So, you’ve decided to pursue an Internet marketing strategy outside of your own capabilities

It’s important to know what to look for when shopping around for an agency in order to avoid any misuse of your valuable time and money.

No matter how large or small your company is, there is one cold hard fact about running a business: when hiring an outside person or company, you want to make sure that your money is spent wisely, and that in spending this money, you are making the best decision for your company and vision.

Just in case you need some extra guidance, here’s what to look for, and certainly how to identify any red flags about a potential hire, person or agency:

It all starts in the sales process

SalesGameOnIf you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume you are contacting many potential agencies at this point. Either that, or someone has reached out to you and piqued your interest. Though it may seem you are on the verge of being able to fast-track your growth, and this can be very exciting, it demands forewarning: this is when you need to be most careful.

The objective of any salesperson is to secure the salethat goes without sayingbut there are many different sales objective levels an agency may have. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that they should be looking out for your specific wants and needs. Here are a few red flags to look out for:

  • Are they asking you for your specific, measurable goals?

At Inflow, we ask for an exact revenue goal in two forms: what you want and what you need.

  • If you tell them a goal that is unrealistic, which you may not know, are they putting their foot down and telling you so?

Being told “no” is important. It shows they aren’t desperate for the sale, at the very least.

  • They should educate you all the way through the process.

Education should be thorough and align you with goals, not just a bare-bones brief description.

  • Is the salesperson talking about a complete strategy involving many parts that work together, or are they selling individual pieces?

This could come in the form of accepting a PPC or SEO strategy as a  “one-size-fits-all” solution. A proper fit will educate you on why you need a different service to match with your goals.

  • Transparency into their processes, billing and more.

Just because a company says they’re transparent, doesn’t mean they are. This can be very tricky to diagnose as a consumer, but here are a few key metrics that fake-transparent companies may report on. If the company’s main focus is on any of these, turn and walk away:

  • CTR
  • Bounce Rate
  • Page Visits (unless you’re promoting nothing but visibility)

In essence, here, you don’t want a “yes” man. This can be a huge red flag, as “yes” men only want your money. An agency that is out for your best interests will not be afraid to walk away if it’s not a good fit. It should be presented as a partnership, if not even on a small level. They should be invested in your business.

On to the Honeymoon Phase!

You’ve just signed the contract and you’re starting services. You’ve done all you can to weed through the potential deception in the sales process, and you really think you’ve made the right choice. First, let me congratulate you on making it this far. There’s not much to worry about here. Lots of these things take time, and in any effort, most companies will put their all in at this stage just to prove to you that they can. You’ll want to keep an eye out for a few things, however:

  • Frequent, detailed communication
  • Thoughtful recommendations (not just up-sells)
  • Consistent growth

The simple fact is this: If you aren’t growing with your current company, it’s time to move on. If they’ve helped you grow, but have plateaued, then maybe you’ve just reached the limits of what they can achieve for you. That’s fine, not all breakups are bad. The simple “it’s not you, it’s me” approach could work just fine here.

In sum, it can be simplified down to a few key points.

  • Ask questions, frequently.
  • Make sure that you test them until you get them to say no.
  • Have realistic, specific, measurable goals
  • Make sure your company will work hand-in-hand with you to help you get there, even if it means a different strategy than you first imagined.

I wish you the best of luck in your search for the perfect agency to help you with your Internet marketing goals, and hope this guide has helped you find a place to start. Remember, a healthy level of skepticism can lead to sound decisions.