Any agency professional can tell you that it’s not always easy to onboard new clients, especially those who have never worked with an agency before. If they don’t understand the process of partnering with an agency, they may come into the relationship with unrealistic expectations.
It’s important to dispel any misconceptions your new client may have right from the start so you can set them—and yourself—up for success. That’s why we asked Forbes Agency Council members to debunk some common misconceptions they’ve encountered when working with businesses that are new to agency partnerships. Here’s what they had to say.
1. ‘Results Will Happen Overnight’
There is a misconception that if an agency is retained, then results should be achieved tomorrow. Clients need to understand what it will take from their side for the partnership to be successful. Having the candid conversations early will validate whether this is the right partnership and whether both sides are willing to make the necessary investments to be successful. – Andrew Au, Intercept Group
2. ‘Hiring An Agency Will Fix All Our Problems’
The most common misconception is that hiring an agency will fix everything. Often, there can be internal issues that affect marketing effectiveness. I’ve found it important to be as much a management consultant as an agency. Be transparent about what the process is and both parties’ expectations of your engagement. If it’s clear up front, it’s less likely the relationship declines. – Jennifer Barbee, Destination Innovate
3. ‘All Channels Will Start Improving At The Same Pace’
Addressing time-to-impact for different marketing channels is important. Some companies want leads flowing into the pipeline in weeks, which is possible with certain channels, but not with others. For example, the impact of digital advertising like LinkedIn or Google AdWords can take weeks, whereas SEO can take months. Set expectations early—some of the best programs take time. – Natalie Nathanson, Magnetude Consulting
4. ‘An Agency Will Get Us High-Profile Media Placements’
As a public relations firm, one of the biggest challenges we face with potential clients is a misconception about the type of media that will be interested in them. Most people think they’re primetime-ready; of course, GMA, the TODAY show or Ellen will want to interview them! We address this by educating them on the power of PR and also the work that’s involved for us and them to land their desired placements. – Drew Gerber, Wasabi Publicity, Inc.
5. ‘An Agency Will Threaten Internal Roles’
A successful client-agency partnership is built on communication, trust and respect. Agencies provide expertise from a valuable outside perspective, leading to stronger and more comprehensive strategies. But on the client side, team members may feel threatened if roles are not clearly defined. In partnering with an agency, the client will not sacrifice authority but will, instead, gain support. – Nicole Dorskind, ThirtyThree
6. ‘Our Agency Will Act As A Megaphone’
Often, when a company hasn’t previously worked with an agency, there is a misconception that the agency will simply be a megaphone. That’s not how to get the best results from a strategic agency. Similar to an attorney-client relationship, the client company must share the good, bad and ugly in confidence to empower the agency to give their best recommendations and execution. – Erik Clausen, CG Life
7. ‘Earned Media Results Are Guaranteed’
In the world of PR, earned media is gold. And while working with an established PR agency with connections to media can increase the chances of earned exposure, it is never guaranteed. Hiring an agency takes the hustle off the client’s plate — however, that means that they often don’t see all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes at the agency to get earned media coverage. – Darian Kovacs, Jelly Digital Marketing & PR
8. ‘Agencies Can Ask Google To Fix Our Search Rankings’
Many of our new small and midsized business clients think we can call Google to have them take down anything in the search results that they do not like. They also think we can ask Google to reorder the search results if a competitor of lower quality is appearing ahead of them. Explaining Google’s SEO ranking factors and algorithm to many businesses who rely on search ranking can be extremely difficult. – T. Maxwell, eMaximize
9. ‘Our Work Is Done Once The Agency Takes Over’
I have found that some clients come in thinking that just because they are now working with an agency, their work is done and we will handle everything from there. Granted, we bring a lot to the table, but in order to have a successful relationship, the client and the agency need to work equally as hard together. – Zachary Binder, Bell + Ivy
10. ‘An Agency Is Just Another Vendor’
Occasionally we describe our services as “your outsourced director of marketing.” Most clients that see success without an agency are likely marketing in part-time mode, hiring creative production vendors for Web, video, etc. A good agency is not a vendor but a partner brought in to drive marketing full-time, syncing with leadership to write strategy and create sales for conversion and accountable for return on investment. – Patrick Nycz, NewPoint Marketing
11. ‘The Agency Will Adapt To Our Workplace Culture’
First-time clients will often superimpose their workplace culture onto the agency relationship. A key factor in success for both sides is to recognize that agencies have their own culture. Being open to these differences and talking about them openly at the start or when tension occurs can prevent a disaster down the road. – Dan Cohen, Full Court Press Communications
12. ‘Every Agency Is A Full-Service Marketing Firm’
The most common misconception we encounter with those new to the agency world and digital is the idea that all agencies are a one-stop shop. Many clients new to this world think that because you do websites really well, you can also do video production for them too, or digital ad buys, etc. It’s an issue that can be overcome with good partners and honest dialogue. – Paul E. Benninghove, Phalanx Digital Inc.
13. ‘We Can Launch Right Into The Campaign Without A Clear Strategy’
Most new clients want to launch specific media—digital, TV, radio, etc. They’re more focused on the medium than their actual message or brand strategy. While it’s counter to agency profitability, we’ll always slow the process down and make sure they have a clear, differentiated brand platform before we allow them to waste money on media. It usually leads to great long-term relationships. – Sean Looney, Looney Advertising & Branding