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Written by Marie-Helene Dibenedetto | Belgium
on March 22, 2016

"Another agency I talked with told me they can guarantee me results and give me numbers."  That’s what this potential new client told me, and truth be told, it wasn’t the first time I was hearing that kind of question. 

Although I understand where the question is coming from and why, my experience is that it is impossible to give guarantees to a client when launching digital campaigns, and I also think it’s not very ethical to do it. Here are the reasons why.

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The agency has no control over the algorithms.

Be it in SEO for search results (Google actually officially warn users about guarantees), or news feeds in social media, the platform algorithm has a lot to do with what users see, when and how they see it — or if they see it at all, even. Yes, a good agency can help you with best practices and ensure you make the best shot at succeeding, but the algorithms are a huge factor here and agencies have no impact on that.

Your competition's actions are a major factor.

You were happily ranking on the first page of Google, then a competitor hires an SEO agency, greatly improves their website, and "steals" your place. Your digital agency can react and try new ways to improve your website and position, but they cannot go against the smart moves a competitor is making. It’s exactly the same thing as being leader in your market and losing that position: you can only try to win it back, but the market makes the decision, not your agency.

User experience is more and more personalized.

If you and I Google the same keyword, we won’t get the same results. That’s because Google takes many factors into account, like our location or our past searches. If we follow the same people on Facebook, we won’t necessarily see the same updates in our feeds, because our past behavior has an impact. There is no such thing as a linear good result on digital. 

You should benchmark against yourself and care about your ROI.

Comparisons: we all love them, especially when they make us feel we are doing better than the competition. But what if we are not? What if the average e-mail opening rate in my industry is 30% and I only reach 23% ? Well first of all, you are not e-mailing every potential client in your industry, you are e-mailing a limited group, and maybe the potential of that group is only 23%. But more importantly, what is your conversion rate? If your agency can help you go from 1% conversion to 3% conversion without increasing your opening rate, you are already improving a lot, and making more money. And by the way, those who reach or even exceed the average opening rate, aren’t necessarily converting well or being profitable.

So focus on the really important metrics, the ones that support your goals, and benchmark against yourself to make sure that YOU are improving and meeting your sales goals.

Making guarantees about something you can’t control is not really ethical.

If you have no control over the platforms and the way they work, you simply cannot predict the way they will react, and definitely not guarantee it. Promising your clients you can guarantee results is, in this way, unethical. You also can bet that agencies making such promises will give you the lowest possible numbers to be on the safe side. And if they offer to adjust their price to their performance… you can bet they are not taking any risk and you will end up paying their bonus.


 

These are the mains reasons why serious agencies won’t give you guarantees on digital campaigns. Oh, and that potential client? He decided to work with me.

 

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