How to make sure your marketing agency is not ripping you off

By Nate Vickery

The reason why you outsource in the first place is not merely to save money but also to let someone else deal with tasks you’re not skilled or knowledgeable enough to take on. In turn, this means that if they decide to deceive you, sell you a service you don’t need or one they don’t actually have any intent to provide, you might find yourself in the dark and let it slide. This is particularly dangerous in the field of marketing, due to the fact that most first-time entrepreneurs still don’t know how marketing ROI is supposed to work. Here are several steps you need to take to ensure that your marketing agency is not ripping you off.

Look at the way they’re billing

The first thing you’ll have an insight into is – the billing system. Here, you can see whether the company you’re dealing with charges by an hourly rate, requires the payment per month or per completed project. It goes beyond saying that the last option is by far the most reliable, seeing as how you get to pay upon seeing the results. For this reason alone, the bill you pay per completion tends to be a tad more expensive. With an hourly rate, the chance of slacking is probably the greatest, even though this method is used by the most prestigious of companies. The middle ground and the most commonly used option is charging a monthly retainer. But even with a retainer, you should ask what hourly rate it is based on.

[amazon_link asins=’B01A2O4QUI’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’succeedingi0d-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’f6b69552-8b52-11e8-af20-37fbf937be6a’]Ask for reports

One more step you should take to ensure the safety of your investment is asking for a report on a weekly or monthly basis. Even in specialized fields, these report templates are fairly simple and easy to understand, which means you’ll have more than adequate insight into what’s going on. For instance, in standardized SEO reports, you get to see metrics such as traffic, rank increase and conversion rates, which are excellent indicators even for people who have no experience in this niche whatsoever. With templates available online, this can be done in just several seconds, which means that an agency you’re dealing with doesn’t have the right to claim that the frequency of reporting is distracting them from their regular duties.

Set the terms in writing

Naturally, when negotiating with an outsourcing company, you need to set the terms of cooperation in writing. Outsourcing contracts are fairly simple to make and verify, provided you start from the adequate point of view. For starters, you need to begin by asking why you need to outsource in the first place. Once you have this out of the way, you need to analyze the proposal, build your own financial model and anticipate the future. Only after this can you demand promise in writing.

[amazon_link asins=’B008KPM5CS’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’succeedingi0d-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ff4aeedc-8b52-11e8-b33f-2bff6c6102d0′]Make a month-to-month arrangement

Another thing you need to do is make a month-to-month arrangement or a contract under which you have the right to terminate cooperation at any given point, given proper notice (usually 30 days). While this may not be a direct guarantee, it’s a leverage that might compel the agency to be careful in their dealings. Merely knowing that you can end collaboration whenever you feel like it will give you at least some way of protecting your funds once you figure out they’re ripping you off, and will also make the agency be on the tip of their toes. This will make them feel the pressure to outperform your expectations, which, yet again, goes in your favor.

[amazon_link asins=’1595554653′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’succeedingi0d-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’09623f2a-8b53-11e8-9188-7d3e65b02434′]Verify the company before you respond to their email

First of all, it’s highly unlikely that a prestigious marketing agency will send you an unsolicited email, to begin with. Still, if this was to take place, responding to it right away might not be the right course of action. For starters, it’s not 100 percent sure that this is the real person you’re talking to, which is why even an immediate follow-up to your response email isn’t a guarantee of professionalism. Instead, try verifying the company through an independent online research prior to contacting them or calling them back. And once you do make contact, asking for references is never a bad idea when dealing with any vendor.


The greatest misconception that you have to leave behind is a belief that to protect your business from this particular hazard, you have to become an expert in marketing yourself. In reality, things are not so dire or so complex. All you need to do is get a grip on the basics and understand ‘what’ even though you might not be familiar with ‘how.’ At the end of the day, this is definitely not the most difficult challenge you’ll have to face as an entrepreneur.


Nate Vickery is a marketing consultant and author mostly engaged in researching the latest marketing technology trends and practices applicable to startups and SMBs. He is also the editor at Bizzmark Blog and an author on The Next Web.


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