3 mistakes we made as a marketing agency and what we learned from them

In the words of Stephen McCranie, “a master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried”.

Success is celebrated, but sometimes, so is failure – because if used correctly, failing can teach you where you need to improve so that you can be a better business or deliver better customer service.

In our time in the industry, we had our share of big mistakes – from hiring the wrong people to complete disasters, which we’ll openly discuss in this article.

Because yes, we like to be transparent – and after all, we are only human, so it’s only natural that we made mistakes. To achieve the perfect marketing strategy, we had to create twenty that didn’t work beforehand.

So, here we go.

#1 We followed a checklist to do SEO

When we were still a small team, a novice in the world of SEO, we had a checklist of SEO stuff that worked, and we just did the same thing to every single client.

Maybe it was laziness or simply knowing that as long as we stuck to a comfortable checklist, it would have worked out great for us and kept that paycheque coming.

And yes, It worked spectacularly well… until it suddenly didn’t.

A better and improved Google algorithm gave us a proverbial middle finger.

How we fixed this problem

  • We hired some of the best SEO specialists in the industry.
  • We hired some exceptional content creators to help us deliver better content regularly.
  • We reformulated our entire business strategy. and started developing SEO services that were performance-driven and based on the needs of the individual client.

What it taught us

A long, long time has passed since this primordial blunder, but it’s what made topflight so successful in the long run.

Nowadays, our entire performance marketing campaigns are focused on sorting out the client’s needs in order of urgency and focusing on performance while also accounting for the user behind the screen by creating high-quality content that gets the clicks, to begin with.

This allowed us to win the confidence of the client over and over again.

However, don’t repeat the same mistake we did – every website is different and requires a completely bespoke approach. Using a one-size-fits-all approach is not a good idea in the long run.

#2 Going international without really knowing much about where your business is at

As a remote-first agency, we ended up becoming an international marketing agency somewhat by accident – our main focus has always been our York-based clients, but as contracts from the US, Italy, Spain and whatnot started rolling in, we quickly realised the importance of international recognition and a reputational standpoint that clients could trust regardless of their mother tongue.

So we just did what any person with not a lot of time on their hands would do – we popped our multilingual campaigns into Google translate and hoped for the best. We also used the same audience profiles and segmentation strategies without analysing how each user type would feel about them.


That was embarrassing. Although our English campaigns were as brilliant as they get, what we did with our international campaigns was awkward at best, humiliating at worst – poor translations and a one-size-fits-all strategy got in the way of a successful outcome.

How we fixed this problem

  • We hired multilingual content writers to yield better results from our hiring decisions.
  • We redefined our hiring process for a better cultural diversity.
  • We allowed our international business strategies to tap into this mistake’s lessons to create much more significant campaigns.
  • We now analyse culture, audience and cultural differences before moving into a country – everything, from the number of details shared to even UX decisions, is now based on the target audience’s cultural background.

What it taught us

Our initial blunder with international SEO is just a taste of what many companies struggle with when they choose to go international.

According to Harvard Business School, many businesses face similar problems whenever they scale up to an international company.

The language barrier is the single most obvious obstacle that every business has faced – and Harvard mentions a very good example of this, when Mercedes-Benz accidentally translated its own name in Chinese, telling people that their cars “rush to death”.

International strategies also matter significantly in the creation of campaigns.

It should also give companies an insight into the importance of cultural backgrounds in regard to Pay Per Click strategies. Thanks to a very much-needed user segmentation for PPC, our campaigns have visibly improved in every country we performed in.

Social media strategy should also be redefined according to what country you are delivering your content for – this is the reason why huge companies have separate profiles.

#3 And finally, every company’s mistake… Working hourly-based

At some point, every solopreneur that scales up to a full-fledged business has to change from an hourly-based invoice to a per-project fee.

This is what separates freelancers from companies – but unfortunately, nobody really told us that at the early stages of our companies, which resulted in some really big blunders you should really, really avoid unless you want to deal with the same royal screw-ups we had to put up with that cost us a fortune.

How we fixed this problem

  • We now invest significantly in each project proposal, defining a clear structure and a very precise estimate of the number of hours/days needed for each project. This allows us to better serve our clients and focus on creating high-performing campaigns without having to worry about costs or billing our clients more than what they were expecting.
  • We restructured our employee process to allow a better overview of the work hours needed for each project – we then use past data to create better-defined proposals for our clients.

What it taught us

A fixed price per project allows for a plethora of benefits for us and the client – however, going from an hourly-based wage to a project-based paycheque is a natural part of business evolution, so the most obvious benefit of this is the professional look that comes from this.

For us, working on a pay-per-project model allows for a better degree of flexibility and mobility – which often results in retainer clients and better conditions for employees.

In turn, our clients can enjoy a more transparent relationship with us, where they know exactly what they are getting before even touching their wallet.


Why did we create an article telling you of the challenges we had to face as a digital marketing agency?

Simply put, it teaches you what performance marketing essentially is: a trial-and-error process that is redefined over time until it becomes a money-making machine, just like your next SEO campaign.

Also, we like to think that embracing failure is a philosophical part of marketing – we do all the mistakes so you don’t have to.

After all, leveraging an expert team of SEO and content specialists is a brilliant way to avoid all the mistakes you would have to encounter once you embark on your journey to becoming the next big success story as it happened with many of our clients.

Why not be like them? Contact us today to get started.

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