For 10 years I have seen businesses thrive and businesses die from what they do online and a lot of it comes down to the online marketing company they hired.

Here’s what you should watch out for when hiring an online marketing agency. I hope this guide will help you because the odds are not in your favor.

But first, a small disclaimer. There are such things as bad products and services. Even though a marketing company does everything right, not all products and services are equal.

Also…

A good online marketing company is not going to save a tanking business. If you have internal issues or no budget, an online marketing company is not going to save you. It doesn’t work that way.

There are always exceptions but this guide is going to point you in the right direction.

But first, let’s answer this question.

Why hire an online marketing company in the first place?

There are a lot of reasons:

  • Leads
  • More customers
  • Build trust with future clients
  • Increase sales
  • Increase traffic
  • Build influence
  • etc..

Does all of this happen overnight? No, it does not. Online marketing is extremely competitive and takes time, money, expertise, and patience.

Whether big or small, all companies need to have an online presence. If someone is going to buy your product or service they need to be able to look into your company and see some type of online presence.

We created a simple lead gen campaign for a body sculpting company. We were able to generate leads and free consultations at an excellent price, but there was one problem: our leads were setting up consultations and not showing up. Why were we losing them?

Because we were just doing a lead gen campaign. There was no nurturing campaigns, no remarketing, no followup, and no case studies. The company needed a full marketing campaign.

It builds trust.

Once you have established the fact that you do need to be online, the next question is…

Do you hire an in-house marketing team or do you hire an outside agency?

Hiring an in-house agency is a really good choice if you yourself know enough about online marketing. That way, you can manage a team and track the numbers.

But this is usually not the case.

What I have seen companies do is hire interns or hire a low wage employee that does not know what they are doing.

It’s not fair for new hires but they are expected to learn about online marketing and run a successful campaign without ever learning the basics.

You may have done this already.

We love competing against these types of companies. By the time the new hires learn enough to be dangerous, they have moved onto another company. Or they abandon their plans too quickly because they get pressure from above.

Plus, most of the hires just want a paycheck. Their performance is not tracked because nobody knows what they should be tracking.

If you want to compete you need to have good players.

A larger established business is in a little different situation. They can afford to hire the best. Bringing everything in-house could be a good solution. They’re the best suited to hire a full online marketing team and pay for their expertise.

Some of the most successful campaigns have come from in-house marketing teams being directed by a legit online marketer.

Doing this may not be in your budget. A team could cost hundreds of thousands a year, if not millions.

Big companies may find it to be more beneficial to hire an outside agency to train and run your campaigns.

At least until the in-house team gets caught up to speed.

Which brings us back to the start.

What things should you look out for when hiring a digital marketing agency?

Let’s get started.

The 5 Online Marketing Agencies to Watch Out For

1. Fooled By The Lowest Price And Size Of Company. (DexYP, network solutions, yellow pages, radio stations, etc.)

These agencies are a dime a dozen. They pitch a $300+ a month package to get you to page one of Google. The salesman’s job is to get you to pay as much as possible and stick you in a long-term contract. I have seen some of these contracts go as high as $9,000 a month.

A lot of dentists, plumbers, HVAC companies, and small local businesses get pulled into these contracts.

You may be in one now.

The price is attractive, but don’t be fooled.

Companies like DexYP, Dex Media, Network Solutions, YP are the exact opposite of what you want.

Think about it…

Who do they hire to manage your account? How many clients does that new hire take on?

My first hire was a young college kid that turned out to be a rock star. She loved online marketing. After 2 years she moved away and was hired by a company called Fusion.

She called me to ask a couple of questions about a client. I asked her, “How many clients are you handling?”

89 was the answer.

She said it was a total mess and she felt bad. But it was her job to try and keep them on as long as possible.

How can any one person handle 89 clients? Online marketing takes time and expertise. If your account is only getting 2 hours a month you will never make progress.

Here’s how these companies do it.

They have a client relationship manager (title may be different) that is in charge of talking with the client. Their job is to do everything possible to keep the client on board. If you go to cancel they will remind you that you have a contract that cannot be broken.

There will be a couple of weeks where they focus on your account until the next person complains.

When something on the campaign needs to be changed they will have the PPC person make the change. Who is that guy?

You don’t know. And you have no idea how many clients or accounts he is managing. It’s a terrible system.

Every marketing campaign requires quality time.

I think you can see the problem.

Better yet, just go read the reviews of these companies. Minus out the fake reviews and you should get a good idea of who you are hiring.

Just a word of caution on bad reviews. A few bad reviews are not a problem. Online marketing does not have a 100% success rate. 60% of businesses are going to succeed which leaves 40% disgruntled businesses.

So bad reviews happen.

The warning signs should go off when you see a consistency of bad reviews and mad businesses on complaint boards.

Run!

Paying the least amount possible is a great idea. I am all about bargain shopping, but you have to pay to play.

No legit marketing company is going to do what is necessary for $500 a month.

Stay away.

2. Fooled By The Lack Of Transparency. (Mystery Agency Where Everything Is Hidden And Secret)

Lack of transparency is one of my biggest issues with Online Marketing Agencies and it should be a big concern of yours.

You should have access to all the numbers and accounts behind your business. There should be a total transparency. If you want to see it, they should show it.

Why wouldn’t they?

Because…

Most do not want you to see how much money is actually going into their pocket vs how much is being spent on ads.

They will also try to hold you hostage, if you leave them.

Any marketing company that really cares about transparency gives clients full access to all accounts. It’s your business and you are paying money.

A word of warning. Don’t let these marketing agencies put your assets in their name and make sure they drive traffic to your website not some landing page that they create.

I am amazed at how many businesses turn over their domain names, website, Google Ads, and channels over to these agencies.

If you try to leave them, you will have a hard time getting everything back.

3. Fooled By Shiny Objects And Promises

Getting on page one of Google is not easy. Optimizing a Google ad campaign is hard. Creating quality content that people love takes a lot of time.

With online marketing…nothing is guaranteed and everything is a battle.

Marketing agencies that make crazy promises about how successful your online marketing campaign will be should be avoided.

How long does a good SEO campaign take? 6 Months to 2 years is a good time frame.

How long does it take to optimize a PPC campaign? Months.

There are exceptions. I don’t want to scare you away from Online Marketing. You can get customers quickly through ads.

Some businesses just need a few simple adjustments to start generating traffic and sales. Others need a full overhaul of everything.

Just depends.

Case in point.

A couple months back we took on a plumbing business. They had 3 different websites being run by 3 different marketing people.

One of the agencies (it’s a popular one) took their original website and placed it on their platform. They had years worth of awesome content that ended up being duplicated on a different website.

It was a total mess.

The 3rd agency was running their PPC campaign which was using another website for PPC. This agency didn’t even find out we switched the website for 3 months.

Meaning…

The account had not been checked in 3 months.

Don’t be fooled.

4. Fooled By The Agency That Doesn’t Practice What They Preach

This has to be one of the number one things to consider when hiring an agency. Do they themselves have a good online marketing campaign?

Do they have a good blog? Do they have a followup email sequence in place? Are they running ads? Do they eat their own dog food?

We have a couple of online marketing companies in my town that create sales through cold calling. They have no idea how to generate leads online. So they cold call the business and sell them on their online marketing packages.

Do you see the problem?

If an agency had a junky website and a terrible social media campaign, what makes you think they can do better with yours?

Why hire an agency for SEO help if that agency doesn’t seem to have their own SEO figured out?

If that agency cannot even get themselves positioning for their own organic phrases, then do you really think they’re going to be able to help you do so?

Be careful. Do a simple check and see what the online marketing agency is doing for themselves.

5. Fooled by Family, Friends, And Buddies

We have all heard this one.

The family’s neighborhood friend learned some coding and they are now in control of your digital marketing campaign.

I was in meeting with some attorneys last month that said this…

“My father-in-law likes to build websites and we have been waiting for him to build ours.”

Building a site and marketing a website go hand in hand. Once your family or friend builds your website then what?

One of the worst episodes I have seen was a couple of years back when I presented to a company that had their friend running their marketing.

He was charging them $15,000 a month and not doing the work. How did we know this?

The PPC account, emails, and campaigns had not been touched in weeks. The “friend” had been enjoying a monthly income without doing much work.

It’s good to hire family, friends or neighbors as long as they do marketing for a living.

Watch out!

Here are some of the questions you should ask when hiring a digital marketing agency.

  1. Do you have case studies?
  2. Do you have digital marketing for your own company?
  3. Do you track everything in Analytics?
  4. What failures have you experienced and why did the campaigns fail?
  5. Do I have full access to all accounts?
  6. Do I own the accounts when I quit using you?
  7. Do you use Google Webmaster Tools and follow their guidelines?
  8. How long will it take to see results? (run if they say a couple weeks).
  9. Will I be able to see actual spend within AdWords?
  10. How do you measure ROI?
  11. Do you take my calls and are you available when I need you?

Start there.

I hope this helps. Just be careful because digital marketing is war and you want to have the best. Don’t go into battle with mediocre. It’s not worth it and you will lose a lot of time and money.

Time that you cannot get back and money that could have been spent the right way.

Not all digital marketing campaigns are going to be successful. The key is, to hire a company that gives you the best chance to win.

5 Warning Signs To Watch Out For When Hiring An Online Marketing Agency – Don’t Be Fooled By Digital Marketing Agencies.
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