Behind the Digital Agency Curtain

I was going to call this one ‘How the digital sausage gets made’. Yep. You’re welcome. 

Disclaimer, this isn’t a big reveal. There isn’t one to be made.

As a digital agency, we find ourselves auditing accounts often. We have conversations with business looking to make a transition, often. We still find ourselves scraping our jaws off the floor regularly as we run into scenarios of digital marketing shops ‘serving’ businesses and brands as if the client is in desperate need of a teeny tiny purple sloth and the vendor is the only person in the universe with the special set of skills to find this teeny tiny purple sloth. Absurd closeting, dire communication, subject matter expert chest beating etc.

To be clear, what makes a digital marketer is someone dedicated to the practice of staying on top of trends, learning, and continuing to learn the platforms, staying consistently close enough to the ground to sniff out the truffles and high enough in the air to claim the parachutist’s view – both critical, and both things it is very difficult for business owners and brand executives to find time to do. Many excellent digital marketers are both strategic and tactical, technical and creative, in some measure.

Contrary to keeping clients in the dark, I would argue without hesitation, that it always benefits to enjoy a relationship in which the client and the agency partner are in complete and transparent lockstep. 

Teeny tiny purple sloths – haven’t researched. [edit: just went to find an image to accompany this post and easily discovered a teeny tiny purple sloth. What?]

Brands and businesses, categorically, here are just a few things you should expect . . . without exception:

Obvious, but expertise. Digital Marketing has become a catchall. Decide what you need and what would be a nice add on. Example: SHIFT Digital Agency does SEM, Paid Social, Display, CTV/OTT, Geo-Fencing REALLY well.  Web design, SEO, and Email Marketing aren’t our bread and butter, but we have those skills and are dangerous in those arenas. If a potential client came to us with a heavy SEO and email lift, we would connect them with one of our trusted partners. We don’t want that stress and we know someone else who can do a better job in that arena. Most boutique agencies like ours have strategic partners that work excellently together already. 

Complete ownership and access to your accounts. Google Ads. Meta Ads, Google Analytics, you name it – your vendor needs to setup them up for you? No problem. They should make you an admin. If you ever need to change the relationship, the accounts are yours to take with you. You’ve paid for the research, the development, the history, quality scores, the data. It’s all yours. Amazing how many businesses we take onboard who do not have access to these and whose former agency partners will not release them. 

Conversion tracking. Consistent, accurate, properly setup conversion tracking that aligns with your business objectives. That means pixels and platforms configured along with landing pages to ensure that ad platforms are pulling in ONLY the relevant conversion metrics for your business. You care about revenue and ROAS. Track that. It’s fine to observe some useful metrics like calls and PDF downloads, but if those are your core KPIs, don’t let them be counted within them. Challenge your digital vendor to show you, in detail, how they are tracking each conversion, including how conversion windows are being defined [how long after a click or view a conversion will be attributed i.e 7 days, 14 days, 28 days]. 

Reporting – Simple. Not basic, but simply aligned to the business objectives you set out at the beginning. Dashboards should be visualizations of useful data that tell a story from which insights can be gleaned and actioned steps can be determined. That’s it. If CPM isn’t a metric that has any bearing whatsoever on your primary objective, then have your digital partner take it out of the reporting, along with any other irrelevant metric. You should have an exec summary you can translate in 30 seconds, and channel/campaign/creative drill downs for a deeper dive. 

There’s a lot more, but you get the gist. Don’t expect an expert who acts like a guru. Expect a smart collaborator.

Transparency. Knowledge. Trust. 

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