How to Hire a Marketing Agency: 6 Steps (With Red Flags)
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6 min read
Kim Barloso Kim Barloso
and Chintan Zalani Chintan Zalani

How to Hire a Marketing Agency: 6 Steps (With Red Flags)

When you want professional marketing services done but can’t afford to employ an in-house marketing team, a viable alternative is to hire a marketing agency that specializes in your industry.

These agencies provide comprehensive digital marketing services ranging from search engine optimization (SEO), website design, and social media marketing. 

Types of Marketing Companies

There are two main types of marketing companies that offer marketing services to businesses. These are:

Full service marketing agencies: These firms offer versatile and comprehensive services that cater to all marketing needs. These firms can help you implement your marketing campaigns from start to finish.

Specialized marketing agencies: These firms focus on one or two methods of marketing. Whether it’s SEO, pay-per-click (PPC) ads, or social media marketing, niche agencies can give you laser-focused strategies that work for a specific type of marketing approach. The agency below specializes in Google Ads:


Some specialization for agencies include:

  • Paid ads
  • Public Relations
  • Social Media
  • SEO
  • Content Marketing or Content Creation
  • Web Design and Development
  • Graphic Design
  • Video Marketing
  • Influencer Marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Lead Generation

In addition to specialization by marketing type, agencies can also classify themselves by size. Big agencies usually serve multinational brands and organizations while boutique agencies work with small businesses and solo entrepreneurs.

What Are the Benefits of Hiring a Marketing Agency?

Hiring a marketing agency for digital marketing services is beneficial because of the following reasons: 

  • Expertise: Agencies have team members that are proven to be knowledgeable in what they do.
  • Experience: Most marketing agencies have years of experience on their portfolio.
  • Cost effectiveness: Outsourcing your marketing is proven to be less costly than doing it in-house.
  • Faster results: Because of their expertise, you get faster results from effective marketing strategies.
  • Earn your time back: Focus on your business’s top tasks while the agency’s marketing team runs your campaigns.

How To Choose a Marketing Agency: 6 Steps

Do these steps to start your journey of choosing the best marketing agency for your business:

1. Have Clearly Outlined Marketing Goals and Budget

Write down what you want to achieve from your campaigns and set a realistic marketing budget. This will help you zero in on agencies offering the right services and pricing that fits your needs.

When you know your goals and what you’re trying to achieve, it will be easier to recognize the right agency for the job.

2. Create a Shortlist of Agencies With Experience in Your Niche

List 5-10 agencies that clearly show that they have worked with a business in your niche before. Look at their website’s portfolio and case studies and see what kind of results they got from helping business owners in the same industry as yours.

3. Check Agency Track Records and Customer Reviews

Read online customer reviews of an agency not just from their website’s testimonials page but from other business review sites like Clutch, Trustpilot, and Yelp as well as social media review platforms like Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook.


Tip: Review Marketing Agency’s Own Marketing

The best proof of an agency’s ability to deliver effective marketing campaigns is from looking at how they market their services. 

The agency should be successful in practicing what they preach. The agency should be on the first page of Google if you look for their services online, like this one for the keyword “dentist marketing agency in seattle”:

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Below is an example of our SEO metrics as a result of our optimization campaign:


4. Shop Around Requesting a Custom Audit (RFP) From Multiple Agencies

When you find an agency that you’re considering to hire, make sure to request a custom audit or RFP (request for proposal). 

The RFP document should include:

  • Company background
  • Project summary
  • Project scope
  • Project timelines
  • Contact person/team
  • Pricing

Do this for several agencies and ask questions and take down notes as you go through the audits. This way, you have solid information on what each agency offers and what they can do for your business’s marketing goals.

Tip: Probe Agencies on KPIs and How They Report Results

When getting on an initial call with an agency, ask about their KPI (key performance indicators), which metrics they focus on and how they gather data and present reports to clients.

Here at On The Map Marketing, we make sure to clearly set KPIs, present easy-to-understand reports, and use proprietary platforms like TrackRight to track leads.

5. Settle on the Agency You Vibe With!

An agency’s track record and industry experience is an important factor in your decision to hire one, but what would drive this decision to finality would be your emotional connection with the people in the agency.

Even if you choose a highly reviewed organization, if you don’t get along well with the people there, you are not likely to have the best experience.

6. Evaluate Your Performance Every 6 Months

Even with highly experienced marketing experts, a lot of things in marketing can change overnight. This is why you’ll need to request for quarterly or semi-annual evaluations of your campaigns to make sure that the agency’s marketing efforts continue to provide results and return on investment (ROI).

Agency Red Flags to Beware Of

And as you go on your hiring journey, here are some warning signs you need to watch out for.

1. Devil is in The Contract Details

Before signing an agreement with a marketing agency, read the entire document, especially the fine print. 

As an example, FindLaw, a popular law firm marketing agency, has an ownership clause in their contract saying that they retail all rights to their client’s data which includes their website, domain name, and content.

Other agencies like Scorpion has a proprietary content management system (CMS) that manages their client’s websites. This means Scorpion owns the website, including its domain and contents, and a client can no longer access this tool if they terminate their contract with this agency. 

Below is a review of a former client who had this issue:

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Before signing up with an agency, clarify that your platforms like your website and Google Ads account as well as your social media accounts remain yours even if you decide to part ways with them in the future.

2. Fees and Processes Seem Obscure

If an agency can’t provide a specific figure when you ask about fees or a concrete answer when asking about a marketing process, then they are not honest about their practices.

3. Agency Seems to “Know it All” Across Industries and Marketing Types

When an agency claims to have had successful online marketing campaigns in all industries using every marketing type, it’s a bit hard to believe.

No agency is perfect, and that’s okay. Agencies claiming to be the best at everything they do but don’t actually have the data to back this up can not be relied on to be telling the truth.

4. Communication Seems Off

Any changes in their messaging throughout the course of your conversations can mean poor communication skills, or worse, they’re not telling you everything you need to know. 

5. Promises “Guaranteed Results”

Results from marketing campaigns can not be predicted, therefore they can not be guaranteed. Beware of agencies promising your website to “climb to the top of Google rankings” in x amount of days.

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6. They’re Not Interested In Your Business

Agencies who don’t ask a lot of questions about your business’s background, your target audience, or past marketing campaigns and results, can be a red flag. 

How About a Custom Marketing Plan?

On The Map Marketing is a results driven digital marketing agency that provides transparency on pricing, expertise, and specializations.

We don’t promise results but we provide day-to-day progress and expected timelines on each project. We spend time with prospective clients to understand their business goals so we can create a customized digital marketing strategy that we think would help them get closer to their goals.

All our marketing activities are tracked and we provide highly detailed and data-backed reports for our clients. Contact us to get started with your business’s own custom marketing plan.

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