The word "scam" highlighted in a dictionary

If you’re an entrepreneur or SMB owner, you probably receive at least one (if not ten) emails per week that look something like this…

Hopefully you marked these emails as spam or sent them right to your trash folder. Right away, there’s a handful of indicators that make it clear that the sender is a scam and not a professional digital marketing agency. These emails are often riddled with grammatical errors that a professional would never make. They also tend to make unreasonable guarantees while failing to effectively brand or market themselves (vague introductions and signatures, questionable email handles, etc).

These scams seem pretty obvious and harmless (if you don’t fall for them, of course), but they can be discouraging and misleading. When their inbox becomes inundated with these scam emails, many entrepreneurs and business owners such as yourself begin to question the legitimacy of digital marketing over all and become leary of any and all freelancers and agencies.

We’ve published several blogs highlighting the importance of digital marketing, but today we wanted to give some tips on how to choose the right digital marketing agency and how to avoid scammers. Here’s what sets a professional agency apart from the scammers…

They will be credible/reputable.

Credibility is the most important factor to look for when choosing a digital marketing agency (or any agency to partner with/outsource to). Confirming that the agency is credible, reputable, and trust-worthy can give you peace of mind that your business, your budget, and your marketing efforts are in good hands.

Ways to assess and verify credibility include:

  • Getting to know the owner or representative. Ideally, you want to work with a local agency where you can meet them personally to discuss your goals and their recommended strategies. Close proximity can make communication more convenient and can help build a closer relationship between the agency and your business. If you are unable to find a credible agency in your area, you can look for reputable agencies elsewhere or ask a trusted colleague for a referral—just be sure that the level of communication between the agency and your team (phone calls, emails, even video calls) meets your expectations.
  •  Viewing their portfolio/case studies. Most professional agencies will have a portfolio of their successes and case studies with data and results from previous campaigns and clients. If this information isn’t found on their website, don’t be afraid to ask a representative for this data. A professional agency will be willing to discuss their efforts and results with you.
  • Reading reviews. Many agencies and companies will list satisfied and raving reviews from clients right on their homepage. Also, reviews can often be found on their search engine, local directory, and social media profiles. Take a look at these platforms to see what reviews have been left by clients—make sure that the person leaving the client is also credible (a real business or existing person—not a John Doe or anonymous business). Valid and verifiable positive reviews are a great way to confirm that an agency is credible.

Verifying the credibility of any agency will let you know that you’ll be working with real people who can produce real results.

They will be professional.

Communication really is key when it comes to building and deploying effective marketing campaigns. It’s essential for the agency to understand your industry and objectives so they can create the best strategies for you, and it’s essential for you to have realistic expectations and peace of mind.

A professional agency will be professional in their communication. This includes:

  • Standard correspondence. If your first point of contact with a marketing team was an email riddled with grammatical errors, inaccuracies, and vague offers, there is a good chance that the sender is not a professional agency. Emails, phone calls, and other forms of communication will reflect the professional nature of any agency, and should be punctual and transparent.
  • Setting expectations. A professional agency will evaluate your objectives and formulate strategies that will produce results based on their knowledge, experience, and proven research. Throughout this process, they will keep you informed of what realistic expectations you should have. These expectations may be set through standard communication, or may even be outlined in a contract.
  • Reports and updates. Once a campaign has been launched, a professional agency will monitor and maintain your campaign. Over the course of time following the launch, they should provide you with regular reports on the results of that campaign, and keep you updated on any adjustments or changes that may need to take place.

They will be thorough.

While an agency can appear to be credible and professional in an initial consultation, a valuable trait for a long term successful relationship with an agency is their thoroughness. A professional agency will be thorough in each stage of the process—research, preparation, strategization, development, deployment, and management.

In order to create, develop, and execute a successful campaign, a digital marketer needs to thoroughly understand the company they’re marketing. Here are some questions that a professional agency might ask to better understand your company before they begin creating your digital marketing campaign:

  1. What are your objectives/goals?
    This will help the agency determine what platforms, tools, and strategies they will need to use to best suit your goals.
  2. What is your industry/niche?
    This will help the agency with keyword research and content development.
  3. What is your target audience?
    This will help the agency know who to tailor the ads to and who to target (and who not to).
  4. What is your preferred time frame?
    This will help the agency understand what your expectations are. With this information, they can either outline the campaigns to this desired timeframe or help set more realistic expectations based on data.
  5. What is your budget?
    This will help the agency understand what you intend on or are willing to spend on initial fees, ad spend, and management/maintenance fees. With this information, they can either outline a plan and contract to meet this budget or help set a more realistic budget based on data.

Even though a professional agency will ask the right questions to thoroughly understand and serve your company, there are also some questions you can ask an agency to determine if they’re the right fit for you…

  1. Who are/were some of your most successful/profitable clients?
    Knowing what industries and niches the agency has worked with and how they’ve served a variety of clients can help determine if they are prepared to create effective campaigns in your industry/niche.
  2. How do you measure success for your business and your clients?
    Some companies define success differently than others. When working or partnering with any company, it’s important to know how their definition of success aligns with (or differs from) yours.
  3. How do you intend on meeting my needs/achieving my goals?
    You may have specific expectations going into this relationship, so it’s helpful for both parties to understand these expectations and how they will be met ahead of time.
  4. How much of your work will be outsourced?
    A professional agency will typically have a team of experts for most (if not all) stages of your campaigns. If a majority of the work will be outsourced and the agency is mainly organizing and mediating, it may be beneficial for you to evaluate how this impacts your timeframe and budget.
  5. Do you specialize in custom designs and strategies, or is most of your work templated?
    Whether you are hiring the agency to design and develop your website or to create content and visual elements for paid or social campaigns, it’s good to know whether these assets will be custom or made from templates. This will typically be based on both the packages offered by the agency and your budget, and it can affect your expectations and your brand/image.

Looking for a digital marketing agency that’s right for you?

Contact us today. We would love to discuss your objectives and see if we’re the right fit for your company!