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October 23, 2023

Sync or Sink: Navigating Client and Email Marketing Agency Relations

At YOCTO, we know a thing or two about helping brands win with email, SMS, and retention marketing. This is not an empty boast. Our 100% client retention rate – as of October 2023 – proves it. All of our success points to a simple truth: The relationship between a client and their email marketing agency plays a huge role in how successful the project will be.

In fact, we’ve gone as far as documenting (and eliminating, internally) all the behaviors that clients find problematic when working with email marketing agencies. And we’ve also documented all the client behaviors that we’ve personally seen derail projects and ensure they’re addressed from day 0, during our initial kick-off call with new clients.

The Perfect Client Onboarding

The #1 factor that affects client & agency relationships is the onboarding process. Onboarding is not a buzzword. It’s the doorway to syncing up, laying down who does what, and setting the stage for what (and why) comes next. It’s about getting you, and us, all geared up with the right info and the right expectations from the start.

You only get to make a good first impression once. The worst possible thing that can happen when starting a new and expensive engagement is to be left in the dark about what happens next. 

We’ve nailed down a super detailed onboarding process that gives complete clarity and wrote an article that describes everything here

Agency Behaviors that Get in the Way of Success

To be frank, in the early days of YOCTO, we made our own share of blunders. Those blunders, however, were not in vain. They forced us to refine our approach and accelerated the maturity of our agency, making us more attuned to the nuanced needs of the clients we work with. Looking back – and after exhaustive discussions with virtually all of our clients and many of our contacts in the e-commerce world – here are the agency behaviors that most derail client-agency engagements.

Lack of Brand Understanding

Imagine having over your brand to an agency, only to see it morphed into something unrecognizable. The campaign rolls out, but the message feels alien. Naturally, the audience does not engage. This misalignment stems from a very simple reason: Agencies are incentivized to reduce the number of variables in each project so that they can maximize the efficiencies of their operations. This means they develop detailed (and often robust) operating procedures, that the teams simply apply across projects without thinking about it. This can create severe misalignment with your brand and the unique rapport it shares with its audience.

We’ve developed our strategy development phase specifically to combat this. This detailed and robust process ensures that though the steps to developing strategy are consistent (inputs), the strategy roadmap and execution is uniquely adapted to your unique context (outputs).

Outsourcing to Junior Talent

If you’ve ever worked with an agency you’ve probably experienced this already. A very senior person handles the initial contact and starts the engagement. But what happens next is that this person disappears. Instead, the work is delivered and executed by backend agency interns. The initial excitement soon meets the reality of unmet objectives. Errors start creeping in. It’s like building a house on shaky ground. Again, from the agency’s perspective, this leads to operational efficiencies. It makes financial sense. But it’s not good for you, the client.

This is why with YOCTO there’s always at least one seasoned expert with eyes on your project. We’re proud to hire (and rapidly upskill) junior talent, but they never work alone. We’ve also developed the cross-account audit process. Each strategist has their work audited and cross-examined by other strategists, once a month. Every strategist reports directly to YOCTO’s CEO. This extra oversight ensures that the strategy is always on course, every step is executed as intended, and there’s always a fresh backlog of new profitable ideas to implement.


Grand promises can be alluring, but the disappointment that follows when those promises are not met can be a bitter pill to swallow. And it’s you, the client, who bears the brunt too. Agencies resort to making big promises and claims (“We will achieve X in Y time or you don’t pay”) to support their client acquisition efforts.

But these overblown claims are also the reason why most email marketing agencies can’t retain brands for more than 4 months, on average. They simply fail to deliver what they promised.

YOCTO has a very simple policy. We actively reject clients whom we think we can’t help. The proof is in the pudding: Our industry-leading client retention rate on all of our retainer projects. It of course speaks to the quality of our service, and the strength of our team. But it also speaks to our ability to do business selectively and honestly.

Client Behaviors that Get in the Way of Success

Now all of that being said, the journey isn’t solely steered by the agency. The client is in the driver’s seat too. Just like we’ve had our share of learning curves, over time, we’ve observed client behaviors that can introduce bumps on this road. It’s our policy to now discuss them openly with all new clients from day 0, to get ahead of potential challenges.

Delayed Approvals

One point that clients sometimes struggle to appreciate is that an agency works with hard deadlines. A delay in one project can affect another project, with potential chain effects that are not immediately visible. Delaying an approval (or deliverable) happens. But it happening repeatedly can truly kill momentum.

It’s like having a sports car, ready to roar, but having the light stuck on read. The solution to this is pragmatic. If an item is blocked due to a late approval or deliverable, we simply put it on hold. The rest proceeds along.

Last-Minute Revisions

Changing the tires on a highway is ill-advised and risky. Similarly, last-minute revisions can cause major disruptions and increase the probability of human error.

Obviously, there are nuances and exceptions here. If something is absolutely mission-critical, then your agency partner should be happily on board to jump in and help. But for general, ongoing management works, a tight schedule is critical. We expect to have our deliverables approved 4 days prior to the sending date to ensure a 0% chance of error.

Similarly, it’s equally critical to keep communication centralized. Sharing feedback or requests via a private message, or a private email can lead to misunderstanding and lost context. For all task-related communication, we stick to ClickUp, ensuring everybody’s on the same page. And for the same reason, we use Slack Channels over direct messages, for everything else too.

Delayed Payments

One obvious aspect that fosters a smooth working relationship between a brand and an email marketing agency is timely payments. No agency likes chasing payments like a debt collector. It’s a dreary task that diverts focus from where it should be: Driving results for your brand.

Of course, sometimes delays are inevitable. Yet, being upfront about payment timelines and adhering to them is a hallmark of a respectful and productive client-agency relationship.

At YOCTO, we send out invoices for the month at the beginning of the following month, as opposed to collecting payment upfront. This approach is a gesture of goodwill, an expression of our commitment to your success before we account for ours, and supreme confidence in our ability to “earn our fee.”

Navigating Client and Email Marketing Agency Relations Is Key

The road to email marketing success is smoother when clients and agencies understand and support each other. At YOCTO, we’ve dug deep into understanding the behaviors that can get in the way and have created clear paths to overcome them. We’re not just here to run campaigns; we’re here to build successful, long-term partnerships.

Ready to take your email marketing to the next level? Reach out to YOCTO to book a non-obligatory introduction call.

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