Industry Insights

6 reasons why my marketing agency won’t work with your brand

Close up of Studio Cotton founder Aime with her blonde hair tied up, wearing a brown dress and holding her hand to her mouth
Aime Cox
Founder of Studio Cotton
Aime is utterly obsessed with sharing heaps of small business and website advice that’s easy to action
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I’m a bit of a tricky trickster with this at-first-glance inflammatory title, I just couldn’t come up with a more accurate title than 6 reasons why my marketing agency won’t work with your brand, well, apart from adding ‘that totally aren’t your fault‘ – but I’m already pushing it with that character count.

Sometimes marketing agencies like Studio Cotton have to turn down amazing brands and potential projects, for reasons that don’t reflect the quality, enthusiasm, innovation or professionalism of the entrepreneur or their brilliant business.

If you’ve been turned away by an agency, graphic designer or freelance marketer, I’m writing this to say it’s not personal. Someone probably feels awful that they’re not able to help your business grow, and here’s 6 reasons why that marketing agency isn’t able to work with you (right now).

1. Not able to meet a project deadline/scheduling

The most common reason we turn down website projects is because we don’t have the resource to deliver an amazing product within the timeframe needed. Websites are by far our most popular product, and we make each one in-house – so our capacity is about one website per month.

We’re currently booked out for 6 of the next 7 months which is pretty typical for a reputable, established web design agency. No agency or freelancer wants to turn down a great project, but sometimes we just can’t make the schedule work.


2. We don’t offer a marketing service or technology requested

As it stands, Studio Cotton is pretty strictly WordPress-only on the website front. We’re also unable to offer Facebook or Google advertising, or deliver large-scale design projects like shop interiors.

We’ve been approached a few times by business owners who are fixed on using Shopify for totally valid reasons. Unfortunately it’s not a platform with which we have the expertise to deliver at a standard I’d be happy with. Gosh that sentence was a mouthful.

The other services are simply because we haven’t found the right person or freelancer to execute those projects with our Bristol-based team. If an agency doesn’t have the expertise needed for your brand or project, it’s much better for you that they ‘pass’ instead of learn something new on your dime.


3. The brand is outside of our industry niche

A lot of marketing agencies and freelancers offer their services for a specific industry or niche. It makes it easier for us to approach a defined audience, helps build a consistent portfolio, and means that we can share learnings within our similar clientbase to increase everybody’s results.

I niched Studio Cotton for a slightly less-businessy reason – I didn’t want to work for brands and products for which I didn’t have a personal affinity. I run my own business partly because I sucked at working for other people, on projects I didn’t care for, and I didn’t want to do that any more.

That’s why we only work with small, creative businesses. Fashion, jewellery, wedding suppliers, yoga, plants & gardens, florists, boutiques, kids & baby brands and hopefully, one day, I will fulfil my personal dream of a yarn brand. I freakin’ love yarn.

That said, I do love a challenge, so we take on a few niche-adjacent projects that pique my interest with a specific challenge.


4. A stakeholder isn’t engaging with our processes

Before a client signs a contract or pays a deposit, we will have exchanged some essential emails, questionnaires and probably met in real life too. This is to make sure both parties are confident that we’re a perfect fit, and able to deliver what the client needs, within their budget and timeframe.

Even though each client brand identity, website and marketing campaign is unique – our processes are not.

We’ve perfected our processes over years at Studio Cotton. From the moment someone drops an enquiry on our website, through to 12 months after delivery, we know exactly what’s going on now, and what’s happening next.

These defined processes allow us to price our services accurately, and provide a better return on investment to our clients.

As an example, we don’t start building a client’s website until we have their logo (as a vector file), brand colour palette, fonts, and a small bank of professional-quality imagery which are collected via an automated questionnaire, powered by Dubsado. This saves rounds of emails and chasing, all of which would be added on to a final invoice and charged to the client.

If a business stakeholder isn’t engaging with the Studio Cotton processes before we confirm a project, we’re probably not the best partner for their style of working. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a different approach, and we’d usually recommend an alternative provider that we know thrives with a more fluid style.


5. The business isn’t quite ready for a marketing agency

This is my least favourite reason to turn down a potential new business lead.

A marketing agency has a pretty refined responsibility – we are your business’ outsourced marketing department, and we work within your budget to promote your products to potential customers with effective branding, communications and relationship development.

It’s really, really difficult to market a business effectively without knowing the ins and outs of those products. This is pretty simple for physical-product based brands, even if they’re still in the production phase.

For service providers, it can be a lot more problematic. These are generally lovely, passionate, talented entrepreneurs who are branching out as an expert in their industry, but haven’t yet found the answer to “what do you do, and how much does it cost?”.

Consultations, mentoring, company training, event management – these are options that productise a service, and give the marketing agency something tangible to take to a targeted audience.

If you’re a service provider and struggling to nail down exactly what you want to sell, business managers, business coaches and enterprise programmes (like The Prince’s Trust) will be a much better fit at this stage of your business. They’ll help perfect a product offering, so that the you can make the most out of any marketing investment.

Lil note: Some marketing agencies, consultants and freelancers do offer product refinement/strategy services, make sure to check out individual websites for details.


6. Budget

We all gotta get paid. A marketing agency or freelancer will have established their pricing based on their experience, expertise, value, cost of living, cost of sales, time, expenses, project management, portfolio potential, and well, whatever they decide.

Sometimes, a potential client doesn’t have the budget for the service they’d like for their business. It sucks when this happens, but it is a fact of business life.

Personally, I don’t mind if someone asks for a discount or some wiggle room. Most of the time, my answer will be a firm-yet-very-polite “nope” – but this is business, and we can all negotiate when both parties have something of value to bring to the table.

Here’s a bonus list of things that a marketing agency might take into consideration if a client was looking at lowering the cost of a project:

  • 100% payment up front
  • Longer commitments
  • Purchase multiple services
  • Exchange of products or services
  • Profit share
  • Referrals and new clients

Here’s a bonus, bonus list of things that a reputable marketing agency will never ever take into consideration if a client was looking at lowering the cost of a project:

  • ‘Exposure’

We love new business enquiries

Nothing makes me happier than seeing a new email from Dubsado (for which I have a cult-ish level of love), drop in the [email protected] mailbox. It’s so, so heart-warming to know that somebody is interested in working with the company I created.

And, it’s always genuinely disappointing when a budding business relationship doesn’t bloom beautifully.

If your enquiry with a marketing agency hasn’t worked out – I’m sorry bbz. Keep looking for that perfect fit, ask for recommendations, check out portfolios, and find the perfect partner that will grow your wonderful business.

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