Four marketing red flags to watch out for

Four marketing red flags to watch out for

Do you really know your marketing agency?

For your first go-around at marketing, you’ll probably be too overwhelmed by the possibilities you’re presented with (and everything the agency is asking of you) to do the important research into just who your agency is and what they’re all about.

How do I know? Because I’ve been in the position many times of having to convince burned business owners to give digital marketing another shot. And trust me, on the second attempt, they do their homework.

Don’t get scammed or end up paying for services your agency can’t possibly follow through on. Keep an eye out for these major marketing red flags.


This is far and away my most-despised deception that marketing agencies try to pull.

If, after one month, the team working on your campaign excitedly presents outlandish numbers like “We grew your Facebook engagement 500%!” it’s a red flag. That 500%? It’s technically accurate, but your team probably isn’t being honest.

If you had zero engagements on Facebook last month and you got five this month: boom, 500% increase. When you look at the actual number of engagements, you’ll realize that your team didn’t accomplish as much as they want you to think they did. That’s why they presented the inflated percentages instead of actual numbers.

They can’t get away with this for long—after the first month, the numbers will even out and they’ll have to make up more mostly-bogus info to distract you. My advice? Run out your contract and then run away.


If an agency you’re courting is offering their services at a shockingly low rate, there’s a reason.

It’s easy to think “oh, they’re a young company and they’re just trying to be customer-friendly.” No. If they don’t charge (or know) their worth, then it’s just a quick money-making scheme and they’ll likely be inefficient. If they offer a money-back guarantee, it’s because they’ve had multiple clients ask, likely with varying degrees of legal threats.

Quality marketing is not cheap. You should treat it like any other business expense and pay for what will get you the best, longest-lasting results.


What’s one thing you’re guaranteed to find on the front page of nearly every agency’s website? Their client roster. This is because they’re proud of the work they’ve done for said clients and want you to know it.

If you’re scoping out a digital agency and they don’t proudly display their customers, it’s a bit of a red flag. But if upon further research you can’t find any examples of their work or thorough case studies…it’s not a good look, and they’re probably hoping you don’t notice.

Would you buy a car without driving it first? Would you buy a house without having it inspected? Of course you wouldn’t—so why would you hire an agency (which in the long run can come with a car- or house-sized price tag) without seeing proof that they can do what you’re paying them to do?


This seems like a no-brainer, right? If the agency you’re looking into can’t even put effort into their own digital presence, how much TLC do you think they’re going to give yours?

Now, nearly every marketing agency I know puts their internal marketing as a low priority—not because they don’t care, but because paying clients come first. We do the same thing at my company. But just because it comes last doesn’t mean it comes least. A respectable agency will put the utmost quality control into everything that has its name on it.

If you can tell their own marketing is a low priority, keep looking.

Always do your research before setting ink to paper. I’ve been a digital marketing professional for several decades by this point, and digital marketing works—but only when done effectively. When done poorly, digital marketing is nothing but broken promises and wasted money. And these fly-by-night companies are just hoping you don’t know the difference between a good campaign and a bad one.

Christopher is the co-founder, head strategist and CEO of The Go! Agency, a full-service digital marketing agency.