453515833Marketing was once a dark art, the domain for creatives with success based on feeling rather than data.

The advent of digital technology means the effect of every marketing activity can be measured. If your marketing agency is not providing you with the data and a complete picture of your marketing efforts, it’s time to fire them.

Here are five signs that it’s time to fire your agency.

1) They Focus on Vanity Metrics Instead of Conversion Metrics

Too often marketing agencies report on “vanity metrics,” meaning the numbers that make you feel good. This could be web traffic, impressions (for online ads or offline media), likes or followers. While it feels good to be noticed, increased visibility doesn’t necessarily translate into increased business.

Instead, ask your agency to focus on conversion metrics. These are results such as leads generated, forms submitted, calls from the ad and purchases from customers who visited from social media or an ad. Looking at the actions that lead to sales help you and your agency focus on the people who actually purchase instead of chasing the masses begging them to look at you.

A local example of conversion metrics can be found with a Sioux Falls carpet cleaning company. They run Google ads in their local market and have a unique phone number on each ad. They then measure which ads generate the most phone calls and spend more money to promote those successful ads.

2) They Share Your SEO Rankings But Not Your Link Building Progress

SEO, or search engine optimization, refers to making your website more visible on search engines like Google or Bing. Often agencies will claim to improve your SEO and will even show you how your rank has improved over time.

This is a start. Even better is asking your agency to show you the number of links pointing to your website. Links to your website make up about 75% of your SEO so attracting more links means you will improve your SEO in the long term.

Building links is hard, but a good agency will put in the time and effort to attract links over time to lead to long-term success. Ask your agency to use Moz, Google Webmasters and HubSpot to track total links and new links each month.

A great way to build links is to create content that can be shared on other websites. An inductors and flyback transformer manufacturer creates articles to answer questions their audience might have on topics such as What is an EMC Shield?

By answering your audience’s questions, you make yourself more visible on search engines and grow the number of links pointing to your site as readers share your content.

3) You Can’t Access the Data

Your data is exactly that: yours. Don’t let your agency send you a report once-a-month without the ability to login and check progress whenever you like.

Your agency should be using tracking tools to measure traffic, conversions and leads. Ask for login information so you can see results of marketing actions as soon as they’re complete. Having access to the data will also allow you to see all the data points instead of the data points the agency shares on a monthly report.

For deep web company BrightPlanet, viewing this data is essential. As web visitors fill out forms on their websites for trials, BrightPlanet can immediately look at how they came to the site and focus their marketing efforts accordingly. Strategic decisions can be made on the fly instead of waiting for monthly or quarterly reports.

4) They’re Not Running A/B Tests

No agency has the silver bullet to know exactly how an ad should look or what text will inspire customers to buy. Fortunately, your agency can perform A/B tests.

An A/B test is trying two versions of the same ad/email/webpage/etc. with a small audience to see which works best. When the winning option is clear, that version is used for the entire audience.

A/B tests can be performed with most digital advertising efforts and will provide insight not only for that specific marketing piece, but for future marketing efforts as well. Tests will improve your results and also help you know who your audience is and what they respond to best.

A health IT security company, HealthPOINT, has started using A/B tests to discover the ads that drive the most conversions. They can watch which ads convert the most traffic and adjust their budget and ad messaging accordingly.

5) They’re Not Identifying and Segmenting Your Potential Customers

Sending one message to all of your potential customers is ineffective and lazy.

Choose an agency that segments your customers by their personas. Some of your customers might respond best to social media, others to email and still others to newspaper ads. Instead of blasting everyone the same social media message, email or newspaper ad, choose a different message for each audience.

Your agency should be constantly working with you to identify the general personas of your customers. Knowing how to talk to your customers improves success and also makes it easier to imagine what to say to them in your marketing material.

In the automotive world, email is an important way to generate interest for vehicles on the lot. However, sending one promotion to everyone is sure to drive away more customers than it attracts. To avoid this risk, a Ford dealership in Sioux Falls segments their customers based on where they are in the buying cycle. Those that show interest in a certain vehicle receive that specific promotion.

Marketing is no longer the mystical realm for creatives. It is an investment like any other part of your business. Hold your agency accountable to test, measure and focus on what works for your specific business. With a data-based, comprehensive view of your marketing efforts, you can spend your time and money on marketing that grows your business. 

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Originally published Aug 14, 2014 4:00:00 PM, updated October 20 2016

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Marketing Agency