Looking back on your revenue for the past year, it’s tempting to blame your marketing agency for your financial shortcomings. After all, business leaders repeatedly identify marketing as the single most important thing your company needs to get right. If your bottom line isn’t healthy, your marketing team is the first place you look for problems.

So your top-dollar, outsourced marketing agency didn’t bring in the big bucks this year. Maybe your agency failed you and it’s a classic case of overpromising and under-delivering.

Probably not, though.

Before you start shopping around for a new advertising team, take an honest look at your situation and answer these questions about your real marketing performance.

how was your marketing performance in 2017?

1: Do You Actually Know What Your Marketing Company Accomplished?

The sales process is more complex than 1) run an ad, and 2) make a sale.

Tracking your metrics and monitoring results is just as much a part of your marketing strategy as running ad campaigns.

Far too often, marketing generates an abundance of leads, then they fall into a black hole. Nobody knows what happens between lead generation and purchase.

Too many entrepreneurs only monitor their total ad spending and overall conversion rate, which is next to useless information without context. If you’re not seeing the sales figures you’d like, the only way you can solve the problem is to determine where in the sales funnel you’re losing customers.

Blaming your marketing team for your lack of sales is usually just an excuse to avoid looking at your own shortcomings. Before you dump your agency, take an intelligent look at what’s actually going on and diagnose the real problem. It might truly be poor marketing, but if you have leads that aren’t turning into sales, the problem is likely deeper in the sales funnel.

What Are Your People Doing?

Marketing is a core business activity. It’s absolutely necessary for your success. That doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you must do to succeed. You also need a reasonably valuable product or service, a competent sales team, some basic customer service standards, and adequate leadership.

are you providing enough coaching and leadership to help your team succeed?

Your marketing agency has only one job: creating leads. After that, it’s up to you and your team to turn those leads into paying customers.

Are you monitoring calls?

Do you offer coaching to help your people succeed?

Do you hire intelligently and get rid of people who aren’t a good fit for your organization?

It’s up to you to attract the right talent, equip those people for success, monitor results, and adjust accordingly. Great marketing will never be fully effective if you’re trying to make up for an ineffective staff and shoddy leadership.

2: Are You Giving Your Marketing Company The Chance To Succeed?

When you work with a third party marketing agency, success requires active participation.

So many businesses hire a marketing agency to help gain exposure and generate leads, only to check out during the onboarding process. When your team has to beg for passwords, access levels, and information, it cripples your marketing effort before you’ve even gotten started.

Just as you expect your marketing team to perform and generate results, they have a reasonable expectation that you’ll hold up your end of the partnership, too.

That means:

  • You respond to necessary calls and emails promptly.
  • You have clearly defined and divided responsibilities between your agency and internal team.
  • You provide access to all necessary tools and systems.
  • You communicate immediately if there are problems or if you have questions.

Don’t hobble your marketers, then get upset when they can’t perform at full potential.

Many companies find success by assigning an internal liaison for their third party marketers. The agency gets a reliable point of contact, the brand benefits from the agency’s knowhow and skills, and everybody wins.

respond to calls and emails promptly so you're not the weak link in your marketing strategy

3: Are You Equipped For Success In The First Place?

Marketability matters.

Business owners are often resistant to spending on upgrades to make them more marketable. One of the most popular excuses is this one:

XYZ Company has this same problem, and they sell millions of widgets every month. I just need a really good marketing plan like they have. If I really put the work into marketing, I can do anything I want!

For every brand that succeeds in spite of their mistakes, there are hundreds of brands that tanked because of those same shortcomings.

There’s no reason to consciously and intentionally fight an uphill battle when there’s so much you can do to make it easier. Sure, you could try to be the exception that overcomes those obvious weaknesses with brilliant marketing, or you can just fix the problems and use your brilliant marketing to gain momentum.

Things that are currently sitting at the bottom of your priority list might be costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. Consider that the same ads you’re already running could be exponentially more effective if you just addressed your marketability issues.

Getting an outside perspective can help you identify your blind spots.

Here are some of the most common marketability mistakes that take chunks out of your bottom line:

  • Your website isn’t user friendly enough
  • Your branding is inconsistent across media channels
  • Your customer service is poor
  • You’re behind your competitors in tech adoption
  • Your product or service isn’t priced appropriately for your market

Notice that none of these problems have quick and simple solutions, and you’re probably not going to solve them without significant investment.

if leads aren't converting, the problem is probably deeper in the sales funnel than marketing

And that brings us to the final question:

4: Did You Invest Enough?

While it’s possible to generate results with sweat equity and creative marketing, those kinds of strategies are only a starting point to get you some capital to work with. If you want big league results, it’s time to open your wallet.

Cutting corners in your marketing budget also means cutting the number of leads you generate. Intelligently invest in lead generation if you want to get noteworthy results.

The whole point of your marketing plan is to turn your exposure into profit. If you won’t invest money in your marketing strategy, that means you don’t honestly believe you can turn ads into sales. Businesses who believe in their marketing invest generously, because that investment generates returns.

Look honestly at your marketing budget. Is it a top financial priority, or just an afterthought?

There are two possibilities if you’re still hesitating to invest in your marketing:

You might lack confidence in your marketing team, whether internal or external. In this case, replacing your team with people you trust will solve the problem.

That’s not usually the case, though.

More often, the problem is actually that you lack confidence in your own business. This is harder to address – it takes insight, courage, and emotional maturity.

Your lack of confidence might come from marketability issues just like the ones addressed in point 3. It might also just be lack of experience.

Do what you have to do to start seriously investing in your brand’s marketing strategy, whether that’s hiring a consultant to help shore up your weaknesses or bringing in an experienced marketing manager to make the hard decisions for you.

marketing strategy generates traffic - invest enough to accomplish something

One Last Note

There’s no such thing as a perfect marketing agency. Even the most experienced and competent agencies are made of people, and people have been known to forget things, commit errors, and even play favorites. If you had a bad experience with a marketing agency this year, it’s entirely possible that they were completely at fault.

However, if you’ve had bad experiences with 2 or more agencies, that’s a strong indicator that you’re either seeking out cut-rate, disreputable marketers, you have wildly unrealistic expectations about results, or you’re doing something to impede the effectiveness of your professional marketing campaigns.

We all have blind spots.

Most people never confront their own weaknesses, just like most people never build multi-million dollar businesses. If you want to break all your records this year, it’s time to break the habits that are holding you back.