many red flags
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15 digital marketing service red flags businesses should know about

Omer Farkash
min read

These warning signs say you’re working with the wrong digital campaign freelancer or agency.

Your digital campaigns are instrumental in driving sales, engagement and retention for your brand, and the digital marketing service providers you hire to create and run these campaigns hold your business’ fate in their hands. But in the current “gig economy” it seems to be getting harder and harder to find excellent digital marketing service experts willing to work for you as salaried employees. As such, more and more brands are forced to turn to freelancer marketers and marketing agencies and contract these projects out.

Lucky for you, freelancing your digital marketing activities can create a lot of value for your business - you just need to be careful about which digital marketing service providers you hire, how they work, and what happens to the digital campaigns upon completion. What’s a brand to do?

It turns out that you can find many skilled and talented digital marketing service providers willing to work with your company on a freelance basis, online. But talent alone does not indicate that a hire will get the job done successfully, and in line with your business’ vision and goals. No freelance marketplace will let you know about the specifics of a given freelancer’s work habits in their candidate reviews. At best, they’ll rate the quality of their work accurately. At worst, they’ll provide completely unreliable recommendations.

As such, if any new digital marketing service hire has already signed on the dotted line, yet demonstrates any of the red flags below, you’re likely working with the wrong digital marketing freelancer or agency for your business. In such a case, finding a way to swiftly end the contract is imperative to your business’ survival and success.

9 professional red flags to look out for

#1 - You digital marketing service providers created client Facebook accounts under their personal Business Manager

Yes, it is important to use Business Manager in order to centralize and control all marketing resources from a single place, it is imperative that any digital marketing service provider does so on your brand’s BM, not through a personal account. If activities are performed via a personal account, there is no way for your brand to retain ownership over your campaigns, and should you part ways with said marketer, all the assets they created while under contract with your business would be out of your reach - permanently. To provide your customers with the best possible, long-term digital marketing campaigns and ensure your content is always used to your benefit and never falls into the hands of an ill-doer or competitor, you must ascertain ownership over all your digital assets, at all times. A digital marketing service provider - freelancer or agency - that refuses to comply, is, therefore, a poor fit for your business.

#2 - They did not build client accounts using FB Business Manager or a Manager Account for Google

Facebook Business Manager and Google Ads Manager are two key ad management dashboards positioned to help your brand maximize reach, visibility and conversions on social networks and in the SERPs. A digital marketing service provider - freelancer or agency - that does not instinctively head over to these platforms to create and launch your brand’s marketing materials clearly does not possess the industry know-how necessary for achieving the best possible results for your brand in 2019. Enough said.

#3 - They do no try out various channels

Professional digital marketing service is about more than creating a single winning campaign and blasting it on the internet. Far from it. But it’s also not about posting it on all existing digital channels and hoping for the best. Not exactly effective. A good marketer needs to research relevant channels and try out the ones that are most likely to generate a buzz for your business, i.e. those most relevant to your target audience. If your digital marketing service expert isn’t trying out multiple channels to determine the best fit, they may not know enough about digital marketing to succeed. Or, they might just be lazy. Either way, they’re not the best fit for you.

#4 - You digital marketing service providers aren’t A/B testing ads

Even the best marketers need to test out their ads to determine which are most successful. A freelancer or agency that is so confident of their ads’ quality that they don’t bother A/B testing could be missing out on opportunities to reach and engage with more potential customers - and that’s simply not in your business’ best interests.

#5 - They aren’t proactive and do not offer new approaches

The digital marketing landscape is extremely dynamic and ever-evolving. The right digital marketing service provider will assume a proactive role, stay on top of emerging trends and offer new approaches to improve your brand’s marketing activities and results. The wrong hire will keep their head down and continue plugging away at the task at hand, even when a more efficient and effective solution could be implemented, benefitting all. You want the former, but if you happen to be working with the latter, it might be time for YOU to assume the proactive role and educate your marketer - or show them the door.

#6 - Their focus is narrow and single-task oriented

Your digital marketing service provider is focused on your brand’s digital campaigns - great. But if they’re not considering the bigger picture that constitutes your marketing needs, i.e. marketing materials and the effects of their marketing campaigns on the use journey, your brand’s website, messaging, etc., the tasks the DO complete will fall short, and the rest of your digital assets will be sorrily lacking as well. You need a marketer capable of implementing an integrative approach, one that considers how the materials they create will affect other areas of the brand, and ensure they all seamlessly communicate with one another. Narrow, single-task orientedness is just not enough.

#7 - Your digital marketing service providers haven’t tried running automated bid policies on channels

Time is money. Your money. And you only have so much of it to spend. So, if your hire is too preoccupied with manually bidding on PPC campaigns on various channels to actually create, run and monitor said campaigns for success, you’re losing out. As such, it is important that they try their hand at running automated big policies, set to the parameters your advertising budget will allow. If they aren’t at least trying, you can consider them inefficient at their job.

#8 - They aren’t tracking revenues on channels

Tracking revenues is how you know just how successful your brand’s digital campaigns actually are. If your hired freelancer or agency doesn’t know how much money is coming in as a result of the campaigns they’ve created, how can they possibly decide whether to continue running them as is, or optimize to better appeal to your target audience? They can’t, which means that all their hard work could wind up being in vain, and they (and you) wouldn’t even know it. Not good.

#9 - The campaign is plagued by tracking issues and large discrepancies

When a digital marketing service expert implements its own counting tool for clicks or impressions, you can expect to find minor discrepancies between what Campaign Manager counts and what third parties count. Discrepancies of up to 20 percent are considered normal. When discrepancies are larger than 20 percent, it means that either the reports aren't accurate comparisons (for example, different date ranges). But it can also be a result of improperly implemented tags, improperly implemented cache-busting, or duplicate tags running across different sections of a site or app. In that case, the job done by the freelancer wasn’t professional enough.

6 service red flags that scream “terminate contract!”

#1 - Your digital marketing service providers don’t (sufficiently) communicate

Communication is a tremendous and important part of any and every successful working relationship. A digital campaign freelancer or agency may be highly skilled at creating compelling content, but if they cannot or do not communicate their needs, their understanding of your brand’s needs, their progress, etc., the campaign will likely not meet your (and your target audience’s) expectations. You must ensure that any digital marketing service provider you work with effectively and consistently communicates with you, to generate the best possible results.

#2 - They aren’t available when you need them

When it comes to your brand, you are the boss. You want your marketing campaigns to be completed on time - your time, and that’s well within your rights. If your digital marketing service providers said they’d be available to do the job but aren’t, they’re probably not the best fit for your business at this time.

#3 - They aren’t motivated to ensure your brand succeeds

Motivation is a key driver of success. But it’s also important to ensure that your hire’s motivation is pushing them in the right direction. Namely, they need to be motivated to secure your brand’s digital marketing success, not motivated to clock out, be paid out, or just scrape by. And while you can be instrumental in motivating your hires via incentivization, at some point, they either have it, or they don’t.

#4 - Your digital marketing service providers are not transparent about their work

If your digital marketing service provider isn’t transparent about the work, something must be fishy. Either they’re cutting corners, concealing the fact that they’re assumed ownership, or are engaging in other risky business. In any event, you do not want to continue working with anyone who is not up-front and honest about their business practices and products. dashboard
Client dashboard with live results at

#5 - Their performance isn’t consistent

If they have the skill set required to perform to a certain level but aren’t doing so on a consistent basis, you need to ask yourself, “why?” Are their priorities straight? Are they unmotivated? Are they being lazy or careless? Are they aligned with your brand’s mission, vision, and goals? The answer you deduce will determine whether you can help coach them towards a more consistent and successful performance rate, or whether you’re simply working with the wrong digital marketing service providers - freelancer or agency - altogether.

#6 - They’re more focused on their paycheck than on your returns

Money can be a great motivator when it comes to getting the job done, but if your digital marketing service provider cares more about their paycheck than your profits from the digital campaigns they create and run, they are probably doing the minimum possible to scrape by. Not what your business needs. And while you can try and change this by offering bonuses for certain ROI goal achievements, the “pay me first” mentality can be hard to shake, and most likely indicates that this isn’t the marketer for your business.

How to avoid the above red flags

If you’re already working with a digital marketing service provider and have discovered they’re wrong for your business, you now know, better than anyone else, which red flags to look out for in the future. And now, with our help, you can also learn to avoid these and the other red flags mentioned above, when seeking to hire new talent in the future. Here’s how:

  • Be sure to always ask the right questions during the interview process, questions that help you ensure a digital marketing service provider understands what the job entails, and is aligned with your business philosophy, practices and principles. See 31 questions to ask a freelancer or an agency before hiring them
  • Always set clear expectations from the start, ideally from before any contract is even signed. Delineate what you need from them, and ensure you know what they need from you. Click here to learn more

Learn about setting clear expectations with Freelancers in our Management 101 guide

Use monitoring tools to keep track of your digital marketing service provider’s performance and results. There are many great tools available for monitoring your brand’s digital marketing KPIs, which can shed a light on how your freelancer or agency’s campaigns are faring - what is and isn’t working. And there are also great tools available for tracking tasks, communicating and other critical activities. Check them out via a quick Google search.

  • Use Mayple to ensure you get the best-fit digital marketing service providers that meet your business’ unique needs. We match businesses with vetted marketing experts and help measure and manage their performance, to ensure marketing success, so you can hire the right digital campaign experts and get the results your business deserves.

Bottom line

It’s in your best interests that you work with the right digital marketing service provider that meets your brand’s unique needs. Learning how to avoid the above 15 red flags will help you ensure that your brand is best represented in digital marketing campaigns and that you reap maximum returns from every hire’s efforts. Discover how the Mayple team can help you find the right freelancers for your business; contact us today

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