Is Your Marketing Operations Agency Delivering True ROI?

BY: Sarah Frazier

PUBLISHED: 10/6/2019

According to recent Gartner research, nearly 70% of marketing leaders say they rely heavily on agencies to keep pace with change, develop strategy, and execute marketing programs. At the same time, the ID Comms 2018 Global Media Transparency Report reveals 40% of marketers distrust their agency partners.

How do you know if you’re receiving all that you should (and could) be from your MarTech agency? And where is the breakdown occurring?

I think we all agree, having a strong relationship between an internal marketing operations team and an agency will result in better marketing performance and greater business outcomes for all involved. So what can be done to improve the relationship and build trust? It may be time to take a hard look at your agency partner and truly evaluate the value you’re receiving.

The Satisfaction Myth

Pop assessment: How satisfied are you with your marketing operations agency? Do they exceed your expectations, meet your expectations or fall short of them?

If you answered “meet” or “falls short,” your agency is underperforming. The “falls short” answer is obvious, but why do we say your agency is falling short if they are meeting your expectations? Because satisfaction isn’t enough.

A satisfactory rating means the level of service you’re receiving is what you expected— nothing more and nothing less. Or in other words, your agency relationship is considered in a neutral state. Is this a bad thing? Yes, actually, it is. If you’re “satisfied,” it means you’re passive about the relationship and it’s a sign of complacency on the agency’s part; the agency is covering its bases, but that’s it.

Warning signs that your agency is underperforming include:

Customer experience is mediocre (or worse.)


If your agency exceeds your expectations or is “delighting” you, you’ll recognize it immediately. Regular communication on the status of your project; rapid response to your questions; unprompted tips or suggestions to improve the performance of your Marketo instance; alerting you to potential risks before they become problematic— it’s the little details that provide exponential value, thereby increasing your perception (and satisfaction rating) of your agency partner. Has your agency asked recently how they are doing?  And, do you know their Net Promoter Score? Your feedback is important in shaping how your agency partner works with you and adjustments that are needed to keep deliverables on track.

If communication is poor with your current agency and you’re exploring your options, before selecting a new agency partner, always check customer ratings on neutral third-party review sites, such as G2 Crowd. Pay attention to trending themes of the reviews as well as the recency of them— if the most recent review was a year ago, it may indicate a decline in service quality or negligence in asking for customer feedback.

Customer experience is the buzzword in our industry and for good reason. But remember, it applies to the service you receive from your marketing operations agency as well.

Your agency feels expensive.


Working with an agency is an investment. Your motivations for going with an outside provider may range from bringing a higher level of expertise to your team to handling high volume campaign execution to providing strategic guidance. But if you’re viewing your agency partner as expensive, the underlying implication is your agency is not providing sufficient value.

So what went wrong?

Any number of factors may be contributing to your high-priced perceptions, including:

Overscoping. If your agency overestimated the time and resources needed for your project, then you could be paying too much for the services you are receiving. As a result, ROI may still be present, but at a lesser rate than it should be.

Underscoping. If your agency underestimated your project or underbid to win the contract, you may be receiving supplemental invoices for work that thought would be covered in the initial contract. As a result, you feel “nickeled and dimed” — or your agency seems more expensive than you anticipated.

Burning hours. If work is being done and then redone, you’ll burn through your contracted hours quickly. Common causes of “hour burn” include errors or failure to plan for changes and growth.  Your agency partner should always ensure your Marketo organizational structure is scalable and plans for the needs of the future, not just today. When changes happen— and they always do— if your Marketo instance is set-up using best practices, modifying programs, adding product lines or increasing data flows are easily accomplished, without redoing work.

No strategic roadmap.


Before any work begins, your agency partner should collaborate with you to develop a strategic roadmap. How will your project impact your organization? What are the expected timelines and key milestones of the project engagement? And, how will you measure success?

Without a roadmap, it’s just work without a direction. And when a defined objective is absent, accountability is soft, work feels expensive, and ROI is unknown.

Mistakes, careless QA, and failure to advance.


We’re all human and mistakes happen. But if errors or sloppy QA are occurring more frequently, that’s a sign that your project is not receiving adequate attention or support from your agency partner. Additionally, if you have a vision of how you’d like to see your project evolve— perhaps enabling multi-language capabilities of your emails, complex segmentation, connecting technologies, or streamlining processes— and you’re not seeing progress being made, it’s time to ask questions about the status and if your agency partner truly has the expertise to bring your vision to life.

Evaluating Your Agency Partnership


Your marketing operations agency should work seamlessly alongside you and your team, as a true partner. And if they’re not—? If you’re feeling like your agency is performing at or below expectations, it’s time to do an audit on your project scope, agency contract, and ROI of work performed. You should not be merely “satisfied” — your agency should be delivering value and helping you to advance your vision for marketing operations.


Does your organization need help achieving ROI from Marketo? Learn how the Marketo experts at MERGE can help. Contact us today!