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5 Red Flags to Watch for When Hiring a Marketing Agency

For a lot of companies, marketing is a mystery; it looks complicated, time consuming, and expensive. However, outsourcing this service to an agency can be equally daunting. While there are numerous positive points to consider before hiring an agency, there are few red flags that can pop up that should make you take pause before partnering up.

1) Lofty promises

Fast lead results, first page rankings, thousands of dollars in sales - if this is what an agency is pitching, slowly back out of the door.

There’s no magic formula; there’s no guarantees. Effective marketing and sustainable campaigns take time, patience, and research. And while marketing agencies pull from previous experience, the good ones will recognize that every business is different and what worked well for one, may not garner the same results for another.

Employ an agency that wants to take the time to get to know your business, and help you to identify different approaches using common sense-based research and processes rather than just blowing smoke.

2) Lack of transparency

Agencies who are unwilling to share data outside their own filtered systems are cause for alarm. So are the ones who claim that it’s all rainbows and sunshine.

Look for an agency that will provide you with direct access to your analytics and be straightforward with results, even if it isn’t great news. A successful relationship is built on being able to sit down and hash out what happened, what can be learned from the results, and what can be done next.

3) Poor communication

Forbes magazine tapped 13 industry insiders to share one red flag business owners should watch out for when searching for the right agency to work with. Answer number one - poor communication.

This is something that can be judged before ever meeting an agency executive. How quickly do they return your inquiry calls/emails? Do they listen or do they just talk at you? As the Forbes council member put it, “If the agency fails to communicate early on, it will be a disaster going forward.”

They should also be able to explain their services and benefits, regardless of if you understand marketing industry jargon and buzzwords. A good agency won’t try to dazzle you with fancy footwork; they will put their pitches into language you can understand. If they can’t clearly state what they are doing for you and why, you should sidestep them.

4) You just don’t jive

Even if an agency has a stellar reputation and appears to have all the right answers, if you’re not excited to work with them or just don’t feel they’re the right fit for you - even without concrete reasons - walk away. The agency you hire needs to align with your business values and company culture to ensure a productive partnership.

5) They won't give you ownership of assets

This is a red flag if an agency won’t give you ownership of assets, whether that is access to online accounts or rights to your website.

This unfortunately happens all the time and is something we’ve experienced a lot when clients come to us after terminating the relationship with another agency. This can result in losing access to your website, domains, Google Analytics account, and more. As a contingency plan, it’s best practice to ensure someone internally has access to accounts and assets the agency puts together. And be sure to keep internal records of these in the event of employee turnover.