11 little-known marketing agency red flags

21 Jul 2023

Digital marketing

Claire Crompton

Claire Crompton

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When searching for a digital marketing agency, you may have dozens of meetings, exchange hundreds of emails and scour through countless websites of local marketing agencies. Though you may know what you’re looking for in a digital marketing agency, have you considered the things you don’t want from your new partnership? If you’re a small business just starting out on your digital marketing journey, finding the right agency can be a little daunting.

At TAL Agency, we know the ins and outs of the industry, including what you want from an agency as well as the things you should definitely avoid. In this blog post, we discuss 11 marketing agency red flags that you should steer clear of. 

1. Unrealistic promises

If a marketing agency promises overnight success, sky-high ROI, or guaranteed top rankings on search engines, it’s a major red flag. Digital marketing is a complex and ever-changing field, and no agency can guarantee immediate results. Sure, they may deliver a top-notch campaign that sends you viral in the first week, but no agency should promise a viral hit time and time again, let alone promises they can’t keep. Reputable agencies set realistic expectations and focus on achievable, long-term growth through SEO, PPC and other effective digital marketing strategies.

2. Poor communication

business owner stressed out over poor communication with marketing agency

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful business relationship. If an agency takes too long to respond to your queries, fails to provide regular updates, or doesn’t seem interested in understanding your business goals, it’s a clear sign of potential issues ahead. Most marketing agencies will assign you a designated account manager who will provide you with regular updates and someone to direct all of your queries and questions to. Don’t settle for poor communication – a good marketing agency will be attentive and responsive to your needs. 

3. Poor client retention

One of the clearest marketing agency red flags is if they have little to no track record of long-lasting relationships with clients. If other businesses aren’t sticking around with an agency, why would you? Make sure to research the client satisfaction of the agency by reading online reviews or even speaking with existing or former clients. 

4. No focus on long-term strategy

Marketing success is rarely achieved through short-term tactics alone. A competent agency should emphasise the importance of developing a comprehensive, long-term marketing strategy tailored to your specific business needs. Beware of agencies that are overly focused on quick fixes without considering the broader picture – this is a blaring red flag.

Digital marketing agencies should offer a range of reliable growth strategies such as content marketing and organic social media management, which build trust and community with your target audience over time. Read more about this in our blog post, How does content marketing build trust?

5. Outdated SEO techniques

very old computer that uses outdated SEO practices

SEO is essential for growing any business, but the field is constantly changing and evolving. With regular Google updates and changes to best practices, SEO strategists are constantly adapting their approaches in order to stay ahead of the game. Ask a digital marketing agency how they carry out their SEO and how they adjust to new updates. If they seem to uphold outdated SEO practices, it’s a massive red flag. For a good idea of how up-to-date an agency is with their SEO, take a look at their blog and social media for their input. 

Speaking of which, Google recently removed four ranking systems – which may seem like a cause for panic. But fear not, as we deep-dive into what this means for SEO in our article: Google drops 4 ranking systems – do I need to worry? (Hint: with the right SEO, you definitely don’t!).

Bonus red flag – they only offer one type of SEO

Don’t forget, there are multiple types of SEO that a good agency should offer, such as technical SEO, international SEO and local SEO. SEO is complex, so a marketing agency should be able to make recommendations on which SEO approaches will serve your company best. These can be combined or utilised separately, depending on your business and its goals. Discover how to use local SEO in your marketing strategy and other SEO tips in our blog.

6. No case studies

Case studies offer valuable insights into an agency’s capabilities and successes. If an agency hesitates or refuses to share relevant case studies or client success stories, it may indicate a lack of experience or a record of underperformance. A reputable agency should be proud to showcase past achievements and the positive impact they’ve had on their clients’ businesses. If a marketing agency can’t prove their success, it’s a pretty worrisome red flag.

7. Inadequate research

Marketing without a solid understanding of your target audience, industry, and competition is akin to shooting in the dark. An agency that doesn’t invest time in conducting thorough research to inform their strategies is a massive red flag and may end up wasting both your time and resources on poor results. 

Research is a key component of putting together a killer content marketing strategy, to name just one instance where an informed strategy is essential. Why not brush up on your expertise and find out why you need an organic social strategy?

8. Their own marketing is poor

Error 404 on a poorly made marketing agency website

How did you find out about this marketing agency? If they’re top of the SERPs and have a blog chock-full of amazing content then that’s great – they clearly know what they’re doing with their SEO! But if their website is outdated, their social media presence is lacking and their content is poorly written? You guessed it – that’s a red flag. A marketing agency should be a shining example of its own expertise. If you wouldn’t want their own marketing strategies applied to your business, then they’re probably not the agency for you.

9. Buzzwords

Buzzwords are vague terms that carry little meaning. They’re often used to make it *sound* like the agency knows what they’re talking about when they really don’t. Think terms such as ‘optimise’ – if this isn’t followed by clear data and a solid, achievable plan, don’t be fooled. A good marketing agency will break down their pitch in a way that’s understandable to you, rather than bombarding you with vague jargon that doesn’t actually make much sense. Don’t be afraid to ask an agency just how they plan to optimise your content, rather than just taking their word that they’ll deliver.

10. One-size-fits-all approach

Every business is unique. We know that, and you know it, too. That’s why a marketing agency that adopts a one-size-fits-all approach is one you should avoid. An agency that employs a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to yield the best results for your specific business goals and target audience. Opt for a marketing agency that will devise a tailored plan based on specific data and goals determined by where you’re at now, and where you want to be in the future.

11. Really low pricing

three USD notes on fire

Although cost is an important consideration when deciding on a digital marketing agency, extremely low pricing compared to other agencies might raise concerns about the quality of their services. Quality marketing requires skilled professionals, and agencies offering significantly lower rates may lack the expertise or resources needed to deliver impactful results. If a marketing agency offers rates that seem too good to be true, it’s usually a red flag. 

Ready to get started with a top-notch marketing agency that has all the green flags? Contact us today for a tailored digital marketing strategy from experienced marketers.

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