6 Signs to Avoid Getting Burned By Marketing Agencies

6 Signs to Avoid Getting Burned By Marketing Agencies

Many of our clients come to us having been burned by agencies in the past. 

This often leads businesses to believe that either marketing doesn’t work, or agencies don’t know what they’re doing; it’s an understandable stance to take when you’ve been let down by someone you trusted to do a job.

That’s why we’ve gathered these 6 red flag signs to look out for when talking with prospective marketing agencies. This will help you to separate the wheat from the chaff and avoid getting burned again.


1. The marketing agency doesn’t have case studies

We’re starting off with a big one. If a marketing agency can’t prove to you that they know what they’re doing with relevant and up-to-date case studies, you need to ask yourself why!  

A marketing agency that’s worth your time will openly talk about previous successes and will want to show that off (a good case study is marketing gold, after all – silly not to use it!). 

For example, we’re so confident in our processes, that we’ll even book in time for a prospective client to have a chat with our existing clients so that they can ask any questions they like.

It’s an extremely competitive market and you should be picky; if they can’t prove that what they do works, don’t waste your time. 

2. Their website lists them as a PR or design agency and they say they can do digital

There’s been a significant shift in marketing, which has meant that many older agencies have had to bolt on digital services in order to meet demands.

However, if one of these agencies says they can do digital marketing for you, that might be a red flag. Check their website for the broad spectrum of lead generation services that you might require from a digital marketing agency (content, SEO, design, development, PPC, social, etc.).

If there’s nothing on their website, and they’ve got no specialist employees focused on what you require, then no, they most likely can’t do digital, or they do it as an added extra, which really isn’t what you want. 

Digital marketing has been around long enough now that you should rely on real, experienced experts to do the job. 

3. They constantly reference vanity metrics

You should ask any prospective marketing agency how they measure success.

If their answer is not one that can be directly attributed to your growth objectives, then chances are, it’s a vanity metric. 

What are vanity metrics?

A vanity metric is something that many organisations across the world use in order to inflate their success.

For example, increasing traffic to a website is only beneficial if the website is converting; more social followers are only relevant if they are taking a relevant action.

Lots of visits and lots of followers look and sound impressive, but in reality, if they’re not converting, then what’s the point?

Marketing is there to create opportunities that help your business to grow. Talk to prospective agencies about what they will measure, what KPIs they’ll set and how they will directly impact your growth goals – no other statistics matter.

4. Their website is terrible

It stands to reason that if an agency’s website’s rubbish, then, chances are, they won’t do a good job on yours – makes sense.

However, bear in mind that your website is your brand’s online presence. If a potential agency can’t be bothered to maintain and update a good website, then they’re not backing themselves to do well!

We’re incredibly proud of our website. In fact, we relaunched our latest one in 2021, and have been continuously improving it. 

Marketing is an incredibly fluid industry; an agency that does not maintain their website is an agency who will find themselves behind the curve. If they’re behind the curve on their own marketing, then why would you want to trust them with yours? 

5. The agency doesn’t promise anything

If an agency beats around the bush and refuses to talk about the results you might expect from working with them, then you need to wonder why that is.

You want something concrete to aspire to! While we can’t guarantee results (we wish we could!), what we can do is increase the probability of success by forecasting based on previous clients’ successes, creating a reasonable estimate on what we might achieve by implementing the suggested plan.

No agency should promise the world, but they should be able to provide evidence-based forecasts on what to expect moving forwards, helping you to nail down exactly what success looks like to you.

6. They refuse to tell you their retention rate

Ongoing client retention is key in many industries. This is no different with marketing.

The agency that you’re talking to should happily let you know how many of their ongoing clients stay with them year-on-year.

If they’re unhappy to tell you, or flat out refuse, then they’re hiding something.

Good retention rates suggest that they’re forming strong relationships with their clients, are meeting and exceeding targets and really take pride in their work.

Now, clients come and go, that’s part of life as a marketing agency. It speaks volumes about the agency’s integrity if they take the time to talk to you about their retention rate, and how they’ve got where they are today, so don’t be afraid to ask!

How to choose a digital marketing agency

When choosing a digital marketing agency, you should establish exactly what successful growth looks like to you. From there, ask any prospective agency how they intend to tailor a strategy to meet your unique needs. No marketing is one-size-fits-all; in order to work, it needs to be bespoke to you.

At Catalyst, we work closely with our clients in order to deliver commercially focused digital marketing, based on data, not guesswork – proper, honest marketing.

We’ll treat your business’ marketing as if it were our own; consider us an extension of your team, either filling in gaps, or providing an end-to-end marketing solution.

Get in touch with our team today for an open chat about your needs, and how we will tailor a strategy to suit you.  

Alternatively, reach out to us using the below details:

E: hello@wearecatalyst.co.uk 

T: 0121 296 5275

Looking for more? Read about 7 red flags to keep an eye out for when hiring a marketing agency by clicking here.