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What to Expect from a Marketing Agency in the First Year

by Mary Ann Hegvold on November 18, 2020

If you're planning to start working with an agency to increase your leads and sales, it's a good idea to have a realistic expectation of what should be done within that first year of working together. The goal for you, and for the agency, is to create a long-lasting and beneficial relationship. To do that, it's best to talk about what to expect right from the start. 

If you're currently in the first year of working with an agency, but feel like you're not getting what you had hoped for, it's time to talk with them and discuss how things are going from their perspective and yours. There's a chance that your expectations weren't aligned when you started. 

Let's review what we expect from our own team when starting to work with a new client for digital lead generation. It's reasonable to anticipate a similar experience, although every agency's process is different.

Onboarding New Marketing Agency Clients 

Before you or the agency do just about anything together there should be a few hours spent setting yourself up for success. This is what we call the onboarding process. While it might seem a little tedious, it will pay off later.  Here are some of the things we review with each client in the first month or sooner.

Identify what success will look like

To be fair to you and to your agency, there needs to be a plan with expected and reasonable outcomes for the first year.  What is the client expecting? What does the agency feel is achievable? Surprisingly they're not always in line with one another. Not only do you need to talk about how many leads you need to generate, but the types of leads (marketing qualified, sales qualified, etc.).

If the client is expecting to reach the goals in 6 months, but the agency feels they have 12 months to get there, you'll have a gap and the client end up dissatisfied. Talking about this up front can help avoid the feeling that there isn't enough happening at a quick enough pace. 

The agency will need to develop a plan for short term, mid-range and long term goals that are reasonable with your budget. And that plan needs to be communicated clearly to the entire client's team, including those in the C-suite who are watching closely to see if this investment in marketing is worthwhile.

Level-set on strategy & tactics

There is obviously a goal the client is trying to achieve. (If they don't have one... back up and get one so that you can monitor your success.) The goals are usually related to more sales. How you get to that goals is typically through generating more qualified leads at a faster pace. But... there's a lot of information needed before jumping in.

  • Do you fully understand your competitive advantage?
  • Do you know customers choose you? Do you know why customers leave you? 
  • How does the website perform? Is there enough traffic? If yes, why doesn't it convert more leads?
  • Who are your competitors in the digital space? What is your plan to be seen in the same space as a viable option?

This can take a few sessions to go through and should be a part of that first month of onboarding so that you are all in agreement on where you are now and where you'd like to get to. 

Once you've got a solid set of answers to these questions you can discuss the specific ways the agency will be poised to do the work to increase leads, nurture them into qualified leads and then help the sales team convert them into customers. 

The Details of Onboarding

There are also some details that will need to be addressed up front. This includes things like making sure the agency team has access to your Google Analytics, Google Search Console, HubSpot account, Salesforce, and other tools that are needed to get the job done. 

If you need new software, this is the time to get that set up as well. 

Quick Wins for Your Marketing Goals

Identify low hanging fruit

What can be done right away to increase leads and/or sales based on the work you've done so far to generate leads? Have past leads heard from you in a while? There could be some previously lost opportunities that are ready to convert now, with a little bit of nurturing. 

Turn Customers into Repeat Customers

There can be a lot of revenue in upgrading customers or adding on additional products and services.  Do you have a plan for this? It shouldn't be up to the customer service team only to move customers into repeat customers. And since they already know you, it's also a pretty easy sale to make... increasing revenue rather quickly within this segment. 

Use ads for immediate lead generation

Pay Per Click ads, whether on Google, Bing or a social platform, can generate leads you need right now. Because you haven't fully set up your content strategy yet, they may be a bit more expensive than they will be later when content has been created in relation to the ads. But ads work. And they work well if run right. While they may also be part of a long-term strategy focusing on ads first can get you the quick wins you might need to show some results to the C-suite.

Working Towards Long-Term Marketing & Sales Goals

Assess Current SEO

You need to have a baseline of how visible your website is and how much authority Google gives it. This is a two-part assessment

  1. Content audit - Your agency needs to understand not only what you have on the website but what other materials are available for your sales team to use that they could turn into helpful website content. The content audit will also assess how well your web content matches your targeted key topics.  

Request a free technical SEO review of your website

  1. Technical SEO audit - Your agency should also run a technical SEO assessment to see if there are aspects of the website that could be hurting your ability to show up in organic results.  Hopefully they can make those updates for you, but if not, you'll need to plan on your web team being available to make recommended changes that will improve your visibility in search results. 

Create a content plan and Execute on it

Based on what you found, you and the agency should work together to create a content plan. This typically includes more web pages, blogging, premium content (also referred to as lead magnets) and/or video. All of these things, when focused correctly on the topics you want to be known for, will improve your organic traffic. Most people have a content calendar and roll it out in phases.

Depending on your budget, it's not the fastest moving process you've ever seen. And it's important to know that straight away. Expect content development and SEO activities to take somewhere between 6 weeks to 6 months before it really moves the needle significantly. It can be faster. But it's not guaranteed. That's why you run ads as part of the short term strategies. 

(You might be interested in reading our blog about pillar pages.)

Be sure you note where you started and how things are going each month. There might be a little bit of progress each month and then after several months a more significant jump in the visibility of your content.  More on this in the reporting section coming up next.

Nurturing Leads can take a while

Literally it takes time to nurture leads through their buyer's journey. You can encourage them to take an action, but they are going to do it when they're good and ready. And that takes patience.

There also needs to be a plan for encouraging new customers to spread the word about their great experiences. This can really help increase the number of leads you get in the future.

What to expect when creating new content - writing, editing, designing, publish - all processes that takes time. 

Reporting on Results is Critical

It's surprising to me how often clients tell me that their last agency simply didn't give them reports. That doesn't meant they weren't being run. But it does mean that the client wasn't being involved in the discussions about what to do next as much as they should have been. 

At a minimum, expect a monthly meeting with the marketing agency. During that discussion you should go over.

  • A report comparing previous results and current results. 
  • What's worked well to produce the results, including examples.
  • What hasn't been working and a plan to change it up so that it can work better.
  • A forward-looking discussion.
    • Be sure to share with the agency any company decisions to change their goals or strategies.
    • What does the agency recommend to get you back on track if results aren't optimal?
    • Are there areas where either the client or the agency has been struggling, such as communication, response time, etc. Being open about this will keep people from pointing fingers at each other later on. 

And... every meeting... decide if there needs to be any adjustments to the plans based on any changes to the company's direction and based on the results achieved thus far. 

At about 9 months you should be evaluating where to head in the next year and how the relationship has been going thus far. If there are rough spots, talk about them so that you can get back on track and keep the relationship intact. Consistency is key in marketing, and bouncing between agencies can slow you down.

To help you have an even better relationship with your marketing agency, here are some tips that will help produce more, and better, results.

4 Things You Should NOT Do When Working With a Marketing Agency:

  1. Never leave your agency out of marketing and sales strategy conversations. If it happens spontaneously, make your first phone call after the discussion to your agency to share what was discussed. This will help them be as successful as possible. 

  2. Don't change direction without giving the tactics time to work. If you start ads and run them for 2 months and then change everything, you haven't given the agency enough time to get results and make adjustments to optimize the ads. It's similar with content offers and other website content. Give it some time before you give up on it. 

  3. Don't separate the sales team from the marketers. This applies to both your in-house team and your marketing agency. Marketers need information from the sales team to be more successful. Help the sales team to see how important their input really is to the entire company's success.

  4. Avoid splintering your time across multiple agencies. Digital marketing activities such as website updates, PPC  ads, SEO, and inbound marketing all cross over each other to the point that having more than one agency for these activities gets confusing and difficult for the client to effectively manage. If you can, use a single agency for the digital marketing activities you'll not only save yourself some headache, but more than likely a good bit of money too!

Not every agency/client relationship will succeed. If you find one that's working well, do what you can – on both sides – to keep it healthy and moving forward. It will save you time and money!

If you're considering a marketing agency to help grow your leads and customers, we'd be happy to setup an introductory conversation to see if we can help.

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