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Disclosure and transparency: The agency/client relationship twins
Do your clients know what you're doing with their accounts? Contributor Steve Cameron lays out why transparency is vital to building and maintaining trust with your clients.
There is an old joke about what to do if you’re ever stranded on a desert island with only a pack of cards: The answer is to start playing solitaire, because sooner or later someone will lean over your shoulder and say, “Why don’t you put that red seven on that black eight?”
When we structure our marketing campaigns, either alone or as a well-oiled team, the last thing we want is for someone to come along and tell us how to do it better. We have our reasons. We are experienced marketers. And, let’s be honest here, the least wanted advice often comes from the client.
We can live and breathe AdWords, breakfast on Bing Ads and snack on Facebook and Twitter; but the client pays for the campaigns.
We were recently approached by a client who was unhappy with their current agency. They wanted us to take a look. But the other agency — hereafter known as “Opaque” (not their real name but incredibly appropriate) — advised the client that the account was theirs and that they, the client, could not be granted access for confidentiality reasons as it was within the agency’s MCC (My Client Center, now known as AdWords manager account). Forget the fact that access can be granted at account level as well as MCC — this seemed downright absurd. And it raised some questions about transparency.
A friend of mine, upon visiting a new restaurant, will inform the waiter that, before ordering, he would like to see the kitchen. This generally flusters the waiter, who scurries away to consult with the chef. Either permission to visit the kitchen is granted or not.
My friend has never actually visited a single kitchen, but he will not stay and eat where the request has been denied. There’s a sound logic in this when you are going to eat whatever is being prepared in said kitchen.
The same should be true of our marketing campaigns. If we are unable to not only explain, but also justify our decisions on structure, targeting, bidding, scheduling and all the other features of our campaigns, then we should reconsider the responsibility we adopt when we agree to manage the account.
The lack of transparency exhibited by Opaque highlights some of the less attractive tactics of some account managers.
After their continued refusal to grant access to the AdWords account, the client is now faced with either continuing to work with them (the equivalent of eating the proverbial burger with phlegm from the kitchen that refused entry) or walking away from any historical data and (possibly) hard-won market position to start fresh.
When it comes to digital marketing, there is a myriad of assets that clients depend upon — and often they do not have any direct access. In the event that their agency disappears with the next morning’s mist, they will be well and truly stuck.
Outlined below is a checklist that we use when onboarding a new client. The answers are sometimes scary.
- Where is your domain name registered?
- Who owns the domain, and who pays for the renewal?
- Who controls the domain name? If you need to update the name servers, who do you talk too?
- Where is the domain hosted? Again, who do you go to to make DNS changes?
- Are there emails associated with the domain? If so, who manages these emails?
- How do you access the server? What are the FTP details for the website?
- What type of website is it? Is it built using a CMS and if so, do you have admin access?
- Website changes. Who do you go to to make changes to the website? If you could not reach them tomorrow, could you get a change made?
- Google My Business. Who created and manages the Google My Business profile for the organization? Do you have admin access?
- Google Analytics. Who has administration access? How many people could delete this account?
- Google AdWords. Who has administration access? How many people could delete this account?
- Google Search Console. Who has administration access? How many people could delete this account?
- Google Tag Manager. Who has administration access? How many people could delete this account?
- Social Media. What social media profiles does the organization currently have? Do you have administration access to all those accounts?
- Image library. Do you have a list of images that you can use for marketing materials? Where is this library located and how do you share access to agencies?
- Design files. Do you have a library of templates and design files that you have commissioned in the past including your logo and all corporate designs? Do you have access to these?
This can be a daunting list, and many business owners become increasingly uncomfortable as they work their way through the questions.
The realization that they do not control, and in some cases even own, some of their core online assets such as their Facebook page or their Google Analytics account pushes them toward panic.
As marketing professionals, we have a responsibility to follow best practices that should protect our clients and, by default, ourselves. (At our agency, everything is owned by the client, and we have full admin access.)
There can never be a good reason for secrecy. If Opaque is charging a monthly management fee, and no one has even accessed the account for the past six months, this would explain the denial of access. But a well-managed account should be something to be proud of and something to be paid for.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.