your executive team as well as your content creators on how to produce high-performing content. They will also train your sales team as needed on video and assignment selling. 

After graduating from the program, your team will not only be able to stand on their own two feet going forward but, by graduation, will have already built a marketing and sales engine that creates better-qualified leads that close faster and with a higher likelihood.

This way, you invest in your business, not your marketing agency. Hold a Sales and Marketing Alignment Workshop to get everyone in your organization on the same page, buy into Inbound Marketing, and get started on your They Ask, You Answer journey today!

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