Do Digital Marketing Agencies have a bad reputation for confusing our customer?

By Caroline Dunlea,

Speaking with many clients over the last 12 months, there has been an underlying dissatisfaction with one aspect of their digital marketing experience. We are finding that the same questions are popping up again and again:

  • What is really been done for my digital marketing fee?
  • I don’t understand the reports I am getting?
  • I cannot see the return for my spend?
  • I do not know the right questions to ask?

This is a trend for which anyone with an interest in the future of the digital marketing industry should have concern and awareness about and has led us to the question – Do Digital Marketing Agencies have a bad reputation for confusing our customers?


“With enough courage, you can do without a reputation.” ― Margaret Mitchell

In our opinion, and contrary to Margaret Mitchell’s quote, the reputation of a digital agency is the key to building and retaining a strong, trusting customer base. The digital landscape is peppered with acronyms and jargon that can mystify and alienate some of our customers.

As Digital Agencies our customers expect us to communicate vital pieces of information in an understandable format about the things that matter to them and to their businesses. Can we always say that we do this? How many of us have heard clients say things like:

  • “Paid Search in the past has cost us a lot of money without giving a clear picture of what the return was.”
  • “We used to get reports that we could not understand and as a result, did not know what to do with the data.”
  • “Digital is very time consuming and we don’t have the in-house team to deliver.”
  • “How am I supposed to know if the results are what I should expect?”

Regular communication between you and your customers with a focus on showing them the information they need to see, in a manner they can readily understand, can play a key role in establishing a lasting relationship with them. Your customer will not always be familiar with acronyms like CRO, CPA, ROAS etc. Using phrases like “Cost of Sale” rather than CPA may highlight what the data actually means to the customer’s business.

  • Keep it Simple
  • Keep it Clear
  • Keep it Relevant
  • Keep it Moving


Even a great one doesn’t implement itself – Discuss your Client’s Strategy Up Front – duh!

This may seem like an obvious one but believe it or not, is not always done. Having a strategy meeting with the client in advance of starting any campaigns will allow the client to talk about what they are looking to achieve and their overall business objectives. This allows the client to talk in their own language about real issues and helps us, the agency, identify solutions and opportunities for their business. Getting the key stakeholders around a table to discuss the strengths of their business and their unique selling points provides invaluable information for us to use to specifically tailor a bespoke Digital plan.

Measure Measure Measure! Agree a Measurement Plan.

“What gets measured gets managed.” ― Peter Drucker

Once the goals are clear it is important to look at how these goals can be measured – online, offline or through a combination of both. In many cases measurement goals are not in place online – particularly for SME’s. It’s not all about traffic – yes I did just say that! –  it’s all about the RIGHT Traffic. There’s little point in targeting 25-year-old males interested in gaming if you’re selling handbags. As digital marketers we need to be as analytical about what the traffic is doing on the site as we are about how to get it to the site. Measuring clicks and visits without a real appreciation for the outcome does not give us enough variables to make decisions that we are confident can influence change and growth.

Measurement can come in many forms and the objective of the customer may not always be the same as that of the agency so it is important to set these measurement methods out in advance. Some of these could be:

  • Tracking Phone Calls Online
  • Tracking Enquiry forms or Emails
  • E-commerce Revenue
  • Engagement on the Site – Visits to key pages on the site – New v’s Returning visitors.
  • PDF Downloads
  • Account Sign Ups

Want to learn more about measurement? Read our post about creating a 5 Step Measurement Plan



Its like an eraser, it gets smaller and smaller with every mistake

Building trust with a new client does not happen overnight! In our experience, our most reciprocal, trustworthy relationships have been achieved with more face to face time. But in a digital world with skype, conference calls and google hangout, we can surely achieve the same thing remotely and in half the time… right? Wrong! Setting the time aside to meet with your customer, sit around a table, and look at each other’s faces and expressions can be a far superior tool when it comes to building trust and relationships. Being on site in your customer’s environment gives you a greater appreciation for their business, their customers and their unique selling points that you should be emphasizing with their digital strategy. Not only that, face to face interactions speeds up issue resolution. How many times have you been over and back on email trying to resolve an issue and within 20 minutes sitting face to face did you identify the issue and resolve it and move on?

Taking the time to meet and set goals, taking the time to show the progress being made on these goals and having clear communication lines are must haves in today’s market place. An honest and open forum allows clients to challenge and drive forward initiatives that they feel are most important to their business and is vital in the process of building and maintaining trustworthy relationships with our clients.


Agencies can often be protective of Analytics and Adwords accounts. For a relationship to truly work there is a need for open and honest communication – transparency. To truly do a good job for your clients you must be prepared to try new approaches, push the boundaries on their behalf and take the risks to stand out in a cluttered online landscape!!

About the author

Caroline is a co-founder and director of Core Optimisation where we work with our clients to deliver digital growth through a combination of Digital Marketing and Conversion Optimisation Strategies. She has a passion and energy for delivering a high level of customer service with a strong focus on results and increasing direct online revenue for our customers.