How to Choose a Marketing Agency
Written by: Ryan Flannagan

Chapter 36: How to Choose a Marketing Agency


Every marketing agency is a brilliant collection of modern-thinking, driven and results-oriented professionals operating at the bleeding edge of technology and the absolute pinnacle of their craft.

Just ask any marketing agency.

The trouble with choosing a B2C or B2B marketing agency is they’ll all tell you they’re great, and they’re all trained, experienced professionals when it comes to convincing somebody what they say is true. Few are even lying about it. It’s just that a lot of the second-tier marketing agencies have drunk their own kool-aid so long and hard they don’t know what’s really going on in marketing anymore.

As a premier Phoenix marketing agency, our team at Nuanced Media has worked with hundreds of clients and heard their horror stories of the people they fired before landing happily with us. Let’s look at the most important red flags that tell you an agency isn’t a good match for your (and sometimes for anybody else).


Things They Say

Read (and listen) between the lines, analyzing how the agency talks about what they’ll do for you. Beyond the old grandma advice that starts with “If it’s too good to be true,” watch out for these telltale talking points.

  • Claiming to be generalists. Nobody can stay on top of every piece of news and new technology in every corner of modern marketing. In most cases, you’re better off with a specialist who can fix up the part of your marketing that needs the most work.
  • Speaking without listening. This tells you about their philosophy of marketing. Old-school marketing was exactly this, but as we’ve discussed it’s suicide in the social, digital, responsive age. You want an agency that listens to you, and to your audience, and to the industry and market as a whole.
  • Not offering proof. Can they backup claims they make about how effective their methods are? Can they physically show you successful marketing campaigns and downloadable Value Added Content? Without proof, there’s no reason to accept their claims at face value.


Things They Do

You’re not going to catch a professional marketing agency making a huge gaffe in the middle of a presentation, but watch what they do before and after the meeting. A few key points in those softer spaces can tell you more than they want you to know.

  • Write poor content on their own site. Managing and producing value-added content produces some of the best standards for digital marketing. If the agency can’t write great content for you, they’re helping you build a frame for a house but leaving the walls to you.
  • They do no homework. An agency should show up for your first pitch meeting having done thorough research into your industry, public marketing presence, competitors, and relevant keywords. If they come asking you for that info, they’re not doing proper diligence.
  • No proactivity. Whether you’re currently signed or seeking a new agency, how long goes by without a little note from them? Do they actively take notes while meeting? Do they have new ideas? Proactive attitudes meeting with you reflects proactive attitudes toward marketing your business…which is what you want to see.


Things They Lack

“Negative space” is a concept in art referring to the use of blank areas. Empty sky in a photo, or white canvas on a painting, are two examples. In this case, the problem with a marketing agency might not be what they are, but what they aren’t. Make sure the prospective agency doesn’t…

  • Lack experience in your industry. If you make industrial insulation, an agency who mostly helps authors promote their books won’t be a good match. Neither is the other way around. Confirm that any house you work with has at least worked with clients in similar spaces.
  • Ignore their own social media outlets. You can learn a lot about how well an agency understands social media by watching how they take care of their own brand. Lack of connection, comment response and retweeting shows they’re not following the recognized best practices.
  • Rank low on organic search. A bit of a no-brainer, this one. If they can’t make themselves rank high on organic search, how can they claim to do so for you?
  • Lack Testimonials and Positive Reviews. For the price a professional marketing agency charges, you should be able to expect positive word from past customers. You wouldn’t buy an expensive pair of boots or new sound system without some social proof.
Ryan Flannagan
Ryan Flannagan

Ryan Flannagan is the Founder & CEO of Nuanced Media, an international eCommerce marketing agency specializing in Amazon. Nuanced has sold $100s of Millions online and Ryan has built a client base representing a total revenue of over 1.5 billion dollars. Ryan is a published author and has been quoted by a number of media sources such as BuzzFeed, CNBC, and Modern Retail.

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