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Fire Your Digital Marketing Agency: Knowing When to Do It

Fire your digital marketing agency if they're trying to sell you on paid search. Your creative agency of record should focus on your brand, not paid media.

Bjorn Espenes
Bjorn Espenes

Feb 05, 2019

A Step-By-Step Checklist to Help You Fire Your Digital Marketing Agency 

It’s amazing how many of our customers have worked with top digital marketing agencies. It’s more amazing that they come to us dissatisfied. They feel they have outgrown agency tactics and need the power of automation and technology to stay competitive. We’ve even had customers come to us because they were thinking of hiring or firing a digital marketing agency and wanted our advice. Should we hire a creative agency of record? How do you feel about _____ digital ad agency?

First and foremost, Finch is not a creative agency of record. We’re not even an online digital marketing agency. We’re not consultants who can tell you with which digital AOR to go. We don’t want to be anything like that. Instead, we are the people who want to even the playing field of paid media. We do so with the proprietary platform that we invented ten years ago. We automate and optimize your paid media efforts with technology that empowers your business to grow and sustain unprecedented scale and performance.

However, this isn’t a sales pitch. It’s a clarification. We offer paid media solutions that the top digital marketing agencies cannot remotely match. Why? Because by automating nearly every manual task in all your paid media campaigns, our technology is capable of making more changes and adjustments than the largest teams at the best search marketing agencies ever could.  What’s even more impressive is that the decisions our platform makes are finely-tuned to each of our customers’ unique business goals. None of our solutions are “pre-packaged.”

Make the Best Decision for Your Business’s Paid Media Strategy

Through our ten-year-history leading the paid media world with the power of automation, we’ve learned that automation is king of the digital marketing world. That is because we can admit that paid media is complex! Google, Bing, display networks, and Amazon all use highly-complicated algorithms in their bidding processes and auctions. This methodology maximizes each of their revenues. That is their business model, and they’re very good at what they do. Digital ad agencies promise to give you their expertise; they’ll win at paid digital advertising for you. But they have so many options to choose from, which is why paid media is so complex. Digital advertisers struggle with making unique goals for their clients because they know formulas they claim “work.” But, we’ll give them credit where it’s due: these are smart people who genuinely understand digital media.

However, they’re not computers. They’re not capable of automating all the complexities that come with the territory. We have entered an era where a machine must match the power of a machine. It’s no longer possible for even the best digital marketing agency to achieve the results the Finch platform offers its customers. However, this is only for paid media. A creative agency of record is an excellent resource if you’re looking to rebrand or do traditional advertising (print, TV, radio, outdoor). Executing and delivering top-notch creative assets is something they do incredibly well–and is not an area in which we focus.

Time to Pull the Plug

When it comes to the complexity of paid media, even the top digital marketing agencies just don’t cut it. As talented as their paid media teams may be, nothing can match the power of AI, machine learning, and automation in paid media. And that’s where our customers come to us for an unreplicated competitive advantage. We’re not an agency, we’re not replacing agencies. What we do is offer our customers the most astute paid media automation platform around the globe.

Are you considering firing your digital agency of record? You should be if you want to win in paid media. And even more so if you find yourself checking the boxes below. We’ve created a step-by-step checklist to help you decide whether or not you need to fire your digital marketing agency. Any of these scenarios is definitely a fireable offense with an agency. Make sure you’re getting taken care of where it matters most.

1. Do you have no or limited access to your Ads, Amazon, or paid social campaigns?

If your agency hasn’t given you access to how they’re managing any of your accounts (or seem secretive with the information), it’s time to send them packing. Sometimes they try to hide information from you by saying “we don’t want you looking under the hood while we work.” Right. Just like the mechanic who charges you for brake drums and a new transmission when all you wanted was an oil change. It’s because they’re not achieving the goals you set up with them (hopefully they did set up goals with you). Instead, they want to “impress you” with client-facing reports that tell you how many impressions they got. Meanwhile, your conversion rates stay stagnant.

YES      NO

2. Do you have no ownership over your accounts?

Has your digital ad agency usurped full control of your accounts–and tell you that you can’t access the information? Talk about red flags! The only time a digital agency of record prevents you from accessing your accounts is when they’re hiding something from you. Either they’ve screwed up your strategy, or they aren’t even working on it. However, you’re none-the-wiser as they keep you in the dark.

YES      NO

3. Does your agency treat you like a test subject?

Have you ever had the unfortunate meeting with a cocky CEO who has goals in mind before you even sign a contract? Do the goals he/she sets for you seem to have nothing in common with what you know is right for your business? Alternatively, maybe you’ve been treated like a potential case study before you even see results? Sadly, it happens. Even the best search marketing agencies can be guilty of thinking they know what your business needs more than you do. That’s because they really only care about winning awards for themselves–and not helping their client’s business. Your agency of record should always ruthlessly focus on achieving results for you.

YES      NO

4. Is there no customization for your campaigns?

Oh, how I detest the phrase let’s not reinvent the wheel. Do you find yourself in meetings picking from boilerplate strategies with your agency? Do they promise how X strategy and spend worked for X client and they’ll treat you the same way? Let me pose a question: why would you ever want to be treated the same as anyone else? Your business has its unique goals and market audience–your goals and strategy need the same!

The sad truth is many digital marketers “find a recipe that works” and use that same strategy, ad nauseam–largely because it’s what they know. It works but doesn’t scale. Also, in the interim, you’re not only stuck with your ad spend, but also a hefty bill for “creative services” and “campaign management. Instead, you could utilize the power of automation. The Finch platform allows you to customize your goals to fit your needs. You’ll be able to put the right product in front of the ideal buyer at the optimal place in the marketing funnel.

YES      NO

5. Does your agency not change your account enough–or do they do it way too often?

The best paid media management comes from a unique blend of art and science. It takes a thoughtful, strategic observer to manage your campaigns successfully. Should you make changes every other day? No way. You need time to let your data show you what’s working and what’s not. If your digital agency of record updates you with changes every other day, it’s a significant problem. You can say the same if you don’t hear back on your campaign performance for 1-2 months. There should never be the case where you can’t expect weekly or bi-weekly updates from your digital ad agency.

YES      NO

6. Is your agency certified?

Google and Bing Ads. Premium partnerships. Hootsuite. Hubspot. Facebook. You need to see these types of certifications on your partner’s website. Especially if they’re claiming to be worth your time and money. Both Google and Bing are notorious for their competitive partnership programs: they only offer it those who consistently and outstandingly produce. If they’re not certified, can them. You wouldn’t let someone with a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy perform brain surgery on you, would you?

YES      NO

7. Do the pricing models lack clarity?

Even top digital marketing agencies can be seedy with their practices. However, it’s not rocket science. It would help if you had a full understanding and expectation of how their pricing structure works. Nothing is more frustrating than getting too thick in the weeds with an agency and finding random, and expensive fees tacked onto your bill. Any digital marketing partnership worth its weight will offer you full transparency before they begin work. You need to know what your contracts consist of–otherwise, how can you hold them accountable?

YES      NO

8. Has your agency locked you into burdensome, long-term contracts?

Since it takes time to see real results in the paid advertising space, we need at least six months of written commitment before we begin work. No, no, and no. Yes, it’s true that it takes time to see improvement–but it doesn’t take that long! The best digital marketing partnerships should offer small term contracts. Why? Because they’re so confident in their work that they’re willing to let you leave after a month if they don’t produce the results you deserve. At Finch, we’re proud to offer our version of pay as you go marketing. We’re confident that you’ll love what our platform does for your business.

YES      NO

9. Does your agency provide consistently-poor performance?

It looks like it’s been another tough few months for your campaigns, but that’s to be expected. Let me be clear: you can expect poor performance from lazy marketers who don’t have the power of automation. You should never tolerate significant performance gaps. While it’s true that markets can ebb and flow, you should expect increased and sustained performance from any person or device that manages your paid media campaigns.

If you’re dipping into the red, it’s time to switch teams. Especially if your agency doesn’t seem to know why you aren’t performing well. Perhaps they blame it on an oversaturated market; perhaps it’s because they’re selling your product in a “slow time of year.” But largely it’s because they don’t have the insights reporting that the Finch platform offers. You’ll actually have the granular data showing you why parts of your campaigns aren’t working. And best of all, you’ll know how to fix it.

YES      NO

10. Does your agency want to overly-control your brand and messaging?

Managing paid media campaigns do not require an entire brand overhaul to reach success. Many times, digital agencies want to convince you that you need their creative services for a rebrand to see progress in the digital space. Somehow, prettier pictures and a trendy, hip typeface will help your performance. While it’s true that having good ad copy, messaging, and imagery can help increase your quality score, it’s ad relevance and keyword data that provide conversion lifts. With digital marketing, either you or your service provider need to understand how the algorithms work. Any agency that tells you that you need a rebrand to succeed in paid media wants extra money. Also, most likely, you still won’t see the results you want in your paid media campaigns–because the said agency doesn’t know how paid media works.

YES      NO

11. Does your agency lack a complete partnership?

This is about as ugly as it gets. This is usually where your agency promises the moon and delivers a few grains of sand. Maybe it’s because their product or services don’t work. Perhaps they keep asking for an extension so they can test new markets, create new buyer personas, test different audience. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to work on the goals that you hired them to achieve. Perhaps they’re telling you how to run your business, they think (and act) like they’re smarter than you. They usurp control; they don’t listen, they don’t identify or segment leads. You ask them to change, make adjustments. Nothing happens. You spend more money and get zero return. The folly of pride often consumes the digital marketer’s ego.

YES      NO

12. Does your agency have a “black box” technology or “secret sauce” fallacy?

Are you working with an agency that claims to have proprietary methods but they never show you what said methods are? Often that’s because they’re outsourcing your campaigns to other companies to use their software. Sometimes it’s just a lie: they use common digital marketing tools (AdEspresso, Hootsuite, Google Ads Editor, SEMrush, Spyfu, Google Keyword Planner) and want to pass them off as something fancier. None of these tools are secrets of the industry. Are they useful? Absolutely. Do they help marketers be better at their jobs? You name it.

However, what many digital marketing agencies don’t want you to know is that they are using the same methods as every other agency. You wouldn’t believe some of the outrageous lies digital marketers boldly tell clients and prospects. Here’s a big tip: take a look into your ads account history (if you still have access!); you can see every change they’ve “made” to your account. But bottom line, if they don’t let you in on their tools (or into your own accounts) you need to find someone else. You should have full access to proprietary UI, reporting, and analytics. At Finch, we go over our exclusive reporting with our customers as often as they’d like.

YES      NO

13. Are you getting severely overcharged?

I get it: every business needs to make revenue. However, nothing is more aggravating than hearing horror stories from some of our customers’ past experiences with agencies. One thing you should know, reader, is that ad spend is however much you want to spend on a platform. Some agencies might think they’re sneaky by charging “ad spend fees” or charging you a premium amount of ad spend and not allocating your money to your account.

If you’re going to hire someone or something to manage your paid media campaigns, you need to have a transparent financial discussion. Your partner should only charge a reasonable fee associated with your ad spend and campaign size. Also, let’s be honest: no two businesses are alike–pricing structures shouldn’t be either. Any agency that charges a massive “flat rate” is only going for your cash. You need to find a company that charges reasonably based on how complex your paid media initiatives are. It’s as simple as that.

YES      NO


How did you do on the checkboxes? Ready to fire your digital agency of record? Before you do so, let me be frank. What’s more important than these useful tips is the fact that many of our customers feel they have outgrown their agency. It’s an honest sentiment because agencies cannot compete with automation and insights. Technology is paving the future for all paid media. Keep in mind that if your agency doesn’t give you access to your own accounts (or shows you their reporting structure), you should run for the hills.

And one last thing: the most crucial thing you can do to succeed in paid media is ruthlessly-focus on your goals. Your business goals should be the priority of all your strategies and tactics. The unique goal customization and setting that the Finch platform brings to our customers is unparalleled. Imagine having the power of machine learning and AI adjusting and optimizing all your paid media accounts.

Let’s adapt together.


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