Burned by a marketing agency? 5 red flags to avoid so you can jump back in.

We work with several clients who came to us with a similar story; their previous digital marketing agency either could or would not live up to what they had promised to deliver. Sometimes agencies overpromise or fail to properly understand the client’s business, needs and competition.

Unfortunately, more often than many in the industry would like to admit, some agencies are simply dishonest.

Regardless, many have been scarred enough by the experience to hesitate before jumping back into digital marketing. So I’ve put together some advice that will help you avoid another bad experience, or evaluate your current provider.


Here are 5 warning signs that an agency isn’t going to provide you with the right kind of service:

1. They want to own everything, from your data and logins through to your domain and analytics.

One of the biggest red flags that an agency is trying to trap you is when they try to take full control of your various logins and data. Many companies want to hand everything over to let the agency get on with it, but this can put you in a truly dangerous scenario if things turn sour. You run the risk of your accounts or data being held hostage…something that can take years to resolve.

2. They Guarantee instant results. “You’ll be #1 for all of your services in a week!”

Good agencies will be very unlikely to include this kind of promise as part of their pitch, and as it’s something they can’t honestly guarantee they’ll achieve, and your new working relationship will then be tainted by what is essentially a lie.

Unfortunately, the more immoral agencies out there will play the game to hit those targets. They might hit page one….but it might be for a keyword that lacks relevance and drives no traffic. Regardless, the only thing you’ll be sure of at the end of the contract is that you’ve spent your budget and have no real results to show for it.

3. They want to tell their story, not yours

Another tell-tale sign of an agency that isn’t hitting the mark is that their reporting focuses on what they’ve done and their wins while avoiding the bigger picture of how their work has impacted your business. You get double points if they never talk about what went wrong, what didn’t work or what they learnt from those errors, information that can often be as valuable as a win itself.

4. The conversation isn’t focused around what they can do to help, but how much they cost and when you need to pay.

It’s always important to be aware of how an agency pitches to you, as it’s often a great way of getting some insight into how they’ll operate. You don’t want someone who’s only focus is on their costs and previous achievements.

You want to look for an agency you can build a relationship with because they want to understand you and your business.

5. They lack transparency

One of the failings of some digital marketing agencies is their hesitance to say when something isn’t working. Why? Ultimately, they don’t want to lose you as their client, understandable but far from ideal for you.
So, it’s key to look for an agency you trust, and more importantly, one that is going to stick with you through thick and thin. If something isn’t working, not only should they tell you, but they should be presenting a solution. 


What next?

So maybe your current agency shows some of those warning signs, or you left your previous provider as a result of issues caused by them, either way, our article “6 things you need before working with a digital agency” will give provide you with the tools to make sure your next experience is a better one.

Digital marketing is constantly changing and strategies that work one month might not work the next. However, good agencies will be honest with you about this and will work with you to develop new strategies based on what has AND what hasn’t worked.

About the author

Adam Draper

Adam Draper

Head of Marketing

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