How to own your marketing in 5 simple steps

We’re going to be talking about the five sorts of steps that you should take as a business owner to identify what agencies are doing for you and how to create processes.

So it’s not to rip on agencies but it’s just to identify how to take control of your marketing and understand what to look for.

Marko and I being seven-figure agency owners know what the inside is and we want to help you figure out what’s going on.

We’re not saying that your marketing agencies are lying to you.

And it’s not that they’re intentionally doing anything bad but agencies that are going fast often have their clients, and they lose track of them. And so we’re going to give you some tips on five things that you can do to take control of that with the access, questions you need to ask, and how to build a better relationship with your agency.

So this is all about you being able to know what’s going on with your marketing instead of, SEO or PPC or Facebook ads being a mystery. So I think you’ll find this time very valuable.

We want to hire a marketer who can fix the marketing challenges we’re having in our business. But you don’t want to just let it go completely because you want to have a little bit of control over it and understand if you do go the agency route, how to keep them accountable.

But if you don’t go the agency route, how to get it, get worth that even marketing as well. And we coach thousands of agencies and a lot of the agencies don’t know much more than you do. So while you are busy with your business you don’t want to get into digital marketing and SEO and PPC and all this other stuff.

There are certain things that you need to understand from a strategy standpoint, certain things that you as the business owner have to provide for that agency to be able to do a good job. And we’re going to talk about these five things, how they fit together.

So let’s jump into the first one.

1. Get access to all of your assets

So that’s the first step that we’ve identified as a service business or any business is to. The first step is just being aware of what you have out there and understanding where it’s located, but then also getting the right access to it.

Agencies will say that you have access.

But you need to have administrator-level access ownership of your Google Ads account, of your Facebook Ads account, wherever you’re running ads, and administrator access on your website.

It doesn’t mean that you’re going to go in and change stuff. But you do need to be able to go log in, with a username and password to see who has access and make sure you have access. Now there are four or five things that agencies will say to try to play the smoke screen to not give you access.

They’ll say it’s proprietary. Or, you don’t need to see any of that, because you can just log into this other dashboard that we built, which has different stats.

But you definitely can get access to your ads account. And Google and Facebook have both published guidelines specifically for agencies in the situation.

The reason why they published these guidelines is because agencies would not give clients access.

Why do you think agencies don’t want clients to have access to these systems?

Agencies, a lot of them, they don’t want to essentially have a lot of like open accounts, like a lot of users just having access to different things.

And that’s just an excuse that’s an objection.

Once you get access, you need to become aware. The first step to all of this is awareness. So now you’re aware of what platforms you’re on, where your website’s hosted, your Facebook ads are located, and your Google ads.

And that kind of rolls into our next one.

2. Look at the spend and change history in ad accounts.

And so whether it’s your website or Google Analytics or Facebook ads or Google ads, you want to do an audit of that platform, and that way you can determine whether that’s consistent with the reporting that the client or that the agency is giving you.

So one of our coaching clients is a cosmetic surgeon and the agency charged him $27, 000 last month for ad spend. And I looked in Google Analytics and I said, I see the traffic coming from Facebook. I see the leads. There’s no way you guys are spending $27, 000. But that’s what the agency’s portal said when we logged in.

And they hemmed and hawed and didn’t want to give us access. Eventually, we said, here’s the URL that Facebook has. Here’s the URL that Google says, as an agency, you need to give access to the underlying account, to the client. Here it is. We logged in. Do you know how much money was spent? $5, 000.

And we asked the agency, what’s going on? Here in your report, it said we spent $27,000 and we logged into Facebook and it said five and Google was like a couple thousand dollars more than that. And it was a major media company that had this portal and they said we also, gave you some impressions off of our network because we have a radio station and all these other things like we have no idea, like we need to see what’s being spent, right?

If you’re a general contractor or you’re getting a house built, you need to see the underlying materials. How much did you pay for lumber and for nails and sides, drywall, and all that kind of stuff?

There needs to be some basic accountability and it’s not too much to ask for, and it’s not that you don’t trust the people that are spending your money, but if they claim to be spending money, like what if they’re charging you a fee of $10,000 a month? And then claiming that half of it’s ad spend. What if they’re only spending a thousand dollars a month in charge of you?

You need to go in and see the data and this happens a lot.

It’ll list any time someone has changed a bid, made a new ad, did something to the account, added a new user, and what you’re typically going to find. So this part here, I’m glad you’re here listening to this because I want you to do this the majority of the time, 90 plus percent of the time when we come in and we look at the account history and look at changes that have been made in the ad account, nothing has been done in the last three months.

They put in all the effort in the first few weeks building the ads out and once they’re running and all that, no one touches it. That’s the dirty secret. So go in and look. Maybe you’ve got a great agency, but either way, go in. Once you get access, see how much money is being spent and see, if is anyone watching.

I saw an account, I’m not going to name it, but it’s a Fortune 500 company. They make beer. And no one had touched their ads in over a year. The agency was billing millions. And I said, Carl, you know no one’s optimized the ads in a year? Your quality score went down to one. Your CPCs have skyrocketed because the ads have burnt out.

And I’m going to compare what the agency said was spent versus what was spent.

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3. Establish MAA performance reporting

Do the dots line up with what the agency is telling you? And what the reporting is telling you, and what the actual reality is?

And once you figure out that, you’ll quickly start to figure out whether you can keep them accountable, or you need to move on. As a business, you got to optimize your ads or, change up your website or SEO.

For example, there’s going to be things on the website. There are some things off the website and you want to see progress and change history.

So it is true that just because no one’s touched the ad account in the last 90 days doesn’t mean the performance sucks.

But there’s a high likelihood that no one’s looking at it. There are changes in Google and Facebook competitors change ads get disapproved like someone’s there’s got to be maintenance, okay? Someone’s got to be in there looking and you can see who’s been doing it.

So if they’re messing around inside the ad account and they don’t understand specifics about your business and your city and your specific set of services, You could be a painting contractor, but they’re not all the same.

This is something people don’t want to admit. In agencies, there are new people running ad campaigns. That’s just how it is. And they make mistakes. And you’ll easily catch these things without being an expert.

We know this because we teach thousands of agencies how to do ads and how to do audits and all this kind of stuff here.

And whenever we work with any, because we work with a lot of agencies, I always demand the best account managers and the best engineers and the best of whatever category is, because I know if don’t say something, they’re going to assign me some random media experts, because in any agency, there’s only a few good people.

You want the good people from that agency to be working on your account. And so the more aware you are and the battles you choose to fight throughout that vendor-client relationship then even asking these questions sends a signal like oh we better put our best guy on your account.

You don’t have to demonstrate PPC expertise merely asking a few of these questions we’re giving you is enough.

And whether that’s working with an agency or not, it’s just what’s in the best interest of XYZ company, whatever it is that you do. And I think agencies would appreciate that if you do bring it up.

It puts them back in their place. Because a lot of agencies are on board a lot of clients and they grow. And they have those clients where they just put them on the back burner, but the clients are like don’t know what’s happening.

First thing, you can’t just blame the agency because the most important thing is you, as a client, have to give them what they need, your goals, content, and targeting of all the services.

What are your unique selling propositions? If they’re asking you to make videos or asking you to collect testimonials or asking you to post to Google My Business or asking you for whatever you have to do those particular components. They don’t have that kind of ESP. You can’t just write a check and expect someone to do SEO for you.

This is an involved kind of thing. I wish I could hire a personal trainer that could work out for me. And unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. And it’s a two-way relationship. It’s a partnership. So the first thing I would ask, whether it’s the account manager or maybe if it’s a smaller agency that has less than 50 people, I’m talking to one of the owners or principals, is do we agree on transparency?

And let’s have these honest conversations because that’s together how we improve just like in any relationship.

So if they don’t agree on transparency, then it’s just not going to work out in the long term, and it may be the account managers they’re just employees there collecting a salary. They’re not an owner. They’re just doing their job, right? You would never like to yell at the Verizon rep on the phone just because the Verizon service doesn’t get any more when there’s a fault, right? So understand when you’re talking to the account manager that person is just doing their job. If you have a question about PPC, the account manager doesn’t know anything about that.

They went through some simple training. You probably know more than they do, because they’ve never even been in the account themselves either, right? So it may require some escalation.

By giving you the ingredients that you need to do your job as an agency, you’re not blaming the agency but you’re saying I just want to make sure we’re super clear on these expectations I expect a weekly report from you on performance metrics I don’t want the canned report that comes from your SEO tool that automatically generates the thing.

Whatever the system is where the money’s being tracked and the jobs are being done, I want to be able to see the revenue.

You give them the ingredients and access they in turn should be able to give you a weekly report. A lot of agencies set up this canned weekly report that the system generates automatically.

And I need to see logical thinking behind that. So we call this Metrics Analysis Action. Metrics can only occur when you have access to the raw data and everyone’s on the same page. Analysis is a human interpreting what’s going on and doing testing and optimizing.

The strategic part needs to be handled by someone who ideally, has been to your city and understands the culture, has watched Seinfeld, these kinds of things,

Don’t blame the agency, right? Obviously, as a business owner, you’re the one who bought from that marketing company, right? You bought from them, maybe they sold you on big outcomes, right? But you ultimately bought from them, and it’s your duty to at least follow through on that, right?

No one is trying to scam you. But incompetence often happens, right? Just like medical malpractice. Sometimes they cut the wrong leg off. Sometimes, these things happen and the nurse is not trying to kill you. So going back to the first principle, do we agree that honesty and transparency are what’s important?

Sometimes you have to redo a job. Sometimes you mess up. Someone leaves you a negative review. You understand these things happen. But if you start with transparency, which then leads to access, and together we can look at these things and we can look at these, the things that we mentioned here, and together we can discuss this.

Then we can have some kind of resolution and now agree, you know what, all that stuff’s under, water under the bridge, but going forward, this is how we’re going to optimize. And I apologize, I didn’t tell you what a new job’s worth to us, right? Maybe it’s worth 15, 000 in revenue, but I can’t, because of my margins at 15%, I really can’t pay more than $1, 700.

I want to pay like 600 per new job. You didn’t tell them that, whatever the numbers are. So how could they optimize for you? That’s on you, right? So there’s things on you and things on them, so you can’t put it all on them.

But at the same time, I’ve seen other people, like my friend Philip Cadu, who’s a San Diego physical therapist. He paid this other agency, Go Be Rewarded, for 12 months or something like that. Philip went out of business. Went bankrupt because this agency just, I don’t want to say scammed, but took all this money and didn’t deliver anything.

Now this guy didn’t want to make things right. He kept saying we are proud of our work and we can’t give you access because it’s proprietary and it’s on you because we can’t control, if we drive the phone calls and you don’t close the deal, we can’t control that.

Like all these different excuses, there was enough wrong. On the agency side. It’s always, a two-way street. There’s always an issue on both sides, but Philip to make the point, Philip said, yeah, but I hired the agency and I feel like it was my fault. And I want to be polite. I don’t want to say anything or make waves.

And I said, there’s enough fault with these guys that they really should apologize and make things right. So we met with the agency. And to give him a chance, we laid out all this stuff. We said, look, here’s some very basic things. These are standards on how you run Google Ads. These are standards for how you build websites.

But what Philip wants to do, because he drained his life savings to pay you guys is he just wants to be able to get more clients, right? He’s a physical therapist.

Will you guys be willing to make it right? And they said no. We’re not going to do anything because our work is so good and the guy was so proud.

And I said, okay, now, Philip, you are justified.

So the more equipped you are and the more aware you are of these steps here the better off you’re going to be, right? You’re going to be a more successful business owner. You’re going to be able to take control of your marketing, whether you hire an agency or not. And going into a sort of the last thing I want to talk about, which is you know, now that you’ve had access to everything, and you’ve audited everything, and you’ve tried to keep your agency accountable, and you’re at, maybe you’re at that level where you want to just bring things in house.

4. Ensure clear functional SOPs ( The Content Factory)

You have processes in your company. You typically have a director of operations or whatnot. Why wouldn’t you have the same level of rigor with processes in your marketing, and processes, especially working with other people like your marketing agency? Processes are best when there’s a gap between one function and another function, especially between one organization and another organization.

So you might be expecting that your agency has amazing processes and they’re going to tell you exactly what they need from you when they need it. But I’m telling you, most agencies, might have like okay processes. And the processes are probably more around getting you as a client. And then afterward, it’s a little bit sloppy in the fulfillment.

So it’s up to you to make sure that you are tying those process components together.

And you know what? These processes are all very similar. Why? The underlying components of helping a website rank, running Google ads, getting phone calls, and tracking it in the CRM, like all those things, are the same. Even though your business is a little bit different, the processes are the same.

It is a little bit of a competitive advantage to be working with like a niche agency or somebody who at least has a familiarity with what exactly it is that you do, but your business is a lot different than the shop down the road. And so your unique selling points, your sales process, and what your salespeople and your internal customers believe about your business are different than the other clients that they have.

That way you can protect yourself. You can protect your business. And you always see, there are sad stories that fill up all the time everywhere. And you don’t want to be that. And just equip yourself, let’s do these five steps, right? We’ll help you out with that too.

But look at those steps. Start with awareness, getting access to everything, and end off with creating processes, whether you’re working with that agency, what’s the meeting cadence? What is the performance report cadence?

We don’t want just click numbers. We want results, right? How many phone calls did we get? How many leads did we get? And what was the percentage of those that turned into customers? And those are the types of numbers you should be getting. And then also the transparency. Yeah. So if your agency agrees and has a core value of transparency and communication and you have that too, then there’s a good chance you could work out together really well.

Just like in any marriage, it’s never perfect all the time. And when you have a clear set of rules on how you communicate and who’s doing what, then often things that look like friction are just miscommunication. The majority of the time when there’s conflict, it can go back to miscommunication.

So you as the business owner do not have to be involved in every little nitty gritty detail unless you just like doing that, right? And everything runs by these checklists and SOPs. And that’s why The checklist that we provide to the agencies, you should probably look at just to see, so you understand and have an appreciation for some things that you might think would take a day or two, actually take months, like certain things with the website.

So now you’re more aware and you’re going to know the types of things to tell your agency and equip them with the right information about your business.

Based on that information, what your cost per result needs to be based on your lead conversion and all that other stuff. And that way we can be more productive with these conversations with the account managers and, operations people at the agency. So you can maximize your marketing efforts.

The goal is obviously to grow. The goal is to create more revenue, and more profit, and so you can pour more back in and scale, right? It’s a win for you to understand these concepts.

5. Staff up functions with VAs and/or agencies

The first thing I want to say is if you’re a smaller business from zero to 83 K a month or a million dollar business, then especially on the lower end there, like the lower 80 percent where you’re like, Zero to 50 Kl it’s so hard to buy from an agency.

It’s so hard for the agencies to deliver too. It’s hard on both sides. It’s hard. Tiny budget. And the reason why is that tiny budgets and retainer fees are high. So you gotta think. You got retainer fees, you got ad spend.

So just like when you go to a restaurant like a third of it’s the food cost and you have overhead and sales and all these other sorts of things. So if they charge you three thousand they only have a thousand to be able to do the work.

You probably need results right away. Like you’re checking every few days. You can’t wait you know, six months for SEM to kick in. Yeah. You can’t wait for PPC to take two or three months. So it’s very hard. It’s this danger zone for agencies that charge only a thousand or $2,000 a month. Especially to the smaller businesses.

The reason why that’s the case is because it’s on both parties, and I think ultimately, if you’re a business owner listening to this, it’s in your best interest to do what’s right for your company.

The agency has onboarding costs. They have to train people. They have to pay their salespeople. There are all these different costs and overhead just like you have to acquire a customer. The math is just really hard for you and for them, So you might consider hiring someone from the local high school, learning how to do a little of the marketing yourself, or hiring a virtual assistant who just executes some of these basic components that they would have done themselves.

It doesn’t mean you become a digital marketing agency, but when you’re small, word-of-mouth reputation and very basic PPC are all you need, especially if you’re in a category for local service ads. You don’t need an agency to set up local service ads and those will drive the lead.

Even agencies didn’t know that. And they’ve been around for years. LSA has been around for years. You don’t need to do everything. You don’t need to be on TikTok and YouTube. When you are under 80, 000 a month, you need local service ads, if you can, then Google ads, then Facebook ads, and all the other stuff like YouTube and whatever all these cool Twitter, whatever. You don’t need any of that.

Once you’re at the million-dollar rate you can start to double and take a little bit more risks, then an agency can come in you can afford, but then go through those five steps and hold them accountable, and don’t be that terrible client to them, but hold them accountable like they should be.

Seven to 10 million, depending on the industry and the margin, you can start to have your marketing team and agencies will start to seed that because they’ll see that the client will hire the head of marketing.

That head of marketing will then fire the agency. This is just what happens. It’s a natural part of growth. Agencies don’t like that kind of churn, but they know what happens.

That’s why they’re constantly acquiring more customers. And even though you might grow past that point and hire your internal marketing team, you can still be a great reference client, and agencies that aren’t small-minded, love referencing other companies like we had WWE as a client, right?

To hire people who follow the processes and can take over the processes that you put in place, if you didn’t publish those processes, then this new marketing person is going to do whatever their thing is because that’s what they were comfortable with doing. If you’re the agency and you help them hire VAs, you help the client build internal processes to collect the content that’s necessary for the agency to do its part. Guess who the client’s going to lean on to hire more staff. They’re going to keep using the same tools and processes and things that you put in place.

But if you’re playing hide and go seek, I’m talking as if, it’s the agencies that are listening. If you’re playing hide and go seek, that client has no incentive to stay with you.

Cause now the client can say, yeah, I started with XYZ agency and I grew and I built my internal team and I keep using these processes as we’ve scaled. And that’s a great message to other companies that are not at 10 million or 15 million bridges.

You don’t need to be on every single social media channel and react to whatever Gary Vaynerchuk is saying.

I’m a former search engine engineer. I built the analytics at a search engine 25 years ago. I’m a little bit biased, but yes, if you do social media and you love social media use social media as a content creation vehicle that then powers your SEO. So you can’t hire someone to do SEO. Did you hear me clearly on that?

I’m a search engine engineer telling you this. What you instead do is empower your people to collect content. You as the owner should be making cell phone kind of vertical videos. Not Hollywood kinds of things. You don’t need to hire a videographer.

And then that content can be pushed out, turned into ads, all that kind of stuff. That can be done by a virtual assistant. I think anyone under 2 million, this may piss off some agencies, I think clients that are under 2 million should probably try to do it with a VA or two until they get to the point where they can afford to have an agency.

Now if you’re an agency and you’re taking people on for super cheap, you’re not making enough margins to be able to hire the best people. I coach a bunch of agencies and I know some people, I won’t name them, who they said, but I can’t hire A-level account managers and I can’t hire the best PPC people because I can’t afford them.

And I said, yes, because you’re charging these clients, these super low numbers and you need to raise your price, serve a higher tier clients.

You can have higher quality staff. It’s 80 20. You don’t need to learn everything about digital marketing. There are just a few basic things you need to learn and the rest is noise. Especially for your industry.

Let’s take, for instance, plumbing, half a million-dollar plumbing business. Like literally the steps should be, get your basic website up, get your social media profiles all secured, and get your Google business profile set up and optimized. There are YouTube videos on that stuff.

There are checklists that we probably have on that as well. Yeah. We’ll have to give you all those. And then go run some LSA local services. You turn it on and manage the platform, you don’t need an agency to do it. The main thing is to answer the phone calls quickly, not automate it with the real person. And as you start getting business from it and trust in the process, increase your spending, double it, triple it, and then get yourself to a size where it’s manageable, where now you can start to do these five steps as we talked about with an agency.

You don’t need all that extra overhead at this point, just focus on a few basic things, and do them well.

So I retired 20 years ago. I was very lucky to be one of the first people at Yahoo.

And as a search engineer, I learned that a lot of my friends went to Google. And that’s when I knew we were in trouble at Yahoo because we, people would ask questions and they’d say, go Google it. And, oh crap, and a lot of my friends who I trained up went to Google, then later Google IPO and some of them made a hundred million dollars in that IPO, and I didn’t make that much money, with Yahoo.

But, if you want to find me, Google me, right? Google my name, Dennis Yu spelled Y U, and you’ll see a full knowledge panel show up. And this is what you may associate with celebrities. But this is something that I think you should have as well. Because people are going to Google you. People are going to Google your company.

Google is moving towards AI-generated search, which is based on that panel view. If you Google my name and you see those panels show up, everything, because Google has to adjust because of all this AI, ChatGPT stuff, that’s stuff that you have to start to adapt to. And agencies don’t know how to do it.

Because it’s all new. If you follow the techniques that Marco and I share here, these are very simple techniques, you will start to feed Google what it needs. Because it comes from your internal content creation, which only you can do. The agency can’t do that stuff for you. And we will keep giving you updates along the way.

All fundamentals, not like the latest hacks that go away in 30 days. Because Marco and I want to see you succeed. So if there’s anything I can share, I’ve learned, give away all your knowledge for free. Give it away. There’s no magic secrets or whatnot, right? People respect you, you build a reputation from doing that.

So Marco and I are charging for helping you build that in-house capability and being able to take control of your marketing, right? All this other stuff’s for free, but there’s coaching as well. Of course, you understand that, right? Put all the stuff out there for free. People can learn how to do it.

Go through all the guides. We’re giving you all our guides, any SOPs, any things that you can have all of it, right? Okay. But if you want our help and want us to be personally involved, then we charge for that.

Dennis Yu

About the Author

Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu is co-author of the #1 best-selling book on Amazon in social media, The Definitive Guide to TikTok Ads.  He has spent a billion dollars on Facebook ads across his agencies and agencies he advises. Mr. Yu is the "million jobs" guy-- on a mission to create one million jobs via hands-on social media training, partnering with universities and professional organizations.You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.