467229351_(1)Hiring a new inbound agency to handle your website redesign or marketing campaign can seem overwhelming at first.

Do you want to work with a big or small agency? Should you look for an agency that specializes in your industry? Should you work with a local company or will an agency across country suffice?

Once you’ve narrowed down the list to a few potential agencies, how do you know which one is for you?

As you vet your options, be sure to look out for these 5 red flags.

1) Limited Reporting and Analytics (or None at All)

Analyzing the results of each action is a crucial part of determining the effectiveness of your marketing campaign.

You want an agency that does analytics and reporting for you on a regular basis, so you can stay up to date with campaign performance.

This reporting shouldn’t just be fluff numbers like “website visits,” they should tell the story of how your marketing campaign is working and bringing your business leads and revenue.

Ask for some past results from their other clients. Yes, these results are likely held in the strictest confidence, but an agency should be able to quantify results in a non-specific way.

At the very least, they can show you what reports looks like, or demonstrate how they communicate results.

A company that can’t give you past clients results probably isn’t measuring results at all -- a huge red flag.

2) Use Excessive Jargon

The marketing industry is full of nuances and buzzwords that can mean nothing without an explanation. You don’t want to end up with an agency that takes a “smoke and mirrors” approach to explaining things.

Your inbound marketing agency shouldn’t throw phrases at you and expect you to have a dictionary or translator handy. They should be your translator.

A good agency is willing and able to teach you along the way so you can contribute blog posts or ideas.  They’ll notice when you blankly nod your head, then they’ll stop and better explain a concept.

Be wary of agencies that are reluctant to explain things in plain English.

3) Lack of Transparency

A quality inbound agency sees your company as a partner and doesn’t keep secrets.

You should be constantly kept in the loop of what, how, and who is working on your website or campaign. No inbound agency should have a “secret sauce” that boils down to withholding information.

Ask questions to determine if the agency will be transparent. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  1. Who is involved with a project and are they certified in inbound marketing?
  2. What steps are taken to create campaign actions and can you provide feedback along the way?
  3. How will a project or campaign be billed and what extra costs can apply?

If a potential company dodges a question or floats over it with a generalized answer, press for more information. Non-response can be a red flag that issues may rise to the surface after the relationship begins.

4) Poor Project Management

Before hiring a new inbound marketing agency, ask who within the agency will be managing your project or campaign. Is the account manager working on your marketing campaign, or is she just the middleman that doesn’t know anything about inbound marketing?

An account manager should not be the company secretary who distributes information as it’s handed to him or her. The person in charge of your website or marketing campaign should actually understand your industry, timeline, budget, and be able to talk you through the nitty gritty details.

5) The Agency Doesn’t Have A Blog

An agency that practices inbound marketing must understand the necessity of a blog. Do some digging before contacting a potential inbound agency to see what their blog looks like and what kind of blog posts they put out. Are their blog posts informative to you? Do they write about the very problems that you’re trying to solve by hiring an agency?

If they have no blog or fill their blog with their own press releases, news articles, and awards, they really don’t get inbound marketing. It’s hard to trust the advice of an agency that doesn’t practice what they preach.

Takeaway: Ask Questions!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! You need to be completely comfortable with what the agency will be doing, the people that will work with you, and the results that you’re likely to achieve.

While this is not an all encompassing list, these 5 red flags should help you create your short list and give you a basis for making a solid decision.

What other red flags have you encountered as you’ve talked to agencies? What characteristics of an agency are non-negotiable to you?

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Originally published Jul 28, 2014 2:00:00 PM, updated October 20 2016