Do You Need a Pre-Nup When You Engage A Digital Marketing Agency?


Do You Need a Pre-Nup When You Engage A Digital Marketing Agency?

Committing to an ongoing relationship with a digital marketing agency is a very big decision for any Small Business. It’s a mission critical function, and as important as hiring a permanent employee.

I wrote this article during a particularly bruising separation from our previous digital marketing agency. Our professional relationship has been characterised by poor outcomes, lack of accountability and transparency, and significant waste of our time and money.

Worst of all, the loss of opportunities and business momentum really sapped our emotional energy.

What follows are the lessons we’ve learned.

I firmly believe the cliché “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’’, and I hope our experience will help you to select your digital agency successfully. We put all of these steps into practice during the engagement of our new agency. They’re Olympic champions at jumping through our hoops already!

What do I mean by a digital marketing agency? In our case, we signed up for a full digital marketing program. That included online marketing strategy, website build, support and maintenance, marketing automation management, PPC advertising management, SEO, Social Media management and some content creation.

Whether you engage a full service agency, or employ different agencies for any one of the above functions, most of what follows will apply.

In every walk of life there are stars, average Joes and duds. Recruit your agency carefully and you’ll be reaching for the stars.

1. Research thoroughly before you sign up

Qualify, qualify, qualify. If your agency is recommended to you, who is the person making the recommendation?  How well do you know them, and how well do they know the agency? Have they been a client? Speak with current and past clients, and ask lots of questions. Check examples of past work. Find out as much as you can about the skills of the team, and their experience.

2. Interview more than one agency

It’s hard to know whether you’re choosing a star performer if you have no point of reference. We assessed five agencies, and interviewed three before we selected our new supplier

3. Do they have a plan?

Any successful marketing activity starts with a well formed plan. If this isn’t part of the standard process, you’ve probably got the wrong agency. Find out how the planning phase works before you sign up, and what review and refresh procedure occurs over time. Understand your role in the marketing planning. Unless there is a high degree of collaboration with you, chances are you’ll be delivered a generic program that may not fit your business.

4. Reporting and Communication

What sort of written reports you will receive, and how often they will be delivered? Will there be regular phone or face to face meetings? Reporting and review should happen at least monthly. Be clear on your access and communication between reports. How do you maintain contact with the agency team to ensure you’re giving the right input to get the outcomes you need? What are the KPIs for the program, and how will they be measured?

5. The Get Out Clause

Assuming a good reporting and review process is in place, and you have agreed monthly and longer term success milestones, ask what happens if goals are not met. What is the process for resolving dissatisfaction? Finally, how do you terminate the relationship if the agency consistently fails to deliver on their promises?

6. Ensure you have the keys to your digital assets

Regardless of the level of trust and satisfaction you have in your digital agency, you should have control of all your online assets. You need master administrative access to your website hosting, website control panel, Adwords campaign, Google Analytics, email or marketing automation software, and all social media platforms. If you make the right choice, your agency will recommend this as best practice anyway.


Good agencies will give you a tailored, explicit proposal that covers what they will deliver in detail, and then make it happen. They will be happy to answer questions and clarify concerns to ensure you develop a close collaborative relationship. Because in the end they need to deliver growth in your business and your bank account to have growth in theirs.

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