1. Home
  2. /
  3. Insights
  4. /
  5. Honesty – A Rare Commodity in Marketing

Honesty – A Rare Commodity in Marketing

By Jason Fletcher
June 20, 2017

People lie. We’ve all experienced it. Often times, people do it with your best interests at heart. Other times, they do it because they want to avoid conflict or don’t want to admit that they did something wrong. It can be hard to face a client if a strategy you proposed didn’t work. It can be harder yet if the strategy wasn’t at fault, but an error that you made was the reason for the failure.

If my wife asks me if I want to go out to eat with our 4 and 7 year old after a long day at summer camp (knowing that they are exhausted and cranky), I usually reply “yes” without thinking, because it’s the path of least resistance. 

However, then I have to go to dinner with our kids, in public. As my 4 year old punches my 7 year old and innocent diners stare at our family, I realize that I should have been honest and said “No, I don’t want to go anywhere with them tonight because they’re going to lose their minds in public.” Lying made things easier in the short term, but hurt me in the long run.

Within marketing agencies, honesty seems to be a rare commodity. . When a marketing agency makes a claim to deliver result X within a 12 month window, it seems that the natural reaction is to negotiate and demand that it be done in a lesser time period. If the agency doesn’t respond honestly that their strategy was intended for a longer time period and will be less effective in the shorter window, they may get the sale, but both parties will be less than thrilled with the results.

So, what needs to be done? How does working with an agency that tells you the truth really benefit you? Here are a few examples of how you win if you work with an honest agency.

Clear Expectations

Don’t we all want to know what our marketing agency is doing for us at all times? It seems that the default stance on work in progress is to let the client know that the work has started and then update the client when the work is complete. If the agency you’re working with can’t seem to account for the work they’ve completed, then you should be asking them some pointed questions. They should be following up consistently throughout each month with updates.

Even more than just the communication, your agency should be honest with you regarding what you can expect from the marketing efforts they are executing on your behalf. If what they are telling you sounds too good to be true, make sure that you pay close attention as the results are presented to you. Did they achieve or exceed the goals they set? If not, are they proposing changes based on what they learned from their previous strategy to remedy the issues or are they simply saying they’ll try harder next time?

Clear expectations are the cornerstone upon which the entire relationship is built. An agency must  be up front about the expectations and deliverables if the relationship is going to last.

Trust and Teamwork

Your account manager at the agency you’re working with should be someone you like and trust. You are the paying client, so if you don’t like or respect the people you are working with, it’s very unlikely that the relationship will work. If your account manager speaks to you professionally and advocates for you within the agency, then you are in the right place, working alongside the right team.

Since the account manager is your main contact for the agency, you must require complete honesty. We can all tell when someone is beating around the bush, so if you feel like your representative isn’t being completely honest, call them out on it!

This works both ways. The account manager also has to know that he or she can count on you-the client- to respond to them in a timely manner and honestly, no matter what the question. If they ask you to send over content that they need in order to complete a marketing execution on your part and you don’t have time to get it to them, just be honest so that they can adjust their plans based on when they can reasonably expect that content.

If both sides are honest with each other, there is a much higher chance that the partnership will work for the long term.


Ultimately, any business is looking to employ a marketing agency to help them sell more widgets or services. The marketing agency should be very up front about what you are receiving and where those leads are coming from. Ultimately, their job is to show you why it’s a smart investment to continue paying them.

Not every campaign will be a viral success. Not all ideas are going to perform equally well. So, as long as your agency is continually advising you on what is working and what is not, the ROI should be there as well. Keep your eye on the long term prize of profit. Marketing is not a quick or temporary endeavor, so give it time and look for these queues to know if you are working with an agency that you can trust. Not every action will have an immediate reaction or outcome, but you have a right to know what to expect and when.

The next time you discuss working with a new agency, make sure you discuss these points of honesty to see how that agency handles reporting, communication, expectations, and deliverables. If you find an honest agency, you won’t end up like me, at dinner with the kids punching each other. Instead, you can stay at home, save face, and not be embarrassed.

If you want to start a conversation about how we can help you honestly, please reach out to me at jfletcher@sitestrategics.com. I’d love to chat about how we do things here at Site Strategics! Thanks for reading!