Season 1, Episode 140

Top Mistakes Brands Make When Choosing an Agency – & How to Avoid Them

The dynamics of brand-agency relationships have evolved, with brands becoming more meticulous in their selection processes amidst changing economic conditions. This shift underscores the critical importance of aligning agency expertise with brand goals to drive success.

In this episode, Chris McCabe talks with Chris Brewer from OMG Commerce to unpack the intricacies of agency collaboration. They explore common pitfalls brands encounter when choosing an agency, the benefits of personalized and transparent communication, and the strategic decisions between in-house hires versus external partnerships..

Show Notes


[00:00:00] Chris M: Hey everybody, this is Chris McCabe of the Seller Velocity Conference most recently, also the Seller Performance Solutions Podcast, and I’m here with Chris Brewer of OMG Commerce. You were at our conference, and you’ve done our podcast maybe once or twice before, I’m not sure. We had great conversations, Just two weeks ago at the conference, we had a lot of great brands there.

The conference feels like it’s two months ago to me, so I don’t know how it feels for you. But we talked about talking today about, How you work with brands, how you collaborate with them, pain points and et cetera, but maybe if you can just take a moment to introduce yourself as well.

[00:00:41] Chris B: Yeah, thanks, Chris.

It’s great to be here and absolutely things move at warp speed. I think in other businesses, you know, you know, you talk about, Hey, you know, remember back in the nineties when we did this or that.

[00:00:53] Chris M: Yeah.

[00:00:53] Chris B: And, and really for us, you know, two weeks ago, it feels like the nineties, you know, things can move, move quite quickly, but yeah, I’m a 14 year co- founder of OMG Commerce with my business partner, Brett Curry, who hosts our eCommerce Evolution podcast and today is out speaking at some conference somewhere actually, and we’re a performance marketing e comm for both B2B brands and D2C brands, covering everything from Google, Microsoft ads, We’re well known for our YouTube expertise.

We get invited usually once or twice a year out to Google to present on their campus. Had a event there with about 60 brands a couple months ago, and we’ve been re invited back in August and we’re going to do it all over again with a focus on Q4 planning. Pretty cool in the Howard Hughes hangar out there in LA where the YouTube offices are.

It’s a great venue for an event. But yeah, so we’re on the Google side, YouTube side, also have full service, Amazon and DSP for our clients. In addition to Klaviyo SMS email and meta TikTok, we can kind of handle it all for D2C or B2B brands, but it was great being at your event. You do a great job.

It was. A solid group of brands that were there and I’m looking forward to doing the next one.

[00:02:22] Chris M: I know, huh? It really exceeded all of our expectations too. And we’re so nose to the grindstone with it. Sometimes it’s hard to see left or right , but it turned out really well. , we’re happy about it and we got a lot of good feedback on it.

So I wanted to kind of ask you, like, how do you decide it’s the right fit for you to work with a brand? How do you communicate with them? How do you collaborate with them? Do you have a process that you barely deviate from is it all customized? How do you make sure that your goals to develop them and ensure their success will align with the goals of the brand that you could potentially work with?

[00:02:55] Chris B: Yeah. And I’ll kind of answer this in a way where if brands are listening, they can think about this in terms of really what to look for when they are looking for an agency, because this is the way we do it. And I personally feel like this is the way brands should also go about it. Brands are making more, I would say more meaningful decisions these days than they were 18 months ago with agencies. There was a lot of, Hey, we heard you guys are great. Let’s get moving, ready, fire, aim kind of stuff. When things were really rolling and now that the money system’s a little tighter and maybe some consumer behaviors have slowed, people are in some ways, taking a little more time, I think than they may need to and talking to too many folks, which can sometimes confuse the issue. But I think that you should definitely do your homework when you’re hiring, whether you’re hiring in house or an agency. And I, I often ask brands when they come in, have you spent the same amount of time evaluating agencies to this point as you would for an in house hire because I think that is a vitally important and along with that goes what we look for. One, we just pass on opportunities with brands that are not going to have either a culture fit with us or it’s just too preliminary.

So I love entrepreneurship. I’ve been one in multiple businesses over the years, and I know how passionate I can be when I start a business. And so sometimes folks, passion overrides what actually is possible in the first six or eight months of building a brand. So a lot of times it’s, Hey, we really want to work with you and we can spend as long as we’re getting results, we can spend and then I’ve got to tell them that, Hey, for what category you’re getting to, can you manage losses for four to six months and that usually ends up with a referral to a freelancer or a course or something like that. So we’re looking typically for established brands that have shown success, even if they’re having challenges where we can go in and evaluate. Are the objectives that you think you can accomplish within a certain time window, do we also agree with you that that can be achieved?

Otherwise, can we reach a middle ground of agreement? At a certain stage, or do we just need to say our goals are not aligned? We will just let’s go in a different direction here.

[00:05:40] Chris M: That’s kind of similar to how we operate too. So I can relate to that. That kind of leads me to my next question though.

Like, this is maybe 1 of the mistakes. Potential mistakes that a brand makes when they’re looking to line up with an agency. What are other, maybe one or two other top mistakes that you think people, whether getting ahead of themselves or not understanding that some agencies are better at some categories.

I mean, I’ll let you answer. Those are ideas I had because I wonder about this stuff too, right? We’re not a full service agency. So I kind of think about these things because we do get so many queries from brand owners about like, yeah, who do we work with? You know?

[00:06:16] Chris B: Yeah. I think one mistake is adding to the vetting point is requesting to speak with a current client about the experience.

And here’s the one that’ll tell you usually if it’s a good fit or not. And let me speak with somebody who used to work with you. A former client. So if an agency is unwilling to provide one or both of those, they should be off your list and the other mistake I think that brands make when trying to find an agency here is not asking enough questions about the team that they’re going to work with.

What time zone is the team located in? What is their experience level? Who am I going to talk to after these sales calls? Am I just talking with a really brilliant, bright co-founder who knows a lot of things about a lot of things or am I going to be disappointed with someone who’s fresh out of college? Has a lot of energy, but is going to really struggle at a strategic level. Potentially. Yeah. Those are a couple of extras.

[00:07:30] Chris M: High on enthusiasm, low on knowledge. I mean, which can be pleasant for certain things, but not for troubleshooting. it could cost you revenue too.

[00:07:37] Chris B: And I also would say, don’t judge a book by its cover. Cause for instance, I have two young ladies that work on my team that are outstanding but occasionally they might be judged by their youth and their appearance, but I would put them on any account.

[00:07:55] Chris M: For sure. ,

[00:07:56] Chris B: That happens sometimes Within our business as well.

[00:07:59] Chris M: Yeah, there’s a nine figure brand, that came to the conference a couple weeks ago, and actually there were a few more nine figure brands there than I expected, or that I knew about upfront.

I met their teams, before and at the conference, in person. And some of them are very young, you hear lots of things about gen Z, you know, things are different with this generation. You kind of hear that with every generation, but you can’t judge a book by a cover and you do have to go by knowledge base.

And, and some people have only been in, it’s not just about age. Some people have only been, their Amazon age is only 18 months or two years. But in those 18 months working with a top flight brand, especially for High eight, low nine figure seller, you can learn a lot in 18 months. And it kind of reminded me of my first 18 months at Amazon.

I mean, I learned a ton of stuff in 18 months, condensed and packed into less than two years. It took me, I would say a couple of years to be full on expert at it at Amazon, at least a year, but I think it’s similar with brand management and brand development.

[00:09:02] Chris B: Oh, I would agree with that.

[00:09:04] Chris M: Now that’s an interesting kind of segue in terms of some people want to do in house hiring versus agency hiring.

That’s another question we get a lot. And I give the same answers. Ask a lot of questions, get referrals, testimonials, make sure it’s unique, any unique things you need. Can be addressed by the agency or is it so unique that you need full time staff in house, but how do you answer that question when people say we’re kind of on the fence between in house hiring or hiring you.

[00:09:34] Chris B: I would say be an open book with the agency about what you’re looking for.

Who are you looking to hire in house? What’s their role going to be? What’s the salary or pay structure going to be? Especially on that role side, you get the right agency, they’ll be able to say, Hey, you know what? This person is going to be great at these things, but what are you going to do? Like take a Google ads example. For instance, if we’re taking on a seven or eight figure brand, they’re going to have a lead specialist, a support specialist, a conversion tracking specialist, a data feed. Specialist, whereas if you’re hiring in house, you may be able to find an outstanding lead specialist up there with one of my people.

But if that person doesn’t understand data feeds or what to happen when it crashes or Google wants to suspend your feed, you’re going to be looking out of house to fulfill that if you’ve got conversion tracking attribution issues. So those things, you just have to go in eyes wide open. And that’s why.

We’re also an agency that like, we want to support an in house team. So if you’re, if you are just dead set against an agency, maybe you need to hire us for consulting, or maybe you need to hire us as an over the shoulder person to check in with your in house person. And that’s usually what we find is there’s deficiencies there that wouldn’t lead to you terminating that in house person, but definitely could level them up.

I noticed this today just in another forum called e commerce fuel that I think we’re both in, someone asked a question today about branded search and what should I do? And this is a 10 million plus brand is categorized by ACF. For me, it was like, this is basic 101 stuff. And I got, went and got three different responses from my team and replied to him.

And those are the things that you’re going to miss unless you’ve got a great forum like that, those things you’re going to miss within house, because we’ve got millions of dollars of data. We can look at, we’ve got premier partnership with Google with access to beta programs. And having access to knowing here’s exactly what you do in this situation, rather than having to stop, pause, ask somebody, get an opinion, and then hope that that works.

[00:12:05] Chris M: The stop and pause part really resonates because I think that’s where opportunities are lost.

[00:12:09] Chris B: And asking the agency to like, your last three folks that quit working with you, why did they quit working with you? Right. The number one reason I hear when people are coming to us is our agency was good at the beginning, but now we feel like we’re having to lead strategy.

We’re having to be proactive ones. And, would say this environment is, you don’t see a lot of movement with brands right now. I think they have understood that those changes can be very disruptive, especially with algorithmic AI programs even with Google ads and performance max, there’s things that can, can go wrong when you’re making switches.

So you have to be very confident in that. I think that slowed some of the churn and transition between agencies this year. And I’m not saying that’s unwise, but you definitely sometimes want to get a third party look to see what you’re looking for. And also be fair to your current agency. If you’re breaking even this year, I can tell you, I’ve got a lot of brands that are stoked to be breaking even this year.

If you’re down a couple of points, maybe take a look. Maybe you’re getting competitors that have encroached on you, but we’ve seen this for multiple years, double digit growth year over year for brands and people are just expecting that kind of growth.

Yeah, but I can just tell you a lot of our brands that are super happy with us this year are, are up slightly to some in the double digit range.

[00:13:48] Chris M: Right.

[00:13:48] Chris B: And, and so I just think you’ve got to keep election year mentality in mind, macroeconomic trends in mind, the secret recession.

[00:13:59] Chris M: Oh boy.

[00:14:00] Chris B: Nobody wants to talk about.

[00:14:01] Chris M: Don’t use the R word. I mean, you’ve had successful collaborations with Great brands in the past. What was your secret ingredient or ingredients that made those work? What would you say were the lessons you learned, what they learned from you, what you learned from them.

[00:14:17] Chris B: Number one, personal contact. I always invite clients to come to my office. We invite clients to come to events. We offer to go to clients offices and do a strategy session. The face to face personal interaction is very much lost today. And I can tell you with our longest running collaborations, these are people we’ve had meals with.

These are people we’ve gone to events with. These are folks that trust us because they know that we have their best interest in mind. And when you’re just on a call. Like this, where you’ve never shaken a hand, never sat down and really talked about what’s going on in your business at a personal level, it’s a lot easier to disrupt that and go searching for something else.

The other thing I would mention is just complete financial transparency. So being able to completely open up your books to your, your partner, your agency, so that they can see what’s happening from all angles. And so if you’re an Amazon brand and you’ve got someone running Google and Facebook traffic to it, but you don’t know how that’s impacting things for good or bad, that can put you at a disadvantage or for us on the Google side, If another agency is running a hundred thousand dollars worth of spend a month and all of a sudden you tell them to cut that back by half, that’s going to affect our performance.

So the last thing we want to do is come on harping about the great data points we see in the growth we’re seeing on Google ads, but you’re looking at a negative balance sheet on your Shopify store.

[00:15:53] Chris M: Are there any brand shout outs you wanted to do in terms of, Examples of success story.

[00:15:58] Chris B: Oh, I mean, great longterm relationships we’ve had would be, you know, we, we like to talk about Ezra Firestone’s brands with Boom and Overture, which is one he’s picked up in the last several years. And he’s always been good about us mentioning those brands. Those brands are starting to transition a bit because of his exit and needing to hire a CEO and things like that. But, to have a eight plus year relationship with Boom, essentially being able to see what we’ve been able to do to grow that brand over the years, knowing that the owner has been with us through the ups and downs of those transitions and being able to give them a I think it was a 5 million a year, their first year we had them on Amazon, those are things that are really rewarding.

I think other brands, microfiber wholesale. I don’t think Brent would have a trouble me mentioning that again, nearly a 10 year relationship, right? Long time. We’ve had FaceTime with that individual. We’ve got teams with really deep relationships. We have a deep understanding of the brand.

Those are things that, I think really go for those longer term relationships. And that’s what I would say is at any time that you’re having, if you’re hiring an agency, Are you going to give that agency the same length of rope to turn things around and correct things that you would with an in house person?

And if you are, fantastic. You know, if you’re gonna say to an in house person, Hey Joe, we got to turn this around, man. You, you’ve got 60 days to make a course correct here, or we’re going to need to go in a different direction with the position. You should be giving your agency the same opportunity with the same Length of rope to be able to turn around the situation.

[00:17:41] Chris M: Agreed. Awesome stuff. Excuse me. Thanks for joining us for this. I appreciate it. And for supporting the conference as well. So where do people reach you when they want to get in touch with you to talk about all this wonderful stuff?

[00:17:53] Chris B: The easiest thing for me is my email, You’re welcome to visit our website. If you want to schedule some time with me, you can do that on our free strategy session. It is a free strategy session. It’s not a sales pitch and that’s at omgcommerce. com.

Great. So once again, Chris Brewer, OMG Commerce, thanks for

[00:18:16] Chris M: joining us. And if anyone has any questions about anything today, you can ask Chris, you can ask me, we’ll see you next time.

Take care.

Hosts & Guests

Chris Brewer

Chris McCabe



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