In that time, I have worked with hundreds of companies to develop their inbound marketing strategies and optimize their use of HubSpot and I have seen the full spectrum of agency-client relationships, from the good, to the downright bad and ugly.
Problems are bound to occur between agencies and their clients and in this article, I break down five of the most common ones. But first, why do companies work with HubSpot partner agencies?
Why Work With A HubSpot Partner Agency?
If your company is using HubSpot, working with a HubSpot Partner Agency can be an effective - and quick - way to ensure you are using the tool properly and getting the most from your investment.
HubSpot’s official marketing agency partners must pass a series of certification programs and must themselves be users of HubSpot’s software tools. Once they are accepted into the agency partnership program, they gain access to a dedicated customer success manager, specialized training and support, and information about upcoming product releases.
For agencies that are serious about their partnership with HubSpot, staying up to date with HubSpot’s features, functionality, and best practices literally IS their job and a tremendous value add for the clients with whom they work. The same can be said for staying up to date with inbound marketing best practices.
While there are many benefits of working with a HubSpot partner agency, there are also some potential pitfalls.
Common Problems When Working With HubSpot Partner Agencies
As of the time I’m writing this article, there are more than 2,700 HubSpot partners throughout the world, and that number is growing rapidly. You can find a complete list in the HubSpot Partner Agency directory.
With so many partner agencies to choose from, it should come as no surprise that their degree of experience with HubSpot and their level of expertise varies considerably - as do the experiences their clients have when working with them.
Having said this, there is no “perfect” HubSpot partner agency - only the right agency for you.
While some agencies bill themselves as “full service,” others have specialized areas of expertise in things like website design, social media, content creation, integrations, etc.
Some follow agile practices, while others employ waterfall project management techniques.
Some have very serious cultures while others are more laid back and playful.
When choosing a partner, it's important to start by understanding your goals and objectives, how you prefer to work, and what kind of company culture is the best fit for you.
In my experience, even when you feel you’ve picked the perfect agency, problems still inevitably occur.
I liken it to marriage. Just because you’ve found the “perfect” guy and you’ve gotten married doesn’t mean there won’t be bumps in the road. And just like a healthy marriage, it takes two committed partners to work through those problems and build a strong and positive agency-client relationship.
That being said, here are five of the most common problems I've seen come up when companies work with HubSpot agency partners.
1. Agency Pricing Is “Death By Papercut”
The vast majority of HubSpot partner agencies work with clients on a monthly retainer basis. The amount of the retainer is generally determined during the sales process and is based on the client’s goals and the resulting scope of services. In my experience, most retainers range from $3,000 to $10,000 per month.
The problem with this approach is that priorities change.
For example, in November of 2017, when I was on IMPACT’s sales team, I closed a deal with a company that came on wanting outsourced inbound marketing services, with an emphasis on social media management, content creation and lead nurturing. Within two months of signing their agreement with us, they acquired another company and needed us to help them merge those two web presences into one and create a single, streamlined marking strategy for the new company.
A smaller example of this same thing is when you want to do a video or Facebook ads or a brochure design - or when your agency recommends you purchase a particular software package. These are small changes that need to happen, but are not included in your original scope.
What to do?
In a typical retainer, where there is a fixed scope of work, making the pivots I described above would normally mean a change of scope and/or price increase.
All of these little increases add up and because most companies budget in advance for the amount they plan to spend on agency services, they can be very difficult to swallow (and are therefore an unnecessary source of friction in the agency-client relationship).
The way many of HubSpot’s top agency partners have dealt with this challenge is to move to an agile framework wherein the client signs an agreement committing to a certain volume of work per month (expressed as either hours or points), but with a flexible scope of work that is updated continuously throughout the relationship.