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Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency: Pitfalls, Red Flags, and Deal Breakers

Jeremy Lopatin | December 31, 2019 | Digital Marketing

There are five major red flags that you should watch for before you sign on with a digital marketing company. No one of these is a deal breaker by itself, but each is sufficient reason for caution:

1. Too Slick:

Look out for gimmicks and “secret sauce.” Every agency will have their way of approaching a challenge—but that should be codified in a proven process they are eager to share with you, not wrapped in mystery or hidden behind vague assurances. The old adage applies: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

2. Too Cheap:

This is another situation where an old adage holds true: You get what you pay for. Good digital marketing relies on highly skilled individuals who’ve specialized in very specific niches. Hiring that talent is expensive. Your prospective digital marketing partner should be quoting prices reflecting that kind of investment in their team. They should also have a clear accountability system in place, one that justifies the expense and gives you the information you need to evaluate if you’re seeing a solid return on your investment.

3. They Don’t Specialize:

Yes, you can use a butter knife to get lots of jobs done: It can be a screwdriver, a pry bar, a shim, an ice-scraper, a caulk spreader, a putty spatula, or maybe even a key for cheap locks. But no one goes out to buy a butter knife when what they need is a screwdriver. Agencies are no different. Your business has specific digital marketing needs; any company you’re considering should specialize in those, and have a track record of successful projects and happy clients they can refer you to. 

4. Poor Communication:

This is marketing—the entire job is about communication! There’s no excuse for an agency to be bad at communicating with people. Also, as a rule, companies are like suitors: If they are lax about communication during the “courtship” phase, they aren’t going to become magically attentive once they have your money in hand.

5. Poor Cultural Fit:

Your business is built on your values; your digital marketing agency should share those. For example, at Climb Marketing we pride ourselves on being compassionate and supportive partners. We deeply identify with our clients; our success can only exist as an offshoot of their success. That makes us a great fit for organizations who are likewise invested in seeing their clients flourish. But not all industries work that way. Some companies thrive on a highly transactional model in a high-volume, cut-throat market. We aren’t going to be the digital marketing agency for them.

How to Hire Your Digital Marketing Agency

The surest way to avoid the pitfalls of hiring a digital marketing agency is to start your search on the right foot. Putting out an RFP or searching the web is not a good recipe for the best experience. You’ll get better results by relying on your industry network: Talk to your peers and other service providers who you respect. Who helped them? Who do they respect? Then talk to those agencies, the ones who’ve solved problems for your friends and colleagues. In all likelihood, you’re going to find that’s the agency for you.

To help you better vet prospective agencies, we’ve listed six questions you should be asking any prospective digital marketing agency in order to determine if they’re the right partner for you.

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