f t i +
Business Strategy

5 Warning Signs to Watch Out for When Picking a Marketing Agency

Jason Feller
Conducting thorough research before reaching out to a marketing agency helps weed out dubious firms, but it’s not foolproof.


It’s important to pay careful attention during the sales process to make sure the agency being considered is a good fit. Here are five warning signs to watch out for on the road to an impactful partnership with an agency.

 Warning Sign #1: The agency delivers an incoherent pitch. 

This is an obvious red flag. If an agency can’t manage to effectively pitch itself in a sales meeting, then why would you pay it to pitch your company?

Warning Sign #2: The agency claims it can deliver immediate results without
doing research first.

 This is the oldest trick in the book, and questionable agencies absolutely love this tactic. The promise of instant gratification is hard for companies to resist, and some agencies exploit that fact during the sales process. In reality, sustainable growth can only be achieved by doing the research legwork first. 

Paying an agency for comprehensive assessments and analyses before campaign roll-outs may be unattractive when others are insisting they can provide a marketing plan on Day 1, but when it sounds too good to be true it usually is. 

Red Light

Warning Sign #3: The agency provides a website project price quote without having done any discovery work.

This is one of the most common signs an agency is either inexperienced or intentionally not being transparent.

 A website contains a huge set of variables. How many pages? How many templates? Are there any special functionality requirements? Are there any integrations with other technology platforms required? What’s going on each page?

 Those are just some of the questions that need to be answered before an accurate quote can be provided. A quote provided absent all of that information inevitably leads to one of two outcomes (or both):

  • Timeline delays and a website that fails to meet expectations
  • A bunch of change orders and unexpected increases in price

Warning Sign #4: The agency outsources key functions to freelancers.

 Just about every agency will backfill some work to freelancers in order to stay flexible, but beware the agencies that outsource everything. It’s more expensive for an agency to invest in hiring in-house production teams, but that investment usually leads to higher quality deliverables. If an agency claims to have in-house resources, ask for their qualifications, how big the internal team is, and how many clients the agency is currently servicing.

 Warning Sign #5: The agency can’t answer basic marketing questions with any specificity or detail.

Marketing is constantly changing and it requires significant domain expertise to understand and articulate current trends and best practices. If you ask an agency about SEO, social media, websites, marketing and sales software, data analytics, or PPC advertising and they struggle to provide a clear answer that makes sense, that’s a bad sign.


Shopping for an agency is tough. If you're looking for a 100% in-house team to provide consultations or surpass your sales, marketing, and customer success goals - get to know Salted Stone.

Salted Stone Capabilities

Definitely not spam

Sign up for our newsletter

Don't worry - we only average, like, two emojis per subject line.

Got a question for Jason Feller?

Message the author of this post and they'll get back to you.

Fire Away