Brian Signorelli’s Why I Fired My Marketing Agency article on Hubspot got my attention right away. After all, I wanted to know what big mistake(s) this guy’s agency made and what I should do to avoid it myself. (All those negatives don’t add up to a positive.)

Since I got a lot of feedback on my piece last week, Using the 80/20 Marketing Rule to Vastly Increase Sales, I thought a bit of discussion was in order to set the record straight and ensure you don’t slip into any of the pitfalls Mr. Signorelli mentions in his piece. You may be ramping up to target those 20% who generate 80% of your revenue, but if you or your agency (someone like me) is missing the mark in your marketing strategy and execution, the results won’t materialize.

Mr. Signorelli (I like the way his name rolls off the tongue, can you tell?) clearly performed his due diligence, sitting down to analyze the number and amount of sales needed to meet his company’s targets.

He looked at the number of leads required and their conversion rate. He said he conveyed all this data to his agency and their role in achieving the goals set out.

After ninety days (and a lot of moolah spent with this unnamed firm), he fired them for lack of achieving the first set of goals. As put forth in a subhead: “We Needed Leads, They Gave Us Twitter Followers.” (I can hear you chuckling softly. Me too.) How disappointed he must have been.

Observation #1 ~ Ninety Day is a Short Gestation Period in Marketing

While I may be smiling slightly over the irony of only achieving Twitter followers instead of genuine sales leads, I was immediately struck by the timetable of ninety days. Surely Mr. Signorelli left something out of his story. In marketing (particularly a startup that began with no leads), ninety days is very little time in the marketing cycle for many products and services to get up to full speed converting leads into closed sales.

It’s true in many businesses that sales cycles can be quite short and in others very long. He never mentions the price point of his product in the story. In general, however, the pricier or more upscale products or services within your industry, the longer it is to convert leads to closed sales.

In ninety days, many firms would be hard-pressed to design strategy, create collateral material, make ad buys in appropriate on- and off-line publications, have them run AND have enough repeat viewing of the campaign(s) to begin seeing any measurable results. Repetition of the core message is everything.

Expecting instant results, like the Pied Piper, is unrealistic in an era when it takes upwards of more than 100 different tactics to build momentum and a successful marketing campaign. That isn’t to say that you can’t obtain and close a lot of leads in ninety days. Much depends upon targeting the right audience with the right message, etc., etc.

I’d be willing to bet there were many other factors at play in Mr. Signorelli’s experience with the firm he hired.

Observation #2 ~ Listening and Talking: Key Elements to any Successful Client–Contractor Relationship

Mr. Signorelli cites this as a key factor from his very hard-earned lesson. Not only do both sides of the relationship need to be listening carefully to what the other party needs from the relationship, but he cites one of my favorite elements to client relations: Challenging one another’s ideas.

If the agency felt ninety days was too short a period to achieve the first set of goals, I can only hope that they attempted to convey this to Mr. Signorelli, but he never mentions if they objected to the timetable or not.

Challenging the client’s ideas is not to suggest we recommend putting up your dukes with every client or every consultant you hire just for the sake of argument. Challenging should be a healthy and respectful exchange of dialogue intended to test ideas, look for holes in strategy, probe to find what’s been overlooked or simply forgotten in the rush to employ a new way to attract customers.

If you need a “yes” man, please ask your employees for their opinions. They will most likely be happy to let you know how brilliant you are.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking for someone who can review your ideas from an alternate perspective (like your would-be customer’s); be honest regarding the veracity of your conclusions; steer you away from clunker ideas; and work with you to develop strategies that are better than either of us could have come up with on our own, hire a consultant.

Whether you need an attorney, an accountant, a marketing executive or SEO specialist, there’s a reason we have our own businesses too: We’re fearless when telling clients they may be headed down the wrong road. Our paychecks only continue to arrive when our work for you is successful. That makes us unique in being able to help you.

Of course, it can also mean hurt feelings, knock down drag out arguments about tactics, and other lively exchanges. (Sound like a marriage you know?) But if the exchanges are healthy, respectful dialogues working towards agreed-upon goals, you are likely in the best of hands.

Key Essentials of Client-Contractor Successful Relationships

This hasn’t been much of the traditional “5 Ways to Improve Your Client-Contractor Relationship” post as we’re all in this giant learning game of life and business. But I wanted to make it clear that successful marketing is built on two essential foundation points: Commitment to a program (that’s usually not going to show significant fruition in a mere ninety days) and healthy dialogue with your hired guns.

We’re not here to take your orders. We’re here to take you a step further than you could do on your own. You challenge my assumptions, and I’ll promise to challenge yours. I guarantee we’ll have much happier results and accomplish more than either of us would think at the beginning of the relationship.

Do you have other tips or experiences to share for creating healthy business relationships? Comment here to let me know. I’d be interested in your feedback.

Image by Padawan under Creative Commons license.