5 Reasons Why Business Growth Agencies Don’t Want You As Their Client

Jen Saunders
Reading Time: 7 minutes

When clients are looking for a business growth company, many descry various agencies with unmatched tenacity. Unfortunately, some (especially the larger) digital marketing firms don’t; client acquisition is a “numbers game” where they expect to lose some, and replace them with a higher volume via an aggressive phone sales team. Fastidious business owners never work with these agencies because they are wise enough to recognize their services are diluted by a team of underpaid film-school flops or recent high school graduates who only value clients as a recyclable number from a large file pool. Then you have your boutique business growth agencies that specialize in SEO and other digital marketing services where strategic quality and customer service is unmatched–clearly business owners desire these vendors.

In order to form a healthy, long-lasting partnership with a growth marketing agency that truly values clients, business owners need to approach the relationship as a professional partnership with a clear understanding: if you trust a team to grow your business, then show your faith by letting them do their job. This article will begin by informing readers on the reasoning behind working with the more selective agencies, followed by five main reasons why an agency will terminate working relationships with clients.

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Why Look for Picky Business Growth Agencies?

Have you ever called a digital marketing agency with the intention to interrogate their rep with carefully selected questions with a goal to weed out the fakers from the money makers? More importantly, has an agency ever turned the table and made you feel like the one being interviewed? When this happens, it is a great sign because it attests to an agency’s dedication to quality (solid relationships) over quantity (money). Partnering with an agency that hand-picks and chooses clients is a sign of effectiveness because it demonstrates that agencies are particular in how their time is spent in managing their client’s business growth with a successful outcome.

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Why do Some Selective Digital Marketing Agencies Appear Slow Out the Gate?

First, savvy digital marketing agencies are selective in partnering with clients for two primary reasons: to protect their earnings, and to ensure a high-quality working relationship with clients. So why do so many of these white-glove marketers appear to get off to a slow start? Let’s just establish this right away: they are actually doing more than larger “numbers game” agencies. Sure, there are large SEO agencies that sign up clients left and right, and begin services immediately. But the better digital marketing companies don’t operate this way; there is an onboarding process that ensures the client’s platform is healthy and capable of supporting a comprehensive SEO strategy. The client can’t “see” this process, which is why the agency needs to communicate regularly with the client and update them through the process. And your SEO company not only does this for your benefit, but also for their own. When agencies onboard a client they stand to lose a pretty big chunk of change should the client walk within a few months of this process, as it involves a great amount of time and internal resources that could fall by the wayside.

Partnering with a client who understands the onboarding process means they will see the value in their paid services, and when a client understands the process and sees the value, their life expectancy is greater. Then there are clients who have unrealistic expectations, ethical issues, or they just have narcissistic personalities and refuse to let their marketers execute the strategy, even if it was given the green flag in a previous meeting.

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Anatomy of the Business Owner / Digital Marketing Agency Partnership

Digital marketing agencies dedicated to client business growth always strive to partner with clients WHO WILL LET THEM grow their business. If you are a business owner searching through the best digital marketing companies searching for that unicorn, once you find it, let them work their magic and execute strategy without your micromanagement; don’t let your lack of industry knowledge make you a difficult client. If you aren’t sure of something ask complicated questions and determine how helpful the agency is in answering them. Ask to be educated because knowing the “whys” will allow you to comfortably step back with faith and confidence in your team.

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1. Micromanagement (It Gives You Micro Results)

If you were a genius marketer, you wouldn’t have to hire a team to forward your business growth. Leave your ego at the door and embrace the idea that just because you are a master of the universe within your industry it does not mean you are Zeus in other fields. If your loved one needed a brain tumor removed, would you attempt the surgery yourself? So why work your digital marketers like a team of puppets by telling them what to do differently in the strategy you previously agreed on? So long as your values, goals, and branding identity are being honored, why make unwarranted demands at such an early stage? Why insist on picking apart work that hasn’t even been applied to garner measurable data? This kind of behavior can get you fired by your SEO agency with lightning quickness because it shows you lack reasonable expectations, and it demonstrates you view your team poorly.

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2. Ego, Narcissism, Does Not Play Well With Others

This ties into letting your agency do their job without your sword of Damocles dangling over their heads. Narcissistic clients all have one thing in common: unrealistic expectations. In their minds they see themselves as these all powerful Titans and therefore the fruits of SEO need to impact their digital presence NOW making them number one. They expect the universe hand-delivered on a silver platter, and blame the agency when this doesn’t happen (they even blame their marketers for things outside their control).

Here is a personal example from a client we recently let go. This was a project calling for web dev, on and off-site SEO, and custom content for an individual person trying to change her online reputation. This was not an ORM project, as we didn’t deal with any external media outlets. It was strictly development and SEO. The client spent 20 minutes bragging about herself in our first meeting (red flag number one) and kept changing her mind on the smallest details thus dragging out our man hours to the point we were headed to a potential loss in the onboarding phase. Her abrasive tone and foul language in the meeting (red flag number two) was overlooked because I bypassed this as a matter of differing personalities. While one week in and still developing her site and content, she blew up because a new result for her name appeared in the SERPs written by a large news media source. We were of course blamed, and after I explained that we have no control over what other people say about her, that our job is to push down the unwanted PR, AND that we were only one week in and haven’t even been able to launch the site yet, she demanded we drive four hours away to meet with her and talk about it. She was fired later that day, and we took the loss.

Lesson learned: narcissistic clients who come to the table with an angry vibe and a sailor’s verbiage are never a good fit. Honestly, I took the project on because it was outside the box and seemed interesting. Sometimes you have to let the toxic ones go, even if the scope is interesting, and make way for those perfect-fit clients.

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3. Culture Clash

When a digital marketing agency and their client has conflicting core values and vast cultural differences, the partnership will be short-lived. In some cases, compromises can be made when the agency and client see real value in working together, but 9 out of 10 times such an effort crumbles. Be sure to communicate openly when covering your brand’s cultural points, your ethical approaches to marketing, and the desired identity you wish to convey. If the fit isn’t there, it is better to discover this prior to all the work and effort that goes into onboarding a client–it will save both you and the agency time and money.

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4. Compromising Quality


Digital marketing agencies have reputations to protect, and when a client demands implementations to the marketing strategy that introduce shoddy work, black hat SEO practices, or just terrible quality, the partnership will not last. When I deal with clients who demand ridiculous material that I can prove will fail and that violates Best Practices, the clear sign is there: the client doesn’t appreciate what I do and they see no value. My first response is to explain that value backed by concrete data. If the client still isn’t on board, we send them packing.

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5. Mutual Respect

The most successful growth marketing agencies are the ones who get to know their clients at a deeper, authentic level; they respect the client and the fact that their business reputation is in the agency’s hands. It is equally important that clients respect digital marketing companies. Recently, I had a problem client who demanded the moon. I set aside my frustration out of professional courtesy and worked with her assistant to deliver a high-level strategy that stayed within reasonable bounds. The client copied me in an e-mail to her assistant in which she belittled my writing staff, and by end of day she was fired. As a client, you know whether or not you are difficult to work with. Working with complicated clients is nothing new, but no self-respected SEO agency will ever tolerate verbal abuse or unreasonable demands. If you expect to grow your business within a digital space through the services of a professional growth marketing company, you need to act like a professional yourself.
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