marketing agency

10 Signs a Marketing Agency Stinks

You know how you can’t judge a book by its cover? The worst marketing agency I ever heard of was hiding behind a very sleek façade.

This story still makes me shudder. An attorney had spent $30,000 in six months on a search engine optimization strategy that hadn’t moved his search ranking at all. When he found out he had been scammed – it was ugly. Never rip off an attorney – that’s all I have to say!

But luckily, there are red flags you can spot when a marketing agency stinks – and here are 10 of ‘em.

1. Outdated website

If there’s one industry out there that where spectacular websites should abound, it would be marketing. While I do not subscribe to the notion of perfection – it doesn’t exist – I do believe that you have to walk the walk, talk the talk, and look like you give a damn. An outdated website does none of those things – and it definitely does not instill confidence.

2. Old testimonials on their site

Positive testimonials send a loud and clear signal that yes, this marketing agency delivers. They don’t just talk the talk – they walk the walk. But if you don’t see new testimonials (from this year or last) on an agency’s website, it either means they don’t have any or can’t be bothered to collect them. Either way, that’s not a good sign.

3. Nonexistent portfolio of work

The proof is in the pudding, er, portfolio. If a marketing agency “hides” their work, gack! That’s probably the biggest red flag out there.

4. No success stories

Case studies and customer stories are testimonials on steroids. I definitely want to hear how an agency has helped other clients, and I would like to see some hard numbers to back it all up. After all, the whole point of marketing is to help businesses grow. If an agency has zero success stories, is it just taking the money and running?

5. Won’t provide references

There could be a few legit reasons here. An ex-employee could have pissed off some good clients. The agency could be working with high-profile clients or brands and therefore be operating under strict NDAs. Or the agency thinks their work should stand on their own.

However, as a small business owner with a limited marketing budget, I would not move forward with the agency if they don’t provide references. I’m always happy to provide them. But an agency who refuses might have lots of stuff to hide.

6. Insists on long-term commitments

I knew of a marketing agency that wouldn’t work with a client unless they signed a one-year commitment. Wowza! A lot can happen in one year, especially if you’re a small business. While it is in your best interest to commit to a marketing program or project for the long-term, things can change in an instant. Being legally obligated to pay for one year of service doesn’t sit right with me.

7. Pressures you to spend more

Pricing should be relatively straightforward and within your budget. Run if you start seeing hidden fees or are pressured to spend more or upgrade to services you don’t need. It’s a sign the marketing agency is more interested in making money than helping clients succeed.

8. Zero flexibility

As I’ve alluded to already, flexibility is key. If a marketing agency can’t work with your budget (and you’re being reasonable!) or meet you halfway, they are not the right agency for you.

9. Hard to find contact info on website

Um, hello? Doesn’t the marketing agency want you to get in touch?

10. Very slow to respond

Busy is good. But busy can quickly fall off the cliff into overwhelmed and unresponsive. You need to work with someone who is available and gets back to you within a decent amount of time.

What else serves as a warning sign for you?

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