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Ten Red Flags to Look for When Hiring a Marketing Agency in 2024

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UK businesses have been warned to look out for ten red flags when engaging with a digital marketing consultancy, such as guaranteed results, lack of transparency, a focus on vanity metrics and more.  

Despite current economic challenges, the first half of 2023 has showcased a surge in entrepreneurship, with 101 new businesses springing to life every hour across the United Kingdom, according to a recent study.

This surge in business creation, combined with the Government’s recent commitment of £1 billion to support said new businesses, bodes well for the UK's economic growth in the coming years.

With this rise in competition and an expected increase in budgets, a specialist digital marketing consultancy can provide British businesses with the necessary resources, skills, or experience that may be lacking to help achieve 2024’s growth targets. 

The digital marketing landscape in 2024 will be driven by advancements in technology, such as Artificial Intelligence, and changing consumer behaviours, as well as more personalised marketing playing a crucial role. 

With so much change, the need for specialist expertise and a quality marketing strategy is key for businesses going into 2024.

Expert advice from director-led performance marketing agency outbloom reveals ten warning signs that might help identify a difficult agency to save businesses their precious time, money, and energy. 

Julia Symonds, Co-Founder and Lead Consultant at outbloom, says “Over the years we’ve heard plenty of horror stories from our clients about their past experiences with some marketing agencies that never deliver anything apart from headaches and frustration.

“Deciding to work with a marketing agency can be a significant step for your business, but choosing the right partner requires careful consideration and awareness of potential red flags that may indicate a poor fit.”

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By recognising these warning signs, businesses can avoid costly mistakes and find an agency that understands their goals and can deliver the results they desire for 2024. Here are the top ten red flags to watch out for:

Guaranteed Results

Beware of agencies who make unrealistic promises or guarantee instant success. Marketing is a complex and ever-evolving field, and success takes time, effort, and a solid strategy. 

Reputable agencies set achievable goals and develop a long-term strategy, and manage expectations from the beginning to ensure a shared understanding of what can realistically be achieved.

Lack of Transparency

Transparency is essential in any relationship. Be cautious of agencies who are not forthcoming with information, or fail to provide clear guidelines and objectives. Lack of transparency can lead to misunderstandings, wasted efforts, and unsatisfactory results. It's crucial to establish open and honest communication channels to ensure both parties are on the same page and working towards a common goal.

If an agency is unwilling to share its methods, progress reports, or analytics data, it's a red flag. Look for an agency that is open and willing to discuss their approach.

Poor Communication

Effective communication is the foundation of any successful partnership and marketing project. Agency contacts who are consistently unresponsive, provide delayed feedback, or fail to communicate their needs clearly can hinder progress and cause frustration. 

Clear and timely communication is vital for project progress, problem-solving, and maintaining a positive working relationship. If an agency exhibits poor communication habits, it may be a red flag indicating potential difficulties in the future. Choose an agency that values clear and timely communication.

Overemphasis on Vanity Metrics

Marketing agencies who overly focus on vanity metrics, such as social media likes, website authority or impressions, without considering the actual impact on business goals, may not have a realistic understanding of marketing strategies. 

A comprehensive marketing approach should prioritise metrics that align with business objectives and contribute to tangible results. Be wary of agencies who place undue emphasis on vanity or soft metrics without considering the larger picture. Look for an agency that prioritises metrics that directly impact your business goals.

Staff Turnover or Juniors on Account

A high turnover of staff or dealing exclusively with junior team members can be a sign of an unstable or inexperienced agency. Continual changes in personnel can disrupt project continuity and communication, causing delays and potential misalignment. 

It's essential to have clear visibility into the agency's team structure and ensure that there is a senior expert who can provide consistent guidance and feedback.

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Templated Generic One-Size Approach 

Many marketing agencies use the same proposal template deck for the majority of new business partnerships. They tend to apply a generic one-size-fits-all marketing approach, and often don’t tailor strategies to specific business needs. 

Each brand and business is unique, with different target audiences, goals, and challenges. A successful marketing campaign requires a customised approach. Be cautious of agencies who are unwilling to adapt or customise marketing strategies to suit the businesses’ individual circumstances.

Inadequate Industry Experience

Many marketing agencies do work across a variety of business-to-business, and business-to-consumer brands, but they might not have specific experience in your sector.

An agency lacking industry-specific experience may not understand your unique challenges. Look for case studies or examples of their work in your industry to ensure the agency can show demonstrable success. 

Outdated Marketing Techniques 

Marketing has evolved and transformed over time and is a very fast-paced environment. The strategies and techniques that used to be effective a couple of years ago may no longer work today.

Using outdated practices such as focusing on quantity over quality, or keyword stuffing can harm your website's rankings and advertising performance. If an agency recommends questionable tactics, it's a red flag. Look for an agency that stays up-to-date with marketing best practices.

High Staff Turnover

Frequent staff turnover can lead to inconsistencies and poor communication. Excessive turnover may indicate deeper issues within the agency.

When having discussions with marketing agencies, why not request the confirmed account team, and ask how long they’ve worked there?

No Clear Goals or KPIs 

Reporting on marketing performance is one of (if not the most) important aspects of a digital marketer’s role. Without clear goals and measurable KPIs, it's challenging to assess the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Look for an agency that sets clear goals and tracks the right metrics. 

Marketing agencies should bring together actionable insights from multiple channels, and empower teams to make data-driven decisions based on the results. But most of all, demonstrates business impact and value.

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Selecting the right marketing or digital consultancy for 2024 is a critical decision that can significantly impact your business's success. By considering these red flags and conducting thorough research, you can find an agency that aligns with your goals and values, and ultimately drive growth, increase brand awareness, and achieve long-term success for your business.

Images by Caitlin Boak

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