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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Oct 30, 2018 18 min read

Boo! Are You Scared To Work With A Digital Marketing Agency? Ask Them To Guarantee Results!

Digital Marketing Agency

The Right Digital Marketing Agency Helps You Generate Leads; The Right Revenue Growth Agency Can Transform Your Business

Digital Marketing AgencyIf you’re about to contract with a digital marketing agency, theres a lot to be scared about. You might not like them. They might not know what they’re doing. They might make a mistake. They might take too long to produce meaningful results.

Your goal as a CEO is to mitigate those risks as best you can, and the best way to do that is to talk to them about guaranteeing results.

Any agency with the right people, the right set of experiences, the right team, the right technology and the right methodology should be happy to work with you to develop a guaranteed results plan.

Good news, the agency is open to talking with you about guaranteeing results. Now what?

What Do You Want?

It might sound like an easy question initially. What do you want from the engagement with your agency? Do you want someone to tell you what to do? Do you want a company that delivers a list of stuff to you every month? Do you want access to a huge set of educational and training resources? Do you want actual business results?

This might sound like a trick question. You might be thinking, “Doesn’t everyone want business results?” No, believe it or not, that’s not what everyone wants from their agency.

Gaining business results takes a huge commitment from everyone in the organization. You need sales and marketing alignment, changes in overall company messaging, potential changes to how you deliver your products or services and, in some cases, a large investment over a long period of time. Companies don’t change overnight.

Because of this, some companies just want the other options.

They might want to be sure they get two email campaigns a month, four blog articles a month, one new pillar page added to their website a month, a new homepage design, one e-book a quarter — you get the idea. In fact, a lot of agencies are great at delivering stuff, and a ton of companies want to buy stuff. Nothing wrong with expecting stuff, and nothing wrong with finding an agency that can give you stuff.

Other companies have a team of people already working on this, and they just want guidance and consulting advice. You tell us what to do and we’ll do it. Or we’ll do most of it. Or we’ll do what we think you told us to do. Or we’ll interpret what you tell us and do what we want. Again, a viable option if that works for you.

Finally, some companies just want access to resources. Train us, give us best practices and let us sign up for webinars, podcasts, articles, events and other things that we can use to learn how to do marketing better. Nothing wrong with this either.

Knowing what you want and what you expect from working with a digital agency is the key. This is going to help you pick the right agency for you. This is also going to help set expectations on how you should measure the agency.

I mean, you can’t hold them responsible for revenue growth in either of the three options discussed here. They’re hardly doing any heavy lifting to help you close deals, close them faster or close them more frequently, so they’re not really doing anything to help you drive revenue growth results. Right?

But we’re here to talk about the companies that do want business results. They do want more new customers, more new revenue and month-over-month revenue growth. If that does sound more like you and your company, then you should be up front with any agencies you’re talking to.

When I mean up front, I mean black and white, down and dirty. We expect you to take us from 30 leads to 300 leads in six months. We expect you to help us increase our close rate from 10% to 50% in three months. We expect you to help us hit our revenue goals month over month by the six-month mark.

If that is what you want, you should make that clear from the first meeting, call, text, Drift chat or email.

How To Talk To Your Agency About Results

Assuming you want to work with an agency that helps you improve the business results of your company and not one of the other potential scenarios above, how do you talk to prospective agencies about your expectations?

Here’s a step-by-step process for getting ready to have “the talk” with your agency.

Know your numbers first. Coming to the agency with unrealistic expectations or crazy big numbers isn’t going to be productive. If you’re getting 10 leads a month now, you shouldn’t expect to be getting 100 leads in 30 days.

Here are the numbers you should know before you start talking to a revenue growth agency: visitors to your website, site-wide conversion rate, number of sales-qualified lead, number of sales opportunities, number of proposals submitted, close rate on proposals, average sales cycle from first click to close and average revenue from new customers.

Be prepared to have an honest conversation about your technology IQ. Agencies that focus on results also focus on data, automation and analytics. If you don’t have a CRM, let them know and be open when they suggest you consider letting them help you install one. The same goes for marketing automation tools or other technology that you might need to produce your expected results.

Come to the conversation with a budget in mind. If you don’t have a budget, come with an expected investment level to produce your desired results. Make sure those expectations sound reasonable. Expecting $150 million in new business from an investment of $1,000 a month is unreasonable. The bigger your goals, the bigger your investment expectations.

Make sure you’re thinking around investment includes strategy, tactics, analytics, technology and media costs like paid ads on social or Google. Here is an article we wrote on budgeting for marketing, sales and revenue growth.

Start thinking about timing. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can expect results. If you wait until January to start, don’t expect results to be impacted in January. Look at your own marketing and sales execution; the weaker your current programs, the longer it’s going to take for the agency to fix everything and install the necessary tactics.

Look at your team and your people. The weaker they are, the more the agency is going to have to help. The stronger your people, the more strategic your agency can be.

The same holds true for sales. If your sales team is strong, you might not need as much from an agency, but if your sales team is weak, its going to take a lot of heavy lifting to install the strategy, tactics, analytics and technology to make the sales part of the process hum.

Finally, look at your corporate culture. How does the company deal with change? How supportive will the entire company be about your desire to grow revenue? How about the people working directly with the agency? Will they be naysayers, or will they be champions? If they need help from other people outside of marketing and sales, will they step up and be excited to participate?

Any agency willing to guarantee results is going to want answers to these questions, and the more prepared you are to have open and honest conversations around these six items, the easier its going to be to get to agreement on all of the elements required to put a guarantee in place.

What Should Be In A Guarantee?

The answer is 100% in the eye of the beholder. That’s why our conversations start with how you’ll define success in three months. We ask all of our clients what success has to look like for them to be an advocate for Square 2. More specifically, what has to happen in your business for you to feel comfortable saying you love us to everyone?

The definition of success might be a set of quantitative or metric improvements. It might be the delivery of a new website or the installation of a lead-scoring system. It might be simple, like closing four new clients over the next 30 days. As long as you want it, it fits into your overall revenue strategy and we can deliver it, we’ll guarantee it.

The guarantee concept takes two parts: The definition of success as we discussed above, and then what happens when we achieve your definition of success or what happens if we miss it.

We did talk briefly about what Square 2 gets when we achieve your success. You become an advocate. That means you write reviews on Google and review directories, talk with other prospects about your experience, participate in case studies or success stories and maybe even record a video.

If we miss it, we’re prepared to give you a significant amount of money in free services. Thousands of dollars in free services is a way to motivate us not to miss. Remember, you don’t want us to miss, you want us (you and us) to be successful. But if we do fail to deliver on our promises, we’re going to make it worth your while, and any other agency should be willing to do the same.

What Is The Agencys Responsibility?

You’re getting close to having a legit guarantee program with your new agency. Very exciting! But before you skip around the office telling all of your friends, you first have to make sure you understand the agency’s role in this process and your new role.

Your agency has the responsibility to give you the right advice along the way. They have the responsibility to manage their deliverables. They have the responsibility to put the best people on your team, and make sure you’re completely educated on the risks and rewards associated with the strategy, tactics, analytics and technology required to deliver your defined success.

Your agency has the responsibility to have no-fluff conversations with you about what is possible and what might not be possible. They have to work with you to come up with a SMART definition of success for you (SMART means specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound).

The first three are easy to define. Relevant means the definition of success is directly tied to the big-picture goals for your business. The business drivers, revenue growth and revenue goal attainment by their nature means most goals in this situation are relevant to the revenue objective.

The time-bound aspect is also fairly easy. We almost always look at success in terms of three-month periods. This gives us the runway we need to make good on our promises, and it allows us some room to test and experiment. But most importantly, it gives our tactics the chance to gain traction.

What Is Your Responsibility?

Yes, believe it or not, you too have a big responsibility when we talk about guaranteed results. The biggest area for you is to let us do what we do. You have to trust us to perform. That means following our advice and guidance. That means letting us execute as we see fit. Once you start telling us what to do or how to do it, all guarantees are canceled.

It also means you have to stay focused. You can’t change your mind in the middle of the program. You can’t change your goals, alter the company’s strategy or pivot your message. Marketing and sales execution takes patience and commitment. Give it a chance to work before you change your mind. Three months is nothing to ask a CEO when thousands of dollars of free services are on line. If you change direction or change your mind, all guarantees are canceled.

You have to maintain your level of investment. We agreed to success and a level of investment. Any change in that (including any payment delays) means the guarantee is also null and void.

Be realistic, invest properly, trust us to do what we’re amazing at and don’t change your mind midstream. It all makes sense. Hold up your end and we’ll guarantee results.

Vendor Vs. Partner Relationships With An Agency

I added this section because it helps you understand the different types of agencies available today. A ton of web, PPC, design, search, video or social media agencies will do one slice of your program and do a wonderful job at delivering a few items that fit into the agreed-on scope of work. Don’t ask them to guarantee anything. They should be comfortable simply fulfilling your orders.

We typically refer to this type of agency as a vendor agency. Like the hot dog vendor outside the ballpark, you ask them for a hot dog and they give it do you. Simple. No fuss, no muss. You want three videos? You got it. You want a new website? No problem.

They won’t ask you any of the difficult questions and they won’t be accountable for results, just delivery. If that’s what you want, that’s great, and that’s what you should be looking for. Nothing wrong with this type of agency; just make sure you know what you want and what you’re looking at.

Then there are partner agencies that want to help you grow your company. Revenue growth agencies generally fall into this category. They are strategic partners that get to know your business intimately and work closely with you to help you grow.

These agencies are going to be pickier about which businesses they work with, and while they might ask you some challenging questions, they’re doing that to make sure they can help you move the needle in all of the right strategic places, including quantifiable business results.

Do you want a vendor or a strategic partner? Once you decide, your search for the right agency will get a lot easier.

Growing your business is going to be one of the hardest tasks you’ll undertake in your professional career. Getting help from a revenue growth agency is going to make that task easier, and your ability to deliver growth faster and much more efficient.

Finding an agency willing to guarantee the results and work with you as a partner is going to be key.

Square 2 — Building The Agency You’ll LOVE!


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.