How We Approach Client Data and Agency Transitions

May 03, 2019

7 Minute Read
How We Approach Client Data | BFO

At BFO, we have a simple approach to client data:

We believe that our clients own all of their data.

‘Ok,’ you say, ‘that’s great, but let’s get into the details of it. The devil’s always in the details, right?’

Fair enough. We appreciate the concern of every client regarding their data. Every brand should be concerned about their data, where it lives, how it is secured and who has access to it. With the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) going into effect in 2020, every brand needs to take a hard look at its customer and analytics data.

In fact, when speaking with prospective clients we always recommend asking all potential agency partners detailed questions about how they handle data.

In the interest of transparent, open and honest communication, here are our answers to common questions concerning client data.

What are BFO’s Policies Related to Client Data?

We pledge this to all our clients:

If at some point, you decide to move on from BFO, we’ll do what we can to support you in the transition. This includes making sure you have access to all of your data. This includes transitioning any accounts or publisher relationships that we’re able to transfer.

Our process to guarantee client data ownership begins at onboarding. We set up ownership and access to all accounts so that the client owns and has access to all the data. 100% transparency is our pledge.

We understand agency transitions happen. Clients move agencies and client contacts change, often bringing with them their preferred vendors. Churn happens. Sometimes agencies mess up. Sometimes budgets change or personalities don’t match. We get it. Change happens.

We’re also proud that many of our client relationships are going on five-plus years. And what makes us proud is that clients stay because they like the results we bring them. No client “sticks-around” because they “can’t move.”

Will We Retain Ownership of Publisher Accounts if We Leave BFO?

Yes. Like any account with data, we set-up all client publisher accounts so that the client is always in control. We can transition your previous accounts from your in-house team or previous agency and will ensure you have access to the accounts if you move on from BFO.

Are There Any Exceptions?

There could be, and it’s important to be transparent about that upfront. As a part of our approach to technology, we license best-in-class marketing technology tools for paid media management, programmatic ad buying, and SEO rank tracking.

We do this for a couple of reasons:

  • There are so many Martech tools available – it does not make sense for us to build our own (See our article in Clutch about the Pitfalls of Proprietary Technology)
  • These tools are needed to run the campaigns, track, monitor or otherwise get the results our clients hire us to get.
  • As an agency, we get access to these tools at a special rate. This gives our clients access to leading technologies at a fraction of the cost.

In some cases – and here’s the exception, we have agency accounts with specific vendors that have some third-party limitations regarding what kind of data can be exported or agency level accounts that can’t be shared for an individual client. This is the case with some SEO tracking platforms we’ve used, although there is usually a workaround, we can transfer accounts or, at a minimum, export all data.

In instances like this, our approach is simple. We will tell the client upfront, as soon as we know we may need to use one of these technologies. We will export all the data we can but, in some cases, we cannot give an agency-licensed account to a direct client.

Our values state that we will do what’s right for our clients and our employees. For clients, we realize that not all agency relationships will last forever. As the client partner, it’s our job to do what’s right, which means –

  • Onboarding in such a way that you, our client, own your data; and,
  • Being completely transparent with any tools that present an exception.

We believe this is the right thing to do. We simply don’t believe in creating “stickiness” tricks. Here’s an example of a few of those…

Common Agency & Martech “Stickiness” Tricks

There are two tricks used to keep clients:

  • Proprietary technology. The data in these tools often belongs to the agency or technology company who built the tools. This is why we often caution against working with anyone who has proprietary technology tools.
  • Non-redundant tracking. We’ve seen too many instances where platforms are used that rely solely on platform-specific conversion tracking or publisher pixels. This data is unique to the platform from which it originates, meaning if you leave the group using it, you’re effectively starting over from scratch. We also caution against tools like these.

We don’t believe in either of these tactics. Your data is yours. We recommend as you evaluate potential agency partners you guarantee you own your data, and that neither of these types of technology is being proposed.

13 Questions to Ask Prospective Agency Partners

We encourage our prospective clients to ask us questions on every potential aspect of how we do things, especially in the world of how we will handle your data. Here’s a list of questions we recommend you ask us (and every other agency you’re interviewing) to ensure transparency regarding data integrity and data ownership.

  1. Who will own our data?
  2. Who will own access to the platforms we will use? Who owns the platform accounts?
  3. What is the relationship between the platforms?
    (Here’s an example of why this question is so important…getting an export of your website to then place and build in a new Content Management System (CMS) platform is akin to hijacking your full website!)
  4. Did you prepare for GDPR? What did you put in place to deal with GDPR?
  5. How does your agency handle and share passwords? Do you employ master logins or individual logins?
  6. What is your process for securing data as you off-board clients?
  7. Have you or any of your platforms ever had any data breaches?
  8. How do you keep shared data private and secure?
  9. Does your agency accept customer data over email?
  10. How do you ensure that Personally Identifiable Information (PII) isn’t collected into Google Analytics?
  11. How do you keep your privacy policy compliant with all your marketing pixels for different platforms you use?
  12. Do you use application program interface (API) integrations? What API integrations do you have in place?
  13. What percentage of your data is available via API?

Your Data is a Treasure – Look for Partners Who Will Help Keep It Safe!

Your data is the light that guides your marketing investment. It tells you about your audience. It can be the difference between hitting company business goals and not.

In the world of digital marketing, data is gold. As with any treasure, you want to maintain ownership and keep it safe. When looking for a new agency partner, we recommend choosing one who’s committed to working with you in this effort.

Dan Golden - Co-Founder and Chief Search Artist

Dan Golden

Dan Golden is a veteran digital marketing executive & speaker. He liked to predict the future of digital marketing and is damn good at it. Beyond trendspotting, he has an insatiable desire to know what works and that means spending time auditing accounts, testing tactics, and diving into analytics. Dan is also a Forbes and HuffPost contributor, as well as a Lecturer at Northwestern University and DePaul University.