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How to Evaluate a Digital Marketing Agency: Sales Reservations, Red Flags, and Questions to Ask

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a sales pitch then you already what we’re about to say – it’s not a warm and fuzzy feeling.

The fact is, knowing that you’re actively being sold something can often bring along a cheap, grimy feeling. It’s nearly anxiety-inducing. You can sense the other person buttering you up in hopes of you letting your guard down so they can get their hands right into your wallet. They’re looking to intrigue, entice, and make you think that you just have to have what they’re offering. But the problem is that this alone is a huge reason why many people have reservations about working with a digital marketing agency.

Everyone in the modern business world should understand that nobody wants to be sold to. And this is because as humans we operate primarily from the foundation of trust. We build our close personal relationships off of trust and loyalty, and these same principles apply when we enter into business relationships.

Working with a digital marketing agency is a huge partnership to enter into. But how can you know you’re entering into a good partnership? What questions should you ask of yourself and of the marketing agency you’re vetting? Are there any red flags to look out for? And how do you know which company is the right fit for you?

In this guide, we’ve compiled a list of the questions you should ask when looking to be more competitive and take your business to the next level.

Are you curious about how digital marketing can take your business to the next level? Contact Beacon Media + Marketing today and ask about the process.

What Types of Reservations Do Business Have When Choosing a Marketing Company?

6 Common Reservations About Working with a Digital Agency

Marketing is a huge partnership. And it could easily be argued that it’s one of the biggest and most important business relationships you can enter into. As such, you should take things slow, find out everything you can about your chosen marketing company up front, and if all signs look good – ease into the relationship slowly.

When it comes to reservations about working with a marketing company, the biggest obstacle that occurs is an overall lack of trust. This is common because trust is foundational and it takes time to build. As such, you should be skeptical, and you have every right to look at a digital marketing company with wary eyes, to ask questions and get answers.

A few additional reasons why a business owner may have reservations about working with a marketing company include:

  • You don’t know much about the digital marketing process
  • You don’t know what questions to ask
  • You have a hard time letting go and allowing someone else to take your business to the next level

This short list is only the tip of the spear. The fact is you might have a plethora of reservations of working with a digital marketing company.

A Poor Previous Experience

You may have worked with an agency before but saw no results. In fact, you may even think that you got burned, or even that you were robbed. This is a common reaction when you pay for something and you aren’t given the results (or deliverables) you’d been assured you’d get. You may even think that all digital marketing agencies are the same, and you may be worried that you’d be making another mistake.

We’re here to tell you, not all digital marketing agencies are the same. And this is why it’s crucial that you enter the process slowly and well-informed.

No Understanding of the Process

People who’ve never worked with an agency before may have no idea what to expect – or they might have misconceptions. And this can be a huge reservation when embarking on a business partnership. When you don’t understand how something works, it’s easy to doubt whether it works at all.

It’s important to remember just as you’re the expert in your industry and you know your business best, a digital marketing agency has the highest expertise in how to build your online presence and make the biggest impact with your target audience.

With the right digital marketing company, you’ll be guided through the process every step of the way. You’ll never be left in the dark, and you should always be encouraged to ask questions.

Difficulties Letting Go

Businesses are children to their owners. And rightfully so. You’re the one who’s envisioned, nurtured, and built your business from the ground up. It’s natural to be scared that someone else will misrepresent your brand if you give them creative control in certain areas.

However, remember that your marketing agency is your partner. By entrusting your marketing with the experts, you’ll have the time and capacity to focus on the most important aspects of your business – while experiencing all the benefits and growth that come with a solid marketing plan.

And just because you work with a marketing agency doesn’t mean you need to completely give up the reins. You can still give suggestions, share your vision, and ask plenty of questions. And a great marketing company will communicate well and ensure you’re never surprised. From quarterly reports to regular meetings, your marketing company should keep you in the loop.

No Clue About Budget

If you’ve never worked with an agency before, you may not fully understand the cost of services or deliverables – especially if you’ve been doing everything yourself when it comes to marketing. But you have every right to know exactly where your money is going and why the costs are set.

Understanding industry standards is the beginning of understanding how digital marketing operates, what it can offer, and why the pricing is set the way it is. And a competent and trustworthy digital marketing agency will inform you of this and ensure you fully understand what you can expect to pay before moving forward on any project.

Limited Knowledge About Tools or Language

The more you feel that you don’t know something, the more uncomfortable you’re going to get. And this is why one of the biggest reservations of working with a digital marketing agency regards the tools and specific language we use.

Let’s face it, when you get a lot of acronyms thrown at you all at once, it can be overwhelming and perhaps even a bit intimidating. Because not many people outside of the digital marketing space know what SEO, PPC, CMS, SEM, or even KPI means. In addition, you may have never heard of WordPress, SEO Surfer, Ahrefs, or SEM Rush – and these are all essential tools that are used in the digital marketing world.

The good news is you don’t need to know everything there is about marketing to see results. While it could be helpful to brush up on some of the basics, your marketing company should be willing to take the time to explain its strategies, share its results, and discuss its reasoning.

Struggling to Connect in the Sales Process

Here at Beacon, we believe there is a marketing partner for everyone. We’ll be the first to admit that we’re not the right partner for everyone and that it’s vital for both parties involved to make sure the match is just right. Maybe you’ve found a marketing agency that looks great on paper, has amazing case studies, and all the rest, but you can’t seem to meet eye to eye.

What worked for another company might not be what you need. Maybe you need a marketing agency that’s more responsive and willing to explain their process to you. Or maybe you need a company that can completely take the reins and get results with as little involvement from you as possible. And remember that relationships matter when it comes to partnerships. Ultimately, you need a partner you can trust and enjoy working with.

13 Red Flags to Look Out for When Choosing a Marketing Agency

Wouldn’t it be nice if ALL of life came along with red flags placed in the right places just so you could avoid danger? Well, fortunately, they do exist. You just have to know where to look. And one of the great things about a poorly run marketing agency is that they’re pretty easy to spot if you know what to look for.

A few reds (and yellow) flags to keep an eye out for include:

  • No SSL certification on their website
  • No photos of the team
  • No Glassdoor reviews
  • No Google reviews
  • Yellow flag: No work on the website that is similar to your industry – indicating they may have to learn your industry
  • Yellow flag: If the forms you fill out have low UX this could indicate poor management
  • The website lacks proper grammar, includes template/cookie-cutter examples, is not customized
  • No case studies (need to see some evidence of an agencies work)
  • Companies that claim to specialize in everything
  • Lack of contract or terms
  • Very long contract/ locking you in (Anything more than 1 year is suspect)
  • Promising instant results (if you get instant results no need for a contract)
  • High-pressure sales tactics – a good agency won’t need to push you into their services

Though these red flags may be evident up front, there still exists a small caveat – you won’t know if an agency doesn’t deliver until you’re in the relationship. And this may be evident right up front as well. But entering into the relationship is the only way you’ll know if the partnership is going to work.

Questions to Ask a Digital Marketing Agency Before Hiring Them

The best part about hiring a digital marketing agency is that you’re in control. You have the power to turn over every rock before you ever sign a contract or shake a hand. And you should leave no stone unturned when it comes to handing over any element of control of your business to a partner.

What’s Your Project Management System?

If you ask this question and a marketing agency doesn’t have a project management system, this is a big problem. In today’s world, there’s just no way you can handle digital projects with a whiteboard and a handful of post-it notes.

The type of project management system an agency uses is critical to understanding how they operate as a business. So, it’s best to do your homework in this area.

What is Your Communication Cadence?

How often an agency communicates with each other internally and with you as a client is extremely important. Without an agreed-upon communication cadence, you’re going to be left in the dark when you want answers. And this is never a good way to operate in a business partnership.

In today’s business world, you simply have to have a robust communication system and a regular communication cadence if you hope to meet goals and be successful.

How is Reporting Delivered?

More importantly, ask how you’ll get your reporting – and what is to be included. Here at Beacon, we give customized reporting where our clients can access critical marketing data at any time from a convenient dashboard. And this is beneficial in so many ways.

The bottom line is, this is your data. And you’re going to use it to help make decisions. If you’re unable to decipher your reporting, or if you’re given access to reporting seldomly, then you may want to revisit your marketing partnership and set greater expectations.

Why Are Deliverables and Services Priced Accordingly?

Ask about pricing and why. You have every right to know why you’re spending thousands of dollars on marketing. And if an agency can’t give you specific details on why prices are set accordingly, they need to at least give a qualifier on pricing before you consider moving forward with them.

Who’s Doing the Work, and What is Their Experience?

Wouldn’t you like to know if the person handling your content marketing is at least competent at their job? You should, and you have every right to. Let’s face it, the last thing you’re going to want is for a team with little to no experience handling your account.

Ask about references, education, past work, and reputation. And if you’re not happy with the answers, you can move on.

Why Have Past Clients Left?

Past clients hold troves of information for anyone looking to vet a digital marketing agency. And this is why checking out Glassdoor and Google reviews is critical to understanding how an agency operates.

In addition, a trustworthy agency will be open and honest about why clients have left in the past no matter the reason. And you could also ask follow-up questions to get even more clarity such as:

  • Was there an internal fix that was required?
  • Who are your most successful clients and why?
  • Who is not a good fit for you?

Is There a Guarantee?

We all love guarantees. And though not all agencies give a guarantee, some do. And if they do, this needs to be specific.

Chances are if a digital marketing agency is offering a guarantee, they’re likely operating at a very high level and are confident in their abilities to deliver.

Can I Interview My Account Manager Ahead of Time?

This question may be one of the most important. After all, your account manager will be your point of contact during your entire partnership. And wouldn’t you want to know the person handling your account a little bit better before agreeing to work with them?

In this case, ask to interview your account manager to see if you’re a good fit for one another.

How Involved Can I Be in the Process?

You may be accustomed to doing everything on your own. And this may make it hard to let go completely and allow someone else to take control of your brand. But many agencies will happily accept your input, whereas other agencies prefer to have full control.

Be clear and upfront with how involved you’re wanting to be in the process and choose an agency that can accommodate you.

What is the Onboarding Process and When Can I Expect Results?

Onboarding processes vary among agencies. The timing of deliverables will vary as well. But you should have a full picture going in on how quickly you’ll be able to get your program channels up and running, as well as a prospective timeline on when you can expect to see results from the partnership.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Any Question

It’s often said that there’s no such thing as a stupid question except for the questions that you don’t ask. And you have every right to enter into any partnership knowing exactly where you stand. Once again, it comes down to understanding that not all agencies are a good fit for a client, and not all clients are a good fit for some agencies.

Here at Beacon, transparency is one of our core values. Our best clients give total control, and we get to work.

Other clients have very specific directions on what they want, and these clients are great to work with as well. It’s only when clients can’t relinquish control and everything tends to be micromanaged by the client that problems tend to arise.

At the end of the day, be honest about what you don’t know. Ask as many questions as possible. And pay attention to your experience with an agency right from the beginning.

How quickly did they get back to you? Was it an easy process? Is their website UX-friendly? Does the tone of the website match or connect to how their business operates? Is their team operating locally or based outside of the U.S.?

Base how an agency operates on your first impression – both digitally and personally. If you can’t navigate the website, the company may be hard to navigate as well. And if you had a bad experience over the phone or on a Zoom call, chances are your experience going forward may not be in your best interests.

What’s it Like Partnering With Beacon Media + Marketing?

At Beacon Media + Marketing, we’re not afraid to tell you if we feel we’re not a good match. Though we would love to work with every client who contacts us, we know that we simply can’t make everyone happy. And we’re well aware that some clients would do better with another agency that can cater directly to their needs.

In the digital marketing space, we understand that some clients have fears of the unknown. Some potential clients have been burnt in the past and come into a partnership in full guard. Our job is to vet you just like you’re going to vet us.

Here at Beacon, you can trust that our team of creative professionals will work diligently to get you the results that you’re looking for.

Are you ready to leverage digital marketing and make your business more competitive? Reach out to Beacon Media + Marketing today to learn how we can help.

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