Some pro-tips on what to look for and pitfalls to avoid when selecting a marketing agency.

Tim was a successful financial planner in Orange County that had hired a marketing contractor to build a sales funnel that would drive more leads to his business. The contractor made grandiose promises of huge results and success through his marketing strategy, so Tim wrote him an initial check for $3000 up front to get the ball rolling.

Many weeks later the contractor had barely anything to show with no results whatsoever and was demanding more payment in order to continue.  This didn’t line up with the original timeline for payment so Tim refused to pay more until he saw the expected results that the contractor had promised.

Soon after refusing to pay, the contractor took Tim’s personal debit card information that he had been using for digital ads, and ran the card, stealing hundreds of dollars, and made multiple online purchases. Tim then had to go through the process of blocking the fraudulent charges, order new debit cards, change all his social media passwords, and hope this contractor never came near again.

This is the story that I hear from business owners literally on a weekly basis.  There are so many ‘under the radar’ marketing and web design contractors out there that claim to offer amazing results and talk a big talk, but don’t walk the walk.  They often get started on the project and disappear, or just straight up steal your money and provide zero results.

At Huntington Pacific Media, we often find ourselves partnering with these types of business owners that have invested thousands of dollars in multiple agencies with nothing to show.  Once we start working with them, it’s like they’ve found a safe haven in a team they can trust and rely on to provide honest services, with results to back it up.

All this being said, here are 5 tips on how to find an agency you can trust.  These 5 tips can help you avoid the common pitfalls and traps that many business owners fall into.

Tip #1 – Check out their reviews online

One of the biggest ways to know you can trust an agency is to study their online reviews, looking for how many reviews they have, as well as weather the reviews are legitimate.

You should be able to find raving reviews on their Google listing, Yelp, Facebook, Better Business Bureau, and even agency listing sites like UpCity or Clutch.

Every great company has maybe one to two bad reviews just because things happen, but 95% of their company reviews should be from obviously very happy customers.  If you are noticing a trend of somewhat negative reviews, you may want to be extra careful before seriously considering hiring them.

Tip #2 – Request a case study portfolio

Before even taking and agency seriously, it’s very important to request a portfolio of case studies. Examples of their work and what results they provided to previous clients can help you decide if they are the right fit for your company.

If they are apprehensive or refuse to provide a case study portfolio, you should definitely be extra cautious because you have now way of knowing their history or experience level.

Tip #3 – Trust your intuition & discernment

You can feel in your gut when someone is truly an honest person that wants to provide value and excellence.  If something seems a little fishy, then trust your instincts.

Never pay an agency or a contractor money until you have signed contracts and there is a clear payment timeline and strategy.  You should never pay 100% of a project cost up-front.

Try to get at least one face-to-face meeting with the contractor or agency representative either in person, or over Skype.  This can help you identify weather they are someone you want to work with and weather you can trust them.

Tip #4 – Be straight forward about everything

You are a business owner, so know what your needs are and be straight forward about it. If you dont’ know exactly what kind of results and expectations to have, then the agency may not have as much motivation to meet specific goals.

Make a clear basic outline of what you need the agency to do and what kind of specific requirements you have.  Be blunt in all your communications about costs, payment timelines, work milestones etc.  Make sure everything is crystal clear and upfront with no shady un-communicated expectations.

Tip #5 – Know their strengths

Make sure that whatever service you are hiring the agency for is their primary strength. Sometimes smaller agencies will take on projects that they don’t actually have experience in just for the sake of getting the paycheck which can potentially result in a bad outcome.

Study their work and make sure that their knowledge base aligns with your exact needs for your industry.