Businesses tend to see digital and online marketing like magic. They want to hire wizards to make it work, and seldom ask the right questions or get involved in the process. The thinking seems to come down to “Am I getting leads?” If yes, good, if not, then they look for a better wizard. This cycle has left the marketing industry largely unaccountable, with all the activity happening behind a curtain that businesses owners can’t see.
While this may feel like it is just part of the nature of digital marketing, it isn’t. There is no good reason for your marketing agency to keep you in the dark, and staying in the dark is the biggest mistake you can make for your business. Digital marketing has the capability to be the most transparent, and least “magical” form of marketing ever. Here is what to ask for to make sure you see behind the curtain and own your own data regardless of which agency you use.
Get access and ownership of all your accounts.
Google, Bing, Facebook, Instagram, and all major online services that sell ads also allow for multiple users. You have a right and responsibility as a business owner to have administrative access to any ad accounts an agency manages for you. Do not believe any excuses like “we have a proprietary ad platform” or “we run our clients under our own account.” If you hear this, your agency is lying to you.
The best thing to do is set up a Gmail account like firstname.lastname@example.org, and use that to share with agencies and marketing professionals to set up on all your ad accounts. Even if they “have their own account” they can add that Gmail account as an admin user to all your ad campaigns. This means that if and when you change agencies and marketing professionals, all your accounts and history comes with you.
Own your own hosting account and domain.
NEVER let a marketing agency sell you website hosting “through” them. With few exceptions, agencies don’t actually have any hosting they run themselves. They white-label hosting solutions like WPEngine, HostGator, SiteGround, etc. There is no valid reason that they can’t build and manage a site for you on a hosting account you own directly.
After helping businesses with websites for two decades now, I am still shocked at how many of them fall for this. Having your marketing agency own your hosting means they have you by the balls in a dispute. Always sign up for your own hosting account, buy your domain name yourself, and then share access to it with marketing professionals you work with.
Own your own analytics.
All marketing agencies produce reports for their clients, but these reports come from data you should have access to. The purpose of a marketing report should be to help make data understandable but not to hide it from you. Even if you think you will never look at it, make sure you are an owner or admin user on all your analytics.
Some marketing companies do have their own analytics platform, this is the one place they might be telling the truth. But there are lots of free analytic platforms, like Google Analytics, that they can also set up on your website and online marketing campaigns. Even if they have their own platform, make sure you have Google Analytics, or another third-party platform, installed that you have ownership over. Doing this means you own your data and can check to see if they are giving you bad data.
Fire bad agencies.
If you get anything but enthusiastic cooperation in asking for these things, fire your agency. If they won’t work with you on owning your own data and having transparency, something is fishy in their business. Many well-meaning agencies simply don’t think to make sure you have access to everything, but bad agencies will fight against you or refuse to give you access.
I’ve been in this industry for a while, and have had to help clients fight to take back ownership of their data way too often. Everyone needs to know this is the best way to ensure the marketing professionals you work with have your best interests in mind.