October 19, 2016

You Should Expect Transparency

By Alex Ghattas

Read Time: 4.5 minutes

Over the last few months, the agency world has been reeling after the Association of National Advertisers released a scathing 58-page report detailing transparency (trans·par·ent: easy to perceive or detect) issues in the advertising industry.

Although this report focused mainly on fortune 500 brands and their agency partners, the lack of transparency is a huge issue for small and medium size businesses seeking marketing and advertising services at independent agencies.

At Aleric Marketing we have seen this time and time again. Speaking to clients about their past experiences with marketing agencies, overall it has been appalling to hear some of the stories.

A client of ours, a small pest control company in Northern Michigan, was being charged over $1,000 per month for advertising services. When they came to Aleric, we asked for their AdWords account and found that only $200 of that $1,000 was being spent on actual advertising. They were being exploited by over $800 per month by the people that promised to help them.

Another example was a medium size business that spent over $10,000 on a new website to be disappointed in the end result, taking months to complete, and ruining their rollout of a new product line.

And finally, another client was spending $2,000 per month on marketing services with an agency and after four months and $8,000 later the client did not have a website, no social media marketing had been done, and the only thing to show for this investment was a few measly digital marketing photos and a very angry customer.

The list goes on and on.

Those three examples should give you a pretty good idea of the lack of transparency that pervades even the smallest agencies and clients.

The worst part about all of this, it could have been prevented.

So what do we mean when we say transparency?

Transparency is when an agency partner and client has a clear understanding of the overall process of digital design and marketing. Both the clients and the agency have a clear understanding of the metrics that will be used to measure success, how much each service is going to cost, the time frame the service is to be completed, and insight into where each dollar is going.

What you need to watch out for:

1. Lack of Reporting

If you are a client engaged in any pay-per-click campaigns including any paid social, Google and Bing advertising or display advertising, you should expect at least a monthly report sent to you by your agency.

It should include data and graphs like this:

Clicks (orange) vs. Impressions (blue)

CTR (Click Through Ratio):


And finally, your actual spend! You should know exactly how much of your marketing budget is going towards your ad spend and clicks:

This report should contain all the metrics that you agreed upon with your agency on the front end to measure success. CPA (cost per acquisition), impression numbers, CPC (cost per click), extension clicks, everything. This should be expected.

The examples we gave previously in this post could have been avoided if the agency had committed to timely reporting to its clients.

As a client, you should ask for a full monthly report on how much of your money is actually going towards advertising spend and not lining the pockets of the agency you are working with.

2. Guarantees

Nothing can be guaranteed in advertising. No one knows for certain how well the advertising will work. As such no, one should be guaranteeing you anything other than a timeline.

If an agency promises a certain CPA (Cost Per Acquisition), Impression number, of CPC… RUN!

These should be goals to meet and or exceed but no one can promise these. Advertising is all about experimenting, each month will be different and numbers will fluctuate. Having clear goals will help to mitigate issues, but run away from anyone making promises other than a timeline.

3. Lack of Clear Goals

As we touched on above, your agency should sit down with you and explain metrics like CPA, Impressions, CPC and any other digital marketing term you may be unfamiliar with.

The agency should also give you an idea of the industry standard for each metric. A good resource can be found here to know what your industry average is.

These goals will help to guide the agency in its efforts to drive traffic and ultimately sales to your site. These goals should be set in tandem with you, the client.

4. Lack of Understanding

The agency you partner with will be responsible for representing your business online. They are responsible for gaining your potential customers trust. They are responsible for your first impression. That is a huge responsibility and as such the agency should work tirelessly to understand you and your business.

They should understand your customer, how your product is made or how your service is delivered.

They should ask questions to get to know you better than themselves. Make sure they understand how you want to be presented to your customers and ensure they follow through with constant monitoring.

At Aleric Marketing, we are sick and tired of hearing stories from small businesses that were given false hope by a marketing agency that promised them the world and didn’t deliver anything but the initial thank you card… if that.

We believe that your success is our success and we should be able to prove that. If we can’t prove that then you should move on and work with someone else.

Your purpose is our purpose and we will live, eat and breathe it for our entire relationship. We know that through innovative and transparent marketing solutions we can increase brand awareness, drive sales, and make a meaningful impact on our communities.