Shopping around for a marketing agency to hire? Save yourself some headaches by looking out for these red flags.

Too many times we’ve worked with clients who have severed ties with an agency they didn’t mesh with, who didn’t do quality work, or who wasted their time and money. We’ve noticed trends with these agencies and have compiled a list of the red flags to look for, in addition to asking the right questions.

6 red flags

1. Poor Communication

This is a major red flag and often the main catalyst for clients to swap agencies. You should never have to chase up an agency or feel like no one is responding to you or taking ownership. 

From the get-go, it should be clearly communicated what you can expect, rough timeframes, and who your point of contact is. Even little hints can indicate a bigger problem—like are they running late for a meeting but don’t call ahead to tell you? This shows they don’t value your time or prioritise open lines of communication. 

Poor reporting is another big red flag as an agency should be transparent with your results. If their reporting isn’t up to scratch, what are they hiding?

Noticing early on what their communication style is could save you a lot of wasted time and money later on.

marketing agency poor communication

2. Priced Too Cheaply

An agency that boasts super low rates can be attractive. The allure of saving so much money often reels clients in, but it ultimately isn’t worth it. We’ve seen it.

It’s like investing in a quality pair of shoes that will last you a lifetime, over having to replace a cheaper, poorly-made pair every year. What kind of shoe shopper are you?

If an agency is too cheap, it most likely means they’re cutting corners to get costs down. This might look like outsourcing much of the work or not dedicating substantial time and effort to every job. Choosing client volume over client retention might explain why they’re beating other agencies on price. 

quality triangle

You might already be familiar with the quality triangle. If the cost is so low, what are they sacrificing to get it there?

3. They Aren’t Marketed Well

Think about it: would you happily buy a new car from someone who drives an old bomb? It’s easier to trust an agency that markets themselves well, because that’s what you can expect, too.

Perhaps you came across the agency through a social media or search ad. If so, did the copy and creative appeal to you? If an agency has impressed you, that’s a great sign. Is it obvious whoever runs the SEO and organic social feeds know their stuff and are invested? Because they’re the team who would end up doing work for you. 

Do they have partnership status? Partnerships with Facebook, WooCommerce or other big trusted companies are often a good indicator that the agency is seen as qualified. According to Facebook: “Only companies that meet our highest standard for capability and performance earn the Facebook Marketing Partner badge, so you know they’re the best.”

4. Poor Client Retention

A great thumbs up for an agency is their clients return to them again and again. It means they’re doing something right. 

On the other hand, an agency that doesn’t get repeat business might speak to some issues. It can be tough to gauge client retention from afar, but here’s what you can see:

  • Check their socials, especially LinkedIn. Are there positive interactions or endorsements from clients?
  • Ask around. Does anyone in your industry or the marketing sector know this agency? And what’s their opinion?
  • Take a look at their Google and Clutch reviews to see if previous clients have said they’d work with them again or are still working with them.

5. Beware the Buzzwords

You should be able to understand their offering quickly. Be wary of agencies that promise the world or use terminology that’s designed to make you feel like you don’t know anything. 

Promising number one status on Google or referencing a “secret formula” to success are red flags because ultimately there is no failsafe approach to digital marketing.

Our personal pet hates when it comes to buzzwords include synergy, innovative, and bespoke. They’ve lost meaning and seem to only exist as a buzzword without adding any value to their offering. 

agency tunnel vision

6. Tunnel Vision

An agency that truly understands marketing knows your website needs to be consistent with your social media, that your copy and SEO are no less important than your SEA. A green tick agency looks at your digital marketing as a whole

Don’t mistake this for upselling. Considering every aspect of your marketing means they genuinely care about your business and know that consistency breeds trust, which builds loyal customers. 

If they only focus on your Google results or only focus on redoing your blogs, then they’re not interested in a whole of business approach and are more likely to just do a job and say, “see ya later”, rather than building a lasting relationship. 

Do any of these sound familiar? Are you keen to avoid them altogether? Looking for an agency that’s all about the green flags? We might be what you’re looking for. Get in touch