11 Signs You’ve Hired a Bad Marketing Company

It never feels good to make a bad decision. But do you know what feels worse? Realizing too late that you should have recognized the bad decision sooner.

The Kolbeco team is comprised of marketing professionals with a diverse set of backgrounds. We’ve spent time on both the agency and client side of marketing relationships, and have seen the good, bad, and ugly of our industry. Sometimes a bad marketing company isn’t bad at all, they’re just not the right fit for you. Even so, it’s important to identify it early so you can change direction. Based on our experience, we’ve compiled this list of eleven telltale signs that you’re working with a bad marketing company. 

Bad Marketing Companies Don’t Ask Enough Questions

The greatest trait you can find in a marketing company is curiosity. If your marketing team doesn’t take the time to dive deep on your company, your customers, your competition, and the things that make you unique, how could they ever effectively represent you in the market?

They Have the Same Solution to Every Problem

If your marketing company seems to have a “one-channel” mind, it’s probably a sign that they care more about staying in a lane they enjoy or have proficiency in than actually creating positive outcomes for you. Every client has a unique audience and unique goals. There’s no single channel that can solve for everyone’s challenges.

A Bad Marketing Company Doesn’t Report on Metrics that Matter to You

We live in a data-driven world. The problem is, we’re drowning in it. Bad marketing companies will use that to their advantage by overwhelming you with data that makes them look good, to hide the fact that they aren’t really delivering the outcomes you care about.

Bad Marketing Companies Are More Focused on Tasks than Outcomes

There are marketing agencies who consider their job done when the postcard or the email or the Google ad is in market. But is that what you hired them for? The best marketers will tell you there’s some trial and error on the pathway to success. That’s why you need a marketing agency that pays attention to results, reports them transparently, and has the confidence to pivot when the desired result isn’t achieved.

They Create More Work Than They Complete

Chances are, you hired a marketing agency to outsource a need and free up your internal staff for other priorities. So why does it feel like you have more work on your plate now than before you hired them? Honestly, you’ll need to work as a team with any agency to be successful. But beware of agencies who strategically position your team as roadblocks. Confident marketing agencies don’t sit around waiting to play a blame game.  

A Bad Marketing Company Guarantees Specific Results

This is a big one. If someone promises you X number of leads, or a XX% ROI, it’s a red flag. This is often just a sales tactic to get you locked into a contract, with little to no intention of actual delivery. Marketing is a complex blend of art and science. Look for an agency that’s focused on achieving your long-term goals rather than one promising you overnight success.

Bad Marketing Companies Create Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD)

Unfortunately, FUD is an often-used sales tactic among questionable marketing practitioners. Instead of selling you on the opportunities they can help create for you, bad marketing companies will sometimes work to convince you that you’re doomed if you don’t work with them. Look for a marketing company that exudes confidence in you, your business, and their team’s ability to help you succeed. Marketing from a position of confidence is always more affective than doing it from a position of fear. 

They Deny You Access and Transparency to Accounts and Data

A bad marketing company doesn’t like to share data and account access, because they’re afraid of what you’ll find. Good marketing companies provide access to data and accounts, but also educate their clients on what the data means, and (more importantly) how we can collectively utilize it to improve our effectiveness.

A Bad Marketing Company Doesn’t Try to Understand Your Business and Industry

There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. If you’re working with a marketing company that routinely ignores the information you provide them and instead chooses to forge ahead on their own path, you run the risk of alienating your audience. As we discussed, great marketing agencies ask a lot of questions. But they’re also willing (and happy) to accept your input when they need a course correction.

They Don’t Care About You as a Person, Professional, or Business

Do you feel like you’re on the same team as your marketing agency, or do they often take an “us vs. you” posture in conversations? If so, that’s a bad sign they aren’t personally invested in your success. A great marketing agency should feel like an extension of your in-house team. Look for a marketing agency that refers to your company as “we” and “us.” It’s a small but subtle sign that they’re invested at the level you need them to be. 

Bad Marketing Companies Are More Focused on Their Bottom Line Than Yours

Is your marketing agency constantly ignoring your budget or trying to hit you with upsells that don’t align with your goals or business model? A good marketing company will be responsible stewards of your budget. They are conscious of, and seek to eliminate, waste. They’re constantly seeking to deliver greater value and focus your resources on activities that drive results.  

So What Does a Good Marketing Agency Do?

That’s a great and valuable question, and one we answered in a previous article with input from the team on the traits of a good marketing partnership. You can also learn more about the 490 factor, Kolbeco’s proprietary process for creating tailored marketing solutions designed to deliver what our clients need to meet their goals.

As a final note of advice, pay attention to your early interaction with the agency. If it doesn’t feel right in your initial engagements, chances are that’s a sign that they won’t be a fit long-term either. 

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