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Alex Winter

By Alex Winter

May 6, 2024

Topics:

Working With Marketing Agencies Hiring a Marketing Team Executives and Leaders Endless Customers Podcast
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Working With Marketing Agencies  |   Hiring a Marketing Team  |   Executives and Leaders  |   Endless Customers Podcast

Don't Be Held Hostage By an Agency [Endless Customers Podcast S.1 Ep.29]

Alex Winter

By Alex Winter

May 6, 2024

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Connor

I talk to way too many businesses who say that they are stuck in a relationship, they can't get out of a contract with an agency they're not happy with, and the word that they always use is that they feel like they're being held hostage, that they're handcuffed to this agency. And I want to talk to you about some ways that not only business owners should be looking at the relationship they have with an agency, but some proactive steps they can take to


Connor

make sure that never happens again and that they always have ownership of everything that their company puts out.


Alex

That sounds awesome, let's get into it.


Connor

Let's make it happen.


Alex

Let's make it happen. Let's make it happen.


Alex

Welcome back to Endless Customers, I'm Alex Winter, and today we are joined by Connor Delaney, Director of Revenue, Sales Consultant, Master of Disaster, Connor, what's up buddy?


Connor

Welcome back to the show. Master of Disaster, I love it. I hope not, but I love it.


Alex

You do a little bit of everything, I feel like. You really are multifaceted. So regardless of title, we're happy to have you here. Welcome to the show.


Connor

Yeah, I'm excited, man. Yeah. Good to be back. Now, we have a really good topic today that I think a lot of people are gonna be excited to hear about, and it's about being held hostage


Connor

by your agency. Right. I know, dot, dot, dot, by your agency, right? So no real hostage situation here, but we're talking about when a business owner or a marketing leader comes to you and is like, hey, I signed


Connor

up with an agency and I got all the way down the rabbit hole and now I'm stuck and I don't like where I'm at and I need help. So high level, does this happen a lot? And if it does, can you just kind of give us a little bit of a preview of what occurs in these situations? It happens a lot because the way that impact positions ourselves and again, you know to start this conversation


Connor

Businesses and agencies are accountable for this. This isn't a agencies are bad because IMPACT used to be this agency for Well before my time IMPACT was a do-it-for-you company the you give us, you know It's more transactional and the same I started that's what we were doing, right? right and there is nothing wrong with that because there are so many companies out there that need that level of, we don't have the bandwidth, we don't have the people to do that. But what


Connor

ends up happening is businesses get taken advantage of and there's, again, there's not a lot of agencies out there in the world that still exist that get away with this. And there are a lot of great agencies out there. So this is like a disclaimer that there are great agencies out there too. But yeah, more often than not, we do hear that business owners wanted to move fast, they signed up for things that maybe they didn't fully understand


Connor

because they just wanted to throw money at it and get going. And then a year later, they're like, hmm, maybe I should have been a little more strategic with. Yeah, and you know, for where a company is, six, 12 months ago, things can change a lot,


Connor

especially in the world today. You know, that's not just the AI piece, there's, you know, the business landscape has changed. You hear about the layoff side, you hear about businesses trying to condense their teams.


Alex

We're in an election year this year,


Connor

so there's all sorts of layers. Yeah, there's so many factors that go into it, but what typically happens is, when we use the word hostage, it means that you as the business don't have control of your property,


Connor

whether that's your content, whether that's your website, whether that's just the brand itself. If you don't fully own what's going out there, that's what we mean when we say hostage. And again, a lot of that happens because we sign up for long-term contracts without knowing


Connor

what we're actually signing up for, without understanding it. But we can't always fault the small business owner, even the middle-sized business owner that just doesn't know or doesn't have the time to know what this agency they're going to be signing up with is doing. And again, sometimes it's the agency trying to keep you stuck with them. Most of the time, it's a business signing up thinking they're getting one thing and


Connor

then they end up not getting exactly what they expected. And as soon as that relationship becomes fractured, that's when the hostage situation happens because outcomes or deliverables weren't clear for someone. The business was expecting one thing, the agency delivered another thing, and now both sides are saying, well we both signed the same contract, why are we not on the same page here? That's typically what I see happening when


Connor

companies come to us, and again sometimes it's we're stuck with them for six months, sometimes it's we want to break up with them today. I even talk to agency owners, you know, like you said, I end up doing a lot of different things. Part of my role is we work with some of our partners and other agencies in the world. I have a number of friends who run and work at other agencies.


Connor

And sometimes they feel the same way of we've been stuck with this client that isn't happy but still understands they wanna spend money with us. And so it becomes like this headache. And again, that's why we bring up


Connor

that the business and the agency are responsible in these hostage situations, as we call it, because both sides are signing up for the same thing, and if we weren't happy from the start, that's one thing, but if we aren't happy later, there's a clear miscommunication, a gap in that.


Connor

Yeah, there's definitely a gap.


Alex

There's definitely a gap. And we talked before we started the show, and I think it's a good reference. You know, in the healthcare field, and in the healthcare world, they always talk about proactive medicine versus reactive medicine,


Alex

or healthcare, right? So it's like, let's get into more of a preventative mindset to catch things early stage so that you're good long term versus being reactive where you don't know how bad it may be and then you have a lot of other hurdles you have to jump over.


Alex

So with that in mind, as a business owner, sometimes when you want to go fast, you're very specialized in what you do, you know what you know, you don't know a lot about marketing and it's hard to balance all these things


Alex

when you're wearing all those hats. And it's like, how do you make those right decisions? Or how can people stay informed? Or like, get educated in a way that's gonna be quick and get them where they need to go so they're not spending days, weeks, months


Alex

trying to make a decision when they have a bunch of other stuff going on.


Connor

Right, yeah, business owners have a million things on their plates, especially when you're smaller. Like, agencies, this happens most with companies that aren't super big. And that's fine, you know, they have more money, more problems kind of deal, but for a lot of the smaller businesses that I speak with, they run into this challenge of we're


Connor

growing quickly, our business is changing, we have to keep up. They have so many other decisions to make. You know, it's even things like I spoke to a payroll company recently and they're roughly a million dollar company. You know, in certain aspects, that's pretty big. In other aspects, that's relatively small.


Connor

And for them, when I was talking to them about just where their business is heading, where they're looking to go, and if IMPACT can help, they were like, I fear as the business leader, if we're gonna be able to get payroll set up, like if we're, payroll for our company, so to clarify.


Connor

This, yeah, I guess, but they're a payroll company.


7

Can we pay our people?


Connor

Can we pay our staff? Right, and they're talking internally how to pay. So this company came to us. They want to figure out how to do sales and marketing better. That's what most companies come to Talk to IMPACT about. For sure.


Connor

But what he was worried about is, can I keep the lights on, basically? And for him, he found an agency that said they could do some work for him. And he was spending a lot of money, especially in terms of what he's doing.


Connor

They were spending five figures per month with an agency and he said, I've gotten one deal out of it. And I asked him, how does that make you feel? And his answer was, I've been frustrated for 13 years ever since I started this company, that every time I outsource marketing,


Connor

I don't get any results from it. And I could tell right away, and he even said this, he's like, I feel like marketing is just spending money, but I believe that marketing is important. And immediately it was, so why are we spending all this money with this company?


Connor

And right away, this is where the hostage situation comes up. He said, well, we signed a 12 month contract. And so guess what the follow up question was? Well, what did they say they were gonna deliver on? And right away, I've gotta go pull up the contract,


Connor

I don't really know.


Alex

Wow.


Connor

So he didn't know. He couldn't. He could not vocalize what they're expected to do.


Alex

And he also said that he believes that marketing is important.


Connor

Oh yeah.


Alex

Even though he wasn't getting results from all this money he was spending.


Connor

Wow. Yeah. He believes that for his company to grow, he needs marketing to be a part of that because marketing feeds sales. He had the picture. He understood it.


Connor

He gets the big picture yeah he understands how they all work together to grow the company they want to get to and he's got goals he wants this company to grow eventually one day maybe he wants to exit like he's got ideas for where he'd like the company to go but right away it was I can't move forward with working with IMPACT or doing something else because I'm stuck here what do I do next and as soon as you hear that, you hear the handcuffs shaking


Connor

because it's, I'm stuck.


Alex

And what do I do?


7

That's a tough situation, yeah,


Alex

because it sounds like a company like IMPACT in this scenario could really help him,


Connor

and he sees that we could help him. And I'm not here to pitch IMPACT either.


Alex

Right, it could be any other agency, but he's stuck because his money's going to this other agency, he's in a 12-month contract that he can't get out of. So even if he wanted to make a move, and now we're in this hostage situation that we're


6

in.


Connor

Right, which is super unfortunate because there are people out there that are willing to say, you know what, I'm going to break the chain, even if I've got to break out of the contract, if I've got to negotiate closing it out early, whatever it is, there's always going to be those plays. But when you're stuck in a contract like that and you don't confidently know what's expected. You know, if it was one of those things


Connor

where you're gonna get a lot of results in the second half, and that's what I told them, I'm like, look, if you can't move forward, I'm really rooting for this to work for you. Because at the end of the day, everyone should be cheering for,


Connor

if we're in the agency world, everyone should be cheering for success for our clients. Our goal is never to say, well, you didn't get the results because, like, if you start pointing fingers, everything's a disaster.


Connor

But what I always hope for is well if you're stuck there I hope the next six months are super successful. So at least it doesn't feel like a waste but I'm I have that conversation probably once a week of once a week of Companies that are stuck with someone that they don't want to be with and or they're you know, they're stuck in a relationship, right? They're stuck in a relationship where they don't feel like they can leave but they certainly aren't happy where they are. And sometimes they fear moving on.


Connor

And that sounds way deeper than I would expect it to, but they, yeah, there's a lot of businesses that build relationships with people even if it's not the best thing for their business. And that's where I think the business owner side of this hostage relationship comes in


Connor

is you're responsible for your organization. I know we've got friends, I know we've got other people that we know that we think can help us, but if they're not helping us, sometimes you've gotta cut the cord and you've gotta move forward.


Alex

Right, this is business after all.


Connor

Yeah, yeah, and it's not to sound cutthroat, it's just to be really honest with, you're responsible for your business's success. If you feel like you're burning cash and you're willing to tell someone else that I don't work for you,


Connor

you're just telling me this information. If that's what you're feeling right now, it's your responsibility to make a change there. And the agency may not even know that that's the case. And you know, this is a side comment, but this is something that I'm sure we'll get to,


Connor

is signs when an agency knows what's going on and doesn't know what's going on when it comes to that hostage piece.


Alex

I wanna talk about that. That's actually a good segue, because I wanted to talk about agencies specifically. We talked a little bit about IMPACT and what to look for for positive outcomes. But let's go back to when you're looking at agencies,


Alex

because not all agencies are bad either. So how can you tell the difference between a good agency and a bad agency? Because in the past for me, when I think of good agencies, they ask good questions. They ask way up front, what are your goals?


Alex

What's the strategy? They're not just trying to sell you on packages that are gonna basically chain you to a 12 month, an 18 month agreement. And also I feel like good agencies have some sort of exit plan.


Alex

That's like a 30 year, 60 day notice and you know, you can cancel any time. And then those are things that I think you'd wanna look out for as a business owner so that you have some control. But like what else am I missing?


Alex

What other pieces are there that are positive versus negative with agencies?


Connor

Yeah, and one thing to that too, and I think this is where there's a gray area. I don't believe that long-term contracts are a bad thing. Like 12, 24, even six-month contracts. I'm not against you being in long-term contracts. There just should be some way where a company can say,


Connor

hey, we're not happy with the results. And I think that's where most businesses go wrong. So in that story that I shared, the thing that went wrong is he didn't know what the expectation or the outcome was. And so for agencies, like you said,


Connor

if they're asking a lot of questions up front, as an agency, your goal should not be a deliverable, it should be an outcome for the business. And the business owner should be thinking the same way when they're signing up with the business owner, marketing director, whoever's signing up with you.


Connor

The goal should always be outcome-based. It shouldn't be deliverable-based. Because if you say we're going to publish three blogs and the blogs don't do jack squat, whose fault is it? It's nobody's fault.


Alex

You're on a website that's not tracking any data.


Connor

That's right. The agency delivered on the thing. The business agreed that that's the thing they were delivering on. But it wasn't focused on we're going to focus on conversion or just focusing on did we publish the posts that we needed to, did we make the videos, did we do the social media, did we check the box?


Alex

Check the box, yeah. And technically, if that's what the agreement is and the agency's doing that, they're delivering on what was agreed upon, but the business owners may not understand that. They wanted more ROI out of it


Connor

and they never really had those conversations up front. Right, and that's the key. And again, this is as much on the agency owner as it is on the business. But I believe that agencies who are in it for the right reasons are going to focus on where does this business want to get to and what's my role in that. And that's how you build trust and build long-term relationships with the companies you work


Connor

with is when your end goal is the same end goal as the business owner. If your end goal is to just get by with, I'm going to get my check each month, I'm going to deliver on the things that this business expects and they're going to be happy. The amount of companies I've worked with and again, Impact has worked with that I have been a coach or I've been a trainer with where I know that they are just kind of accepting their fate of this is what I paid for, I guess I'm just going to keep rolling with it.


Connor

I've worked with so many of those businesses and guess what, they don't love working with us, they tolerate working with us. And that's not what you want in a relationship like this because if you want your clients to spend more with you, if you want the businesses to be excited


Connor

and to want to refer you to other companies, if you want to work with them much longer than the first agreement you sign on with them.


Alex

Yeah, retention.


Connor

Yeah, it's a retention, an upsell, a cross-sell, a growth play is when the business is growing and you are such a vital part of that. Because even if they do move on, like you said, working with an agency is not a lifetime agreement. It's usually they're going to get to a point where they either outgrow you, something changes,


Connor

they have to switch. That last day, they should be saying, I've got two buddies that I would love to go on the same journey that I just went on. If that's not the outcome that you're getting to as an agency, you're probably not working with the right people or you're not delivering what this business believes in.


Connor

And you're going to get a lot more grace and a lot more patience when the company knows that we're both working towards the same thing or trying to get to the outcomes that we want. And if things don't work, we're going to pivot until they do. Instead of, well, we thought this would work and it didn't, I guess you'll just have to keep giving us more money in order to figure it out. When we're all focused on the right things,


Connor

that's when companies believe in the agency work you're doing, believe in giving you more time, giving you more leash to keep experimenting.


Alex

Mutual respect, mutual understanding. Yeah.


Connor

That stuff's important. Again, and we're all rowing in the same direction. Yeah. It's like, you know, a silly sounding way of putting it is like, if we're on a raft and we're all floating in the same direction, an agency can be a motor


Connor

that you strap to the back of it, or it can be a weight that you put on the bottom of it, where it's just dragging, and you know that it's just slowing down your growth. That's the worst feeling a business can have, and that's the unfortunate reality


Connor

I've had too many conversations about, where the business owner feels like they are just being slowed down from the goals they want because they're stuck with someone


Alex

they don't want to be stuck with. Yeah, what are some other things that you hear when we talk about like hostage situations, right, for businesses? I feel like the common answer is always like we had to go fast, we didn't have a lot of budget, so we made a game time decision, but then like what are some of the problems that businesses face? Like they don't have access to the back end


Alex

of their website or the like agencies will do some things where they hold the keys, the proverbial keys, right? Can we talk a little bit about that and what that looks like? So that maybe some people out there that are in these situations and don't even know it, it might help them have that, like,


Connor

oh hey, that's me, I need to look at this again. Yeah, websites are a huge one. And in the past, again, it used to be very much a, this is the best way that I've ever laid it out, and I know it's resonated with some folks, is in the past, businesses very much looked at it


Connor

as a do it for me of I'm going to give you money, you're going to deliver on things, and I'm going to get some outcome or result. And traditionally that's how it was done.


Alex

Anyone who's watched Mad Men or remember what it was like.


Connor

Oh, 100%. And there was nothing wrong with that. That was just the way that things operated. Today it's much more do it with me. And I want to be involved in it because they have, they being the businesses, have more ownership in the brand.


Connor

Brands are more searchable, more findable than ever, and both positive and negative. And so they want to be more hands on in the voice that goes out, in the brand that goes out, in the way that their business is looked at, because customers have more control


Connor

and more access to things than they ever have before. In the past, that wasn't the case, like you said with Mad Men. It wasn't the case 50, 60 years ago. You could shape the story however you wanted. That's right, that's right.


Connor

And so as I think about where businesses are today and what typically gets in the way, like you said, websites are the biggest thing. In the past, agencies used to set up a website, set up their own hosting, basically build the whole tent, and then they would open the door when you needed it.


Connor

And now, as a business owner, you have to be able to access your own website. And again, most business owners, or most agencies today don't want to own your website forever because of the logistical nightmare of if you leave. But a lot of agencies, at least that I've seen, take advantage of, well, we have access to your website, so if you want to leave, you've got to either buy your website back


Connor

from us, which was a crazy conversation I've had before, which I didn't even realize that was really a thing. Is that like people hold their domain hostage and stuff like that? Yeah, like where the business owner themselves doesn't own the domain. Wow.


Connor

And that's where, when businesses are moving really quickly, like you said, that's where you can fall into the trap is you basically give the agency your business online, like your digital presence, and you say, you build it for me, and they don't actually own the domain. And then, yeah, it's like a weird little like cash grab when and that's where that's where you should know that there's a problem, but


Connor

That's also like for when we talk about agencies They're are good and then there are bad and that this is what shady agencies do they look for these opportunities? And again, it doesn't happen as much as it used to yeah, which is good But the amount of times that we've spoken to companies and we and you know a common question I ask is do you have the ability to edit your website if they say no, it's like, why? And there's usually a few different answers.


Connor

One, most common one, I don't know how to code stuff. Yeah, me neither. Don't worry about that part. Most website builders now make it easy enough where you can edit things and we can help show you how to do that.


Connor

The other one, and unfortunately it's relatively common, is I don't know how to even access that. I don't know how to log in. And there's the I don't know what I don't know, so I hire someone else who does, which is a common story and that's not a bad thing,


Connor

but it's usually where businesses get stuck. So a couple weeks ago, there's this little butcher shop out in the UK, they're kind of, I had to look it up on a map. They are a bit more remote, they're kind of in a rural, maybe suburban town, and this guy who's super excited


Connor

about, oh my god, I've had this enlightened moment, like the light bulb clearly went off for him because I got on this call and he's like, I can't wait to start working on the business, I've been in this butcher shop kind of leading the charge for 15 years


Connor

and I'm ready to do something new. And he came to me and he was like, I want to make all these changes to the website, he's a big they ask you answer and this customers fan, like he was really into that and just felt like it was the perfect solution


Connor

for his company, which is it or not, I don't know yet. We'll figure it out. But when I asked him, like, all right, so can you go log in and pull up your website and we'll take a look? And he said, I don't know how to do that. And I was like, okay, so why don't we go, like, why don't you go back and look for logins? And he went and he realized he didn't have a login, just his developer friend had a login to his website. And so it was this whole thing. It took three weeks


Connor

for him to get access to it and it was only because... Three weeks. Yeah, and it was... Everything gets slowed down, but also he wanted to do more and he couldn't. And when those kinds of situations happen, one, I want to pull my hair out, but two, I feel a lot of sympathy for them. I feel bad that that's the reality he's in, but this guy was chopping meat for the last 10 years.


Connor

He doesn't, he never had to go on a keyboard if he didn't want to.


Alex

Right, clearly not gonna be a tech savvy person.


Connor

And you know, he knew his stuff. He understood how business works, but he'd never thought about what does it mean to be in the digital world when it comes to my own, like my business, and he wanted to. And when he couldn't, it was like seeing


Connor

the wind come out of his sails. Like he was just like, oh my god, I've gotta figure out how we're gonna do this. And it's.


Alex

Especially when he's like on a high of like being excited


Connor

about this whole idea. Yeah, and that's the biggest thing is there's so much energy and excitement for business owners when they want to go do this thing. And as soon as it stops, like that's where I see too many companies give up.


Alex

I was gonna ask, does that seem to be like a common.


Connor

It's not common, but you just, you see that moment of defeat in their eyes. And that's where I just hate it. Like, it hurts me and I can't show it enough of, I just want them to be successful and I think that's the energy that all of us should feel


Connor

as businesses, as agencies, is we should not be cheering against each other. If everyone's growing, everyone's probably doing better. But when we're preventing people from growing or from going in the direction they want to, your journey's gonna change.


Connor

And like we talked about earlier, that last day that you work with a client should be a day of, wow, we just did so much together, not a, I can't wait to leave and go do someone else and go down that journey.


Alex

God, I'm finally done with those people.


Connor

Yeah, yeah, it's not the like, phew, we're finally out of that relationship, it's we had a great run and our time came, but I'm always gonna think back on that. Yeah, absolutely. So there's a question here that I wanted to ask and


Connor

this is something I think you and John were like tag teaming here, but preventative measures. Okay, how can a company recognize this stuff beforehand and what are some like key indicators or key things you would tell business owners to like, hey, as you start to entertain an agency or doing it yourself or whatever you're gonna do with your marketing strategy, here's like the list of things you should be thinking about.


Connor

Yeah, there's three main things that, and we kind of covered them throughout, but I think this is a good way to recap the three things I should always look for, or I, we should always look for, right? So number one is you should own your website.


Connor

You should have the ability to log in to every tool that you have. You should have the ability to log in to the back end of your website. You should be able to make changes. Does that mean you have to know how to do everything?


Connor

No. It strictly means if that agency that you're working with fell off a cliff, they go win the lottery, that's a better, more fun way to say it. If they go win the lottery and they close their doors the next day, you should have the ability


Connor

to go log in and access things. Do you have to be able to do everything? No, but if you don't own it, if it's not your property, if it's not your IP, that's when a problem happens.


Alex

Yeah, so access is huge. Yeah. Definitely having access and control.


Connor

Yeah, the second one is focusing on outcomes, not deliverables. So make sure it's clear, this is what success looks like, and if we're not successful, here's how we address that. I think that's always an important piece, and when I speak to companies about working with impact,


Connor

it's like, if it's not working, here's what happens next. If we're not happy with what's happening, here's what we do next. If you can address that, then you're just setting expectations for we've had people that aren't successful with us, and it's OK to say that we're not happy with


Connor

where we're at. Here's what to do, and follow these steps. We're not scared of saying that, and agencies shouldn't be scared of it, and businesses should ask for that, because there's no guarantees in this world. And you've got to be able to have a way to even just


Connor

address it, because again, you're going to build trust long term going with that. The third and final one is know what you're paying for, which sounds silly, but this is what happens probably most of these three. When you say, so what are they doing for you?


Connor

SEO. Well, what's that mean? Oh, I don't know. I don't know. Yeah, I don't know is not an acceptable answer in this scenario.


Alex

That's not what the acronym SEO stands for either.


Connor

No, it's not, it's not. But you need to know what you're paying this company for, if it's deliverables based, at least just understand what that means. But if your contract is super vague and it's just, we're going to do some optimizations and we're going to update stuff, that's not acceptable. So really focusing in on, do I have a high level understanding?


Connor

Are you going to know every technical SEO piece? No. It's like saying, I don't know how to code a website. Yeah, me neither. Ninety percent of us that work at Impact don't know how to code a website. That's fine.


Connor

But it's more of, do you actually understand that for two, ten, $100,000 a month, do I actually understand what my money is going towards and what I'm expecting to get out of it?


Alex

It makes sense, it does. And for business owners, to me it's like, if you have a physical space,


Connor

a brick and mortar space, you're probably not a real estate expert.


Alex

That's right.


Alex

But you still know how to do a lease agreement and you probably do some research to know the top things so that you're not getting into a bad agreement. Same rules apply here, it sounds like.


Connor

100%, yeah.


Alex

You don't need to know everything, but you should know a few things.


Connor

It shouldn't be a surprise if you go and pull up the contract later and you're like, yeah, did they do that? Like, it should always be yes or no. This is a silly example, so just stick with me for a second. But, you know, someone, I was on a college panel


Connor

and they asked me about performance reviews. And they were like, have you ever been blindsided in a performance review? And I was like, no. And they're like, oh, I hear all these horror stories of like you walk into a performance review and you had no idea that you weren't doing well and all that stuff, which happens a lot. I understand that.


Connor

And they had a lot of fears and concerns. And for me, I was like, think about the word, the second word in that, it's review. Nothing should be a surprise.


Alex

I was just gonna say that.


Connor

When it comes to a performance review. But, again, and look, every company goes through it. I know that Impact has had times where that has been the case, where things haven't been communicated well. But in an ideal relationship,


Connor

when you go into a review cycle of here's what we've done in the last month, you know, agencies do this a lot, this is where it swings back. Agencies do a lot of here's what we've accomplished over the last 30, 60, 90, 365 days,


Connor

whatever scale you wanna do. Here's what's been accomplished so far. We should be able to review what's happened. And if we're ever surprised by something, it means there was a communication breakdown. And so for business owners and for agencies,


Connor

that's where this is so important, is every time that we're reviewing deliverables that have happened, that we're looking back on what's already been delivered for us, everything should be part of the plan that we already laid out together.


Connor

Nothing should be something that changed, and if something did change during that time, it should have also been communicated. Nothing should ever come up where we're super shocked by it. That's not the goal either. We're not trying to surprise each other,


Connor

and if things have to change, it's just communication, and that's mostly where these breakdowns happen is think people get held hostage because they fail to communicate what they need What's gonna be delivered and what happens when things change if those three are covered? You're 99% of the time gonna be fine


Alex

Even if stuff does have to pivot which inevitably does it always does and I think that just reinforces what you're saying about Communication because things are going to inevitably change whether they need to they have to, unexpectedly. But the only way you navigate that stuff in a positive way is to be open and honest and have an open line of communication about it so you can find the best outcomes. Because otherwise, sweeping it under the rug doesn't do


Alex

anything except make more of a mess.


Connor

Yeah, it's just waiting for someone to find it. And actually, this brings up a funny point. There's so many agencies out there that it's like getting caught with your pants down like where someone raises their hand business owner says Hey, I feel like this isn't going well and the agency says oh no Like and then it's like panic and like you probably knew this was happening and you were hoping they didn't find out


Connor

And that's not a good business model either and that's the other side of this like hostage pieces There's so many businesses that know things aren't going great, but they're trusting the process or they're just, they don't know what isn't working, so they're just going to trust the experts. Your responsibility as a business is to voice when things aren't going well so that we make changes and adjustments. And it's not personal.


Connor

It's not like we're saying, man, you guys suck at your job. Fix it. It's, we're not getting the outcomes we expected. Can we figure out how to get closer to where we want to go. Totally. But if an agency, that's a huge red flag,


Connor

and I know we haven't talked a ton about that, and I don't know if we will today, but if there was one red flag that I always look out for, it's if you voice that you're unhappy and the agency panics, they clearly knew that things weren't working,


Connor

and you have to look out for that, and you have to be willing to voice that too. And again, there's a lot of the proactive pieces when this happens, because it can and oftentimes will, I don't know of any perfect relationships where it happens, how do I communicate when things


Connor

aren't working? And ideally, the agency is ahead of that. Ideally, the agency is saying, hey, this isn't working the way we expected. We ran this experiment, it didn't happen. We're going to pivot to this. And you know what's going to happen?


Connor

All right, cool. Thank you for letting us know. And that should be the, that should be how it goes in an ideal situation. So when, back to your point, if like they start to panic, then you know that they're trying to do a little cover-up. Yeah, or they're scared that you're gonna leave. And look, yeah, are they unhappy? Probably. But they're


Connor

probably not ready to leave at that moment. Like, most companies aren't willing to let it get to the boiling point where the volcano is gonna already exploding. Right, but also for agencies, that's a make or break too, because how you communicate and how you handle those situations is literally whether someone will stay or go. Yeah, you can drastically mess up in those moments.


Connor

And the amount of times where I've seen it, I've been on calls where that moment happens, and then there's this email pushback and everyone's kind of pointing fingers, like that's awful when that happens. But if it's just a, yeah,


Connor

we know it's not going as well as we'd like and here's how we're working to fix it. Does that align with what you're going for? Most of the time people aren't there to pick fights. They just are trying to voice where they're at and they want to be heard. They want to be heard, want to understand. Yeah, they want to be understood that, hey I'm not happy with where things are going and if you can say, yeah I'm not either and I


Connor

want to continue to work to fix that. Man, can you build a relationship out of that and can you build these long-term agreements? Can you build these lifelong relationships with a business that even if they're never working with you again, that you can do a lot more afterwards too?


Alex

I love that.


Alex

That's the key. That is the key, and that's really great advice, Connor. Thank you for giving us some insights. I definitely think you're gonna help a lot of people out there that may feel like they're being held hostage. And if they have any other questions, any other follow-ups,


Alex

because you deal with this, it sounds like, on a regular basis, how can they get in touch with you and ask more questions?


Connor

Yeah, LinkedIn is a great spot where I post about things like this, especially around some of the stories that I've shared and how we've helped navigate it. And again, impacts not the fit for everyone and I recognize that. And even in my sales role, my job isn't always to sell impact. It's to help a business move forward.


Connor

And that's where a lot of these conversations have dumped going. But one day I think a lot of them will come back and want to work with us because of that trust that we built. The other place, I'll drop my email, cdelaney@impactplus.com. If you want to get in touch, that's the best way to do it.


Alex

Awesome. Connor, thanks for being on the show, man. I love having you. You're welcome any time. So definitely come back. I think we have some more stuff we're going to have to talk


Alex

about in a new episode.


Connor

Yeah, we'll dive on in, Alex.


Alex

Appreciate it.


Alex

Sounds good. And for everybody listening and watching, this is Endless Customers.


Connor

See you on the next episode. See you on the next episode.


Alex

Bye!

About this Episode

Is your agency holding you hostage?

It sounds funny to use those terms, but that’s really what it is. 

Imagine this: Let’s say a company hires an agency to help them set up HubSpot. To get started, the agency takes control of all the login credentials and the seats that come what that HubSpot portal.

At first, this might make sense. The agency has the know-how to get everything set up. But as the months go by, the business might start to get uneasy. Their team can’t do ANYthing in HubSpot without the agency doing it for them

Run a traffic report?

Call the agency

Build a landing page?

Call the agency

Schedule an email?

Call the agency

In each case, it’s the agency that holds all the cards. 

And on top of that, all of the HubSpot knowledge remains with the agency. If they’re never teaching the business how to use HubSpot, the business can never do away with the agency. The business is stuck paying the agency, month after month, to see results. The business is a hostage

If this sounds familiar, maybe it has happened to you. We promise you’re not the only one.

As Connor Delaney explains in this episode, agencies can do all sorts of things to lock in their clients. From keeping login credentials to using their own servers or even a homegrown CMS that stores all of the client’s contact records.

All too often, businesses sign a contract without reviewing it closely, trusting that the agency is acting in their best interest. 

While we can’t force agencies to follow more scrupulous practices, we can equip you with the knowledge so you’re more informed the next time you ask an agency for help.  

Connect with Connor

Connor Delaney is a sales consultant at IMPACT who helps businesses understand how they can break free from unproductive agency agreements. 

Learn more about Connor

Connect with Connor on LinkedIn

Learn more about how we help break the cycle of agency dependency

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Endless Customers is a podcast produced and distributed by IMPACT, a sales and marketing training organization.

We coach businesses to implement our They Ask, You Answer framework to build trust and fill their pipeline. 

For inquiries about sponsorship opportunities or to be considered as a guest, email awinter@impactplus.com.

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