Fake Influencers: Are you a Fake Influencer?
February 22, 2017
The Facebook Growth Strategy that Facebook Doesn’t Want You To Know
March 15, 2017
Show all

How to avoid Digital Marketing Agencies that Suck

? You’re looking to gain support from a Digital Marketing Agency

? …but before you work with them, you want to be 100% satisfied that they will deliver on your expectations (and not suck).

? I feel your pain. I also feel the pain from the other side (the Digital Marketing Agency that doesn’t suck side).

?In this post and accompanying video, I’ll share my own and other industry experts opinions on how you can avoid a Digital Marketing Agency that sucks.

Exclusive Bonus: ’20 Crucial Questions To Ask Before Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency’ 

How To Avoid Digital Marketing Agencies That Suck!


#1 Have a basic understanding of Digital Marketing

Avery Ratz and Lucy Hall made a great point when they commented on my original Facebook post.

In short, if you are looking for a decent Digital Marketing Agency, you need to firstly understand a bit about Digital Marketing. This will prevent Agencies from ‘pulling the wool over your eyes’.

Take the time to learn the basics. Digital Marketing has a variety of different elements. Here our some of my favourite resources to learn about different elements of Digital Marketing;

#1 Digital Marketing Tools: Razor Social

#2 Email Marketing: Matthew Woodward

#3 Content Marketing: Content Marketing Institute


#2 Decide what you need and choose an Agency that fits

Josh Steimle makes a great point in his Forbes Article; to hire the right Agency, you firstly need to know what you want/ need. There’s  a vast array of Digital Marketing Agencies that specialise in various areas.

Avoiding an Agency that sucks is all good and well, but if you hire a good Agency that doesn’t specialise in an area you need to focus on, the results could be just as bad.

As my pal Amy from AM Marketing said, ‘Digital Marketing is a dark art and each agency has its specialisms.’

But what if you don’t know what you need? Then go back to the first point and learn more about the different Digital Marketing elements and how they can help you.


#3 Look at how the Agencies use Digital Marketing on themselves

I really liked Charlie Dee’s comment on my Instagram Post;

‘Just work with those who have a good presence online. I’m in a few social media and marketing groups on Facebook and there’s some people that always give value and show they know their shit, so I’d only work with those people. People that have proven themselves.’

You’d be surprised how many Digital Marketing Agencies that specialise in Social Media Marketing aren’t actually that great at social media.

The takeaway here is to do your homework.


#4 Look at results they have helped previous clients achieve

Pippa Akram made such a good point when she Tweeted me her response (see below).

Not only will snooping on the Agency’s previous client work ensure you dodge any bad-agency-bullets, it’ll also help you decide if the Agency’s style is the right fit for you.


#5 Speak to previous clients they have worked with

Going one step further than Pippa’s suggestion, why not actually speak to their current/ previous clients? There’s nothing better than hearing it from the horse’s mouth ?.


#6 Get a personal recommendation

Josh really is a fountain of knowledge, when this guy gives advice, I listen. His comment says it all;

‘If I had to go with one tip to rule them all it would be to get a personal recommendation from someone you trust. There’s a reason word of mouth marketing is always at the top of lists as the most trusted form of marketing. When someone you trust says “I used XYZ company and they got great results for me and I loved working with them,” what more could you want?’

On the other hand, Anwen Cooper made an interesting contradiction on my Facebook Post;

‘Don’t hire someone because they are a friend/family member/member of your networking group. Yes personal recommendations are worth something in helping you decide whether they will be nice to work with and trustworthy but are they the best match for the job? Think about it as though you were hiring for an internal role. You would want to have some kind of impartial recruitment process in place right?’

My view is a combination of the two. Yes personal recommendations hold a huge amount of clout. However, ensuring the Agency is the right fit for your specific needs, culture, budget etc. is also hugely important.


#7 Speak to an expert in the industry that you trust

Kat Macaulay shared a story which highlights the importance of having an industry expert on your side. This will prevent Agencies from throwing buzzwords around and providing ‘smoke and mirrors’ support that has no substance.

‘Some agencies are really good at buzz words and talking about trends, but they can never really answer deep questions to support their claims. For example, I was brought into a company to oversee their transition to a new website, as well as a new social/digital program via an outsourced agency. The agency didn’t realize my background and they sold the company on lots of ideas, but the follow through just wasn’t there. They were ‘experts’ at AdWords but for some reason, they had the company paying $4000 a month for words that weren’t moving the program forward. It was a bunch of smoke & mirrors; they took advantage of a company who had the money to spend, but didn’t understand what the return should look like.’


#8 Don’t go with an Agency that ties you into a contract

This for me is crucial and something we truly believe in at KPS Digital Marketing. If you manage your client’s expectations well as to the kinds of results they can expect to receive and when, why would you need to tie them into a contract?

Alarm bells should be ringing if an Agency is making you sign a contract to say you will continue working with them no matter what for X amount of time.


#9 Avoid Agencies that only say Yes

I loved this Tweet from Harry Hugo. If you find an Agency that is innovative, creative and has the ability to say ‘no’, you’re onto a winner.


#10 Avoid incredibly low prices

You get what you pay for. As Amy from AM Marketing said;

‘If you want to pay £50 a month, expect to get a couple of posts, but if you want something serious that is going to really work for your business, you need to be prepared to invest for good people that know what they’re doing.’


#11 Avoid Agencies that provide a vague content plan

This is a brilliant point that Vincent Haywood makes in this post.

‘The content plan needs to have data behind it. Your agency or consultant should be using some sort of system or tool that justifies what content you are sharing. You need to know why its being suggested as content. If you have one good post and then a load of random not thought through pieces it will be detrimental to your efforts. The agency needs to know what times, what topics, what formats and what channels are most effective in communicating with your audience.’


#12 Avoid Agencies that don’t ask lots of questions

My buddy Nicola Cairncross sent me an interesting answer on Snapchat;

‘One that doesn’t ask lots of questions about your products, sales conversion process from new leads, profit per first sale, lifetime value of customer etc. I want to know if they know what they are willing to pay for a lead’


#13 Avoid Agencies that don’t specify your Account Manager

Hetty Rackham shared a killer tip which you should 100% take into account;

‘It’s important to ensure you give new clients a confident account manager when setting up this shiny and precious digital marketing account. There’s nothing worse and more bewildering for a client to give their hard-earned marketing budget, to be immediately handed student workers who are currently learning without close management. I’ve had a few clients say to me they don’t want to use an agency due to an experience like this, so then turn to freelancers. However, I am always honest and if the skills are multi-layered and really specialist, I’d point them in the direction of agencies I collaborate with and trust implicitly.’



Are there exceptions? Yes of course there are. Not everything is black and white. Josh & Lloyd individually made some great points on this that I had to share.

Josh Steimle wrote the following in this article on Forbes;

‘Are there exceptions? Sure. At my own firm we’re terrible at producing formal case studies. We’re busy doing the work that produces results for our clients, and although we know we should have the case studies, somehow they don’t make it to the highest priority. And I know of some firms that I wouldn’t hire myself nor recommend to anyone else, and yet they have great looking case studies. In both cases listening to stories is a way to better see the reality behind the company.’

Lloyd Knowlton also made this comment on my Facebook Post.

‘ I also think it’s important to remember that businesses aren’t black and white. You can’t split digital marketing agencies in two categories (Good & Bad). There is a sliding scale with the worst of the worst at one end and the best of the best at the other. We are all learning, even the best of the best have to learn to stay at the top of their game. At the other end of the scale, we all started somewhere, and all levels of digital marketing agency have the potential to add value IF the cost matches the value they provide. Agencies at the lower end of the scale may be able to provide value for clients IF they are honest about what they can achieve and price their services accordingly. Two very big IFs there though.’


What next?

I hope that the tips in this article help you choose a Digital Marketing Agency that provides the best ROI for your business.

I’ve invested quite a lot of time in developing the guide below for you and really do believe it will save you a ton of time and make the process of choosing a Digital Marketing Agency a lot easier for you.

?️Download this guide and use it: ’20 Crucial Questions To Ask Before Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency’ 

? Comment your number 1 tip for avoiding a Digital Marketing Agency that sucks below.

Daniel Knowlton
Daniel Knowlton

Dan is the award winning Co-founder of KPS Digital Marketing who was named #12 Most Influential Digital Marketer on Twitter in the world in 2016 by Onalytica. Dan is a contributor for a variety of key marketing publications including Social Media Examiner, Content Marketing Institute and Jeff Bullas’ Blog. He is also a keen speaker and has spoken at events internationally for a variety of organisations including NatWest and The Royal institute of Chartered Surveyors. Dan has a passion for helping others learn how to get to grips with Digital Marketing and is obsessed with providing value for his community.