Why Marketing Agencies Are Obsolete

A Growth Agency is a rare breed of agency that takes responsibility for business growth, not just the delivery of projects, because they understand growth holistically, not just one slither of it; marketing. 

Marketing agencies, as a whole, have a terrible reputation. We all know this. Many overcharge and underdeliver, refuse to finish projects, lie about their skills and then learn on the job at your expense… I could go on forever. 

The Many Problems with Marketing Agencies

The crux of the matter is that many business owners think they need marketing when they really need growth. Growth Agencies were designed to overcome the problems, but why do they happen so often?

It’s not because they’re all evil money grabbing bastards, no. It’s because many of them, despite their best intentions, don’t understand growth holistically or enough about business management to create sustainable growth for you or for themselves. 

And, really, they won’t be able to until they evolve, because the whole concept of a marketing agency came about before the internet took over our lives. 

So, where are they going so wrong?

No Strategic Focus

This is problem number uno, and something most business owners don’t fully understand about service providers until they’ve worked with enough of them to fully appreciate the specific differences between plans and strategies. 

Here’s how I see it; plans revolve around metrics, strategies revolve around results. The trick is for you to work out who’s actually being strategic vs who’s just claiming to be – that’s the difference between good and bad experts and those who can help vs those who can’t. 

To be strategic you have to understand the entire journey of a buyer, from first awareness of a brand to becoming a loyal customer and brand ambassador. 

Without this holistic knowledge of growth and the buyer’s journey, and being able to tie a company’s growth strategy to positively impact each stage then a company will always struggle with growth because they don’t have the right experts onboard. 

Limited Capabilities

Outside of KPMG, Deloitte and the others who all charge a literal fortune to work with, you don’t get many truly holistic growth agencies out there; they’re mostly all single-disciplinary agencies and some invest a little effort into other bits and pieces mainly because it’s a good sales opportunity. 

They’re not really invested in helping companies unlock growth, they just want to sell as many services as possible – because it’s easy. 

Most agencies are run by someone with some experience in one or two areas and they rarely leave their comfort zone. I, on the other hand, as CEO of Square One Digital, have spent my entire career exploring and testing as many avenues of growth as I can. Largely because my business needed me to do it and I wanted to make sure it was being done properly. 

I designed my growth agency to replicate what I as an individual offer, but on a much larger scale where each person in my growth teams have a much smaller core focus; developers, designers, UI/UX specialists, salespeople – we’re all part of the same team. 

So when a client comes to us with their growth challenges and goals, we have many different strategies and tools to rely on, unlike traditional agencies who push the same “solutions” no matter what challenges or goals their clients are facing. 

No Real Support Outside of Their Limited Remit

Call a firefighter and they’ll put out your fire. But it’s a temporary fix, not a solution. If you discover that faulty wiring was the cause, they’re not gonna help with that. 

This is what happens with traditional agencies. Companies really only care about revenue and profit growth, being successful, making a difference etc. But they self-diagnose, get it wrong and hire an expert to focus on one aspect of growth. 

They jump from one expert to another, to another, to another, never really understanding what’s going wrong or why. 

Like, I see a lot of companies hiring lead gen experts and expect that, with their amateur online presence and £0 invested into sales processes and marketing collateral, they can just start speaking to people who want to buy their services right now – and they get frustrated when no-one can deliver the impossible. 

6 months goes by and no new clients have been signed up because the lead gen expert hasn’t qualified the client’s Ideal Customer Profile (people always think they’ve done this properly – they rarely have), they haven’t trained the client how to properly qualify clients and they don’t know how to help overcome objections in calls. 

Because it’s not their job. They don’t know about all this other stuff and they shouldn’t be expected to be playing the role of a much larger team. 

Reports Mirror Their Narrative 

Reporting systems are one of the most overlooked and underrated systems of growing companies, and they don’t take that much effort to really know what constitutes good progress and ROI vs bad. 

I was recently asked how low quality marketing agencies in their current form are even a viable business model. 

The fact is, whether they’re good at what they do or not, all the time they keep masquerading as the growth experts everyone believes/assumes they are, the model will keep working. 

If you land 10 clients, all of whom are on 6-12 month retainers, each paying £5-10k p/m, all of which is extremely common, you’ve got yourself a viable business with a small team. 

You see, agencies of all kinds like to hide behind vanity metrics like follower count and content engagement, because off the back of convincing customers to wait 6-12 months before expecting results, it’s easy to trick people into believing you’re making progress in the right direction – even if you’re not. 

For all of our clients, we set up the same initial reporting system which covers at least 18 standard metrics and KPIs that help us paint a picture of how prospects and leads are moving through the funnel / buyer’s journey and how close we are to getting new customers in the door. 

We show clients how to keep us accountable because we know we have nothing to hide. We teach clients how to interpret data properly and at what point they should consider firing us. Again, we’re not afraid of this because we know we have the ability to solve any kind of growth problem that exists. 

There’s Never a Plan B 

Traditional agencies rarely possess the ability to keep attacking a problem from different angles – they’re one trick ponies who will likely lose interest and give up on the relationship if things don’t go to plan straight away. 

Businesses destined to fail invest a small amount of money with a lot of scepticism and little to no input, expecting that experts who barely interact with them or take the time to learn about the nuances of their businesses can deliver incredible results. 

This probably isn’t helped by all the shit you see on places like LinkedIn shaming you for not “10 X’ing”  your growth every 24 hours… 

Businesses destined to succeed understand that taking a business away from word of mouth and referral marketing requires a significant investment of time and money into building new brand, marketing, sales and web systems. 

They certainly don’t just keep hiring the same expert to do the same job, year after year whilst expecting a different outcome. They also don’t just pick experts at random. They don’t self-diagnose. 

They find experts to help them understand what their company is lacking and what they need to overcome challenges – that’s what we offer. 

They embrace the journey and the following mantra:

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. 

They Don’t Take Any Real Responsibility

Marketing agencies don’t want to be responsible for the things that really matter. 

If you want to test this, you can ask a marketing agency to sign a contract taking responsibility for a high level metric or KPI like company-wide revenue or profit growth – it’s never, ever, going to happen. 

The reality is, if a company had the magic power to grow successful businesses, they’d be launching their own new businesses left right and centre – because why would you want to work under someone else’s banner, earning a fraction of their revenue and having to follow their instructions when you can do everything your own way?

Of course, if you don’t actually know how to grow a business, that responsibility is going to be pretty damn daunting. 

But this is really it. If you hire a marketing agency and all they do is give you marketing output, you can’t really complain because really what you’re asking for is growth. 

If you want someone to be accountable for the growth of your company, a marketing agency is rarely going to cut it. 

This is why I believe it’s so important to have someone in your business, on your team (in whatever capacity) who’s expert and can be held accountable for the growth (or lack of) of the company, who isn’t the CEO/founder. 

Side note: We do actually have an entrepreneurial arm who are focused on planning and launching new businesses under our own brand. 

We’re happy to take responsibility for high level and results-based metrics like revenue, profit, and company wide growth because that’s what we’re used to, trained for, experienced in and excited about. 

Management Aren’t Management 

Especially in newer, smaller agencies, management usually consists of the founder(s)/owner(s) and a bunch of project managers with titles like “Marketing Manager” or “Creative Director”. 

Beyond that there can be a complete lack of real management whose priority number one isn’t project delivery. 

This means there’s very little effort put into operational planning, risk identification and prevention, or solving problems rapidly. 

For example, one of our company policies is to only suffer a problem once. If something goes wrong we jump on it, fix it and then analyse it to see what needs to change, or be implemented to ensure it never happens again. 

Typically this happens within 48 hours of an issue arising. For example, a couple of years ago a client highlighted a typo in their address on a piece of artwork about to go to print. This was flagged internally and management reported that we had initially been given the wrong address and in some cases, old artwork was reused in new artwork which meant the old (incorrect) address was being copied over. 

The next day we had agreed to update all existing artwork with the correct address and have new clients fill out a “Key Details” form as part of their on-boarding process to ensure this never happened again. 

Without a dedicated management team, like we have, you just can’t fix and prevent those kinds of problems quickly every time they pop up. 

What Type of Growth Do You Really Need Right Now?

I find most business leaders just don’t know.

It’s a really hard question unless you understand how growth works across the whole company, where your current strategies and systems are lacking and how decisions taken now will impact you in the future. 

Would it be faster, easier, cheaper and more lucrative to focus on optimising existing revenue or creating new revenue? 

Are your prospect reach out volumes, number of qualified calls, new customer sign-up rates and customer churn values too high, too low or just right? 

Are you investing too much or too little into growth? 

What’s the most lucrative marketing and/or sales channel for your business? 

How can your business be optimised to free up time and money for new growth initiatives? 

More tough questions that often go unanswered when companies adopt new strategies and new experts. 

If you’re confident you’ve got this all figured out and you’re positive that the change you need relies solely on marketing (which I can guarantee you is highly highly unlikely), then a marketing agency might just be the perfect option for you. 

BUT if you’re wrong, hindsight will reveal this to be an extremely costly mistake. 

If you’re reading this thinking it doesn’t really apply to you and I’m just spouting a load of rubbish, humour me and ask yourself these questions:

  • How can you justify what you think you need?
  • Has an impartial expert (someone you’ve made very clear you aren’t hiring them for anything else) scrutinised your plan?
  • Would someone who’s already achieved your goals agree this is the best plan?

Most businesses fail. 

Most businesses never get the answers to the tough questions before steaming ahead with rushed and barely thought out strategies, championed by experts who don’t understand growth holistically, but will give you whatever advice you need in order to secure their next invoice. 


So, a quick recap on all the main points we’ve covered today: 

  • 80% of all businesses will fail. 
  • Marketing agencies are focused on just that; marketing. It’s just one component required to create a cohesive and successful growth strategy. 
  • Most marketing agencies won’t take responsibility for anything that really matters, relying on vanity metrics such as follower counts to make themselves look better than they are.
  • Marketing agencies are no longer relevant to the requirements of business today, with limited capabilities, a lack of knowledge around holistic growth and a reliance on limited reporting that only shows their ‘best bits’ .
  • Growth agencies outperform marketing agencies by approaching business growth holistically to create sustainable and predictable growth. 
  • Identifying growth opportunities is incredibly difficult and seeking advice from an expert is highly advisable to avoid costly mistakes.

Get Guaranteed Growth

If you’re ready to make the leap into the big leagues and start building a growth engine strong enough to net you a 7 or 8 figure revenue, you’ll need a partner who understands how growth; branding, marketing, sales and technology all work together to create sustainable and predictable growth.

We work with clients on a yearly basis, designing bespoke growth strategies to overcome any challenge or achieve any goal. 

If we don’t believe we can help, we’ll be the first to tell you – because every bespoke strategy we design comes with a bespoke guarantee that sees us working for free until we hit pre-agreed growth objectives. 

If you’re considering taking the next steps towards sustainable growth in your business and you’d like to find out more about what it’s like to work with us, let’s have a chat.