4 Signs an Agency’s Analytics Don’t Paint the Whole Picture and Aren’t Benefitting Clients

They often leave off less-than-stellar data trends

Many marketing campaigns aren't focusing on the entirety of available data analytics. - Credit by Getty Images
Headshot of Andrew Richardson

Despite the tremendous technological capabilities in the data-driven marketing era, the dark truth is that analytics coming from most agencies sucks.

Clients are often forced to hire in-house or outsource to analytics specialists to get the data they need because agencies can’t provide it or would rather protect their own interests than be transparent about campaign results. This approach is short-sighted, bad for clients and terrible for the credibility of our industry in the long run.

Without agnostic analytics, marketing leadership doesn’t have the data needed to realize a fully optimized, holistic marketing strategy. They need to see the complete story in all its glory, the successes as well as the failures.

It’s understandable that agencies don’t want to admit shortcoming to clients; however, if nothing changes in the way we report and analyze data, nothing changes in campaign outcomes.

Well-rounded analytics are crucial to the success of marketing initiatives. Campaigns no longer live in silos, email impacts social, social impacts search, search impacts paid search and so on. The lines are blurred, the data is plentiful and an agency’s analytics are the key to unlocking the potential of all of it.

So, is your agency helping you get the most value from your data or does its analytics suck? Here’s what to look for.

If nothing changes in the way we report and analyze data, nothing changes in campaign outcomes.

You’re given little or no data to back up campaign results

Agencies with lackluster analytics will often present thin reports that are very brief and only report on vanity metrics like CPC or ROAS (gut check: Are these the metrics you’re asking them for?). Coincidentally, they are always excited to tell you how successful your campaigns have been.

An agency with great analytics shares robust reports that go beyond pretty metrics. They will provide clear insight into successes or failures and, most importantly, explain how those metrics relate to your bottom line.

Recommendations on strategy and execution are given without supporting data

No agency should make important strategic recommendations without supporting data. A confident agency turns to analytics reports to strengthen the case for the actions they recommend to your business.

If you ask for clarification on campaign goals and strategy, and their response is vague with little supporting data, it’s likely that your agency isn’t able to effectively analyze data in a way that benefits you.

The analytics appear too sophisticated or too rudimentary

Overly sophisticated or rudimentary analytics cause you to miss out on the value of a client-centered approach. Some agencies try to impress clients with a lot of analytics to mask their limited usefulness. The data needs of a small business are specific to small-business operations, just as the needs of an enterprise business are more enterprise-wide.

Your agency should be having a conversation with you about the metrics most important to you, and they should be pushing into your business, trying to use those metrics, not just the marketing-based standbys (CPC, ROAS, etc.).

They pitch their proprietary technology as the only key to success

Using proprietary technology doesn’t necessarily mean your agency’s analytics suck, but if you ever decide to leave the agency, losing all your data will suck.

If an agency requires that you use their proprietary technology, be diligent in protecting your data. Find out who has ownership rights to the data and what happens to it if you leave the agency.

If you want better data, take off your rose-colored glasses.

So, after reading this, you’ve decided you’re going to ask for better data from your agency, right? That’s great! Just remember, they have not been entirely transparent for a reason; no agency wants to expose “failures.”

If you want agnostic analytics, you have to give your agency permission to miss the mark occasionally. If they come to the table with less-than-awesome campaign results, but they have data to show why it failed and how they’re going to improve, that can be positive momentum and a sign of an agency with some solid analytics. And if they can’t? Well, it’s a pretty good indication that their analytics suck.


@analyticandrew Andrew Richardson is currently the vp, analytics and marketing science for Elite SEM.