If you’ve never worked with a marketing agency before (or if you have and it didn’t go well), it can be hard to know what to look for.
What are the most important considerations and what are the red flags? It’s not always easy to separate the wheat from the chaff.
That’s where we come in. We’ve met dozens of SaaS marketing agencies over the years, and spoken with countless business owners who’d been burned with mediocre marketing.
We’re here to help you better understand what to look for when vetting different SaaS marketing agencies. We’ll also give you the biggest red flags that you most definitely need to watch out for.
What to Look for When You Hire a SaaS Marketing Agency
There are thousands of marketing agencies across the world, making it a daunting task when you finally make the decision to work with one. It’s essential to have a clear understanding of your goals before you engage a growth partner.
Are you looking to drive brand awareness?
Get your landing pages to convert better?
The agency you choose should specialize in the goal you’re seeking to achieve. There are a number of different activities that a marketing agency can help you with: social media management, paid advertisements, website creation and optimization, content marketing, and more.
The best service providers take the time to familiarize themselves with your current marketing and go-to-market strategy, so they can enhance what you’re already doing. They should have a clear, documented process for achieving results, and a proven track record of achieving results for companies similar to yours.
There are a number of things that you should be looking for when deciding who to partner with, and that includes red flags. With our expertise and experience in the industry, we’re here to help you identify 4 red flags to be on the lookout for when hiring a SaaS marketing agency.
Red Flag #1: Their Messaging is Packed with Buzz Words
Some agencies try to use marketing-speak to cover up their lack of expertise. Search engine optimization(SEO) is one such buzzword. Brands use SEO to increase organic traffic and attract users to their website. However, SEO is complex and technical and gets more competitive every year. It’s a lot easier for an agency to claim they do SEO than it is to actually take the time to learn SEO. Do they know what they’re talking about or are they just using common marketing phrases to attract potential clients?
When vetting agencies who you want to work with for services like SEO be sure to ask a few important questions to flush out their knowledge:
What is your strategy or approach to SEO?
What tools do you use?
What is your process? Can you show me?
How do you track results? What are reasonable goals for 3, 6, and 12 months?
Asking the right questions can be a great opportunity to determine if they really know what they’re talking about, or if they’re pretending to and plan to figure it out along the way. Nobody wants to be a test dummy, and your marketing dollars are worth way more than someone overpromising and underdelivering.
Red Flag #2: They Lack a Clear Process for Tracking Results
The only way you’re going to know if your agency is doing a good job or not is by tracking progress and results. It’s important to understand what metrics the agency tracks, and what tools they use to do so. If they don’t track metrics, how do they know they’ve had any success in helping other organizations grow?
This is a huge red flag if the agency has no clear way of tracking progress or reporting on important metrics. Especially when it comes to marketing, you should always be tracking things like traffic, engagement, conversion rates, and customer acquisition to determine whether things are on the right track, or if changes need to be made. At the end of the day, a marketing agency is there to deliver tangible results, and you can’t make that distinction if they don’t track progress.
If the agency does have tools and processes in place, they’re more likely to be legit. This is your opportunity to dive into what tactics they use to impact those metrics.
Red Flag #3: Their Growth Plan Depends on You Spending More and More
Imagine if vending machines dispensed a coupon that said you had to pay more to get your snack? A lot of agencies rely solely on making you spend more money, and making you believe that your company’s growth is directly tied to how much you’re willing to spend on paid ads.
Huge. Red. Flag.
If their only levers are paid spend, and their primary suggestion is to spend more to get the results you want, they clearly don’t know what they’re doing.
Paid advertisements can generate leads and customers.
The issue with scaling paid advertisements is that you reach a point where more ad spend won’t necessarily result in more leads. If a marketing service only knows how to spend more money, they likely aren’t well versed in optimizing ads and landing pages.
Balancing paid acquisition with organic marketing can lead to exponential growth and profitable marketing.
Red Flag #4: They Get Paid Even if You Don't Make a Dime
A key place to look for any red flags is looking at their pricing model.
Are there too many add-ons, additional hours, or extra commitments that you’ll have to pay for? If the agency is more concerned about how many ways they can profit off of you, this is a big red flag that they care more about their own profits than yours.
Agencies should always lead with how they deliver value, not how they expect to get paid.. It’s a red flag that they don’t necessarily care about your needs.
An agency that leads with value, and that is willing to put value over profit is a green flag. Do they have a policy in place for what happens if they’re underdelivering or not hitting goals? For example, at Lean Labs, we don’t profit if our clients aren’t winning. We will put in additional unbilled work to make sure we are on track to hit our goals. This lets our clients know that we’re dedicated to their success: we have skin in the game! This creates the foundation for a great partnership.
When is it Time to Hire a SaaS Marketing Agency?
Hopefully, this article didn’t scare you! It might seem like there are too many potential red flags, and that it isn’t worth investing in a partnership with a marketing agency. While it’s true that there is no such thing as a perfect agency, there are definitely great SaaS marketing agencies out there willing to do the work with you to achieve results. Look for marketing agencies that are honest about what they can do and what they’ve historically been able to accomplish for brand’s like yours.
Before you go looking for a SaaS marketing agency, make sure that you first:
1. Develop clear and realistic goals
2. Identify their strengths and capabilities
3. Understand their pricing model and how they will partner with you
Lean Labs is a hybrid growth team that partners with SaaS companies to fill strategic and technical gaps to scale their sales pipeline. We’ve driven over $100 million in net new revenue for the SaaS startups and scaleups we’ve worked with.
To see what we would do if we were your growth team and were working to 10x your pipeline, unlock free access to the Growth Playbook today.