Whether you’ve been working with a digital marketing agency for years or are just now considering diving into a partnership, there are quite a few things that your marketing agency should absolutely, positively, never, ever, ever do.

1. Be the Yes-Man

A marketing agency should be an extension of your team, which means you need to trust them as if they were in-house at your office drinking coffee and eating your all-you-can-eat cereal every day. The right trusted adviser will do everything in their power to work with you to help you achieve your goals and guide you on a path to success.

But that doesn’t mean your marketing partner is a yes-man. In fact, you need them to be the opposite! A trustworthy adviser will give you an honest opinion on ideas that are truly awesome and execute strategy with guns a blazin’—but they’ll also give you a strategic, real-world take on how something you think is amazing doesn’t meet best practices or would actually be detrimental to your marketing strategy.

Think of your marketing agency as your filter, your BFF on prom night looking out for your best interests by telling you how awesome those strappy sandals are but how your hair looks less updo and more updon’t. We all need that trusted friend, and when it comes to the public face of your brand, you need your marketing agency to push back and lift up when the time is right.

We’re big believers in transparency and flexible, data-driven retainers, because your business is like a living, breathing organism that is constantly changing and evolving. Whether you need to pivot to meet an industry or market change or things are in flux at the office, your retainer needs to be rolling, flexible, and transparent. Black boxes belong in airplanes, not marketing!

If you’re working with a digital marketing agency that provides a black-and-white retainer, take a step back and reconsider your partnership. All offerings and plans should be thoughtfully catered to meet your company’s unique marketing needs. Too often, a black-and-white retainer is also a cookie-cutter retainer, which means the agency is servicing all of its clients with the same tactics, strategies, and promises.

At SmartBug Media™, this is one of the reasons that we spend so much time getting to know your company inside and out before even delivering our 90-day plan. We dig in, dig deep, and gain a thorough understanding of your struggles, successes, goals, and more to deliver a completely customized, rolling, and ever-evolving plan so you can focus on mission-critical business tasks, not the details.

3. Promise the World (and No. 1 in Search Results)

This one is a big one for us, because one of the best dictums to live by for pretty much anything in life is to underpromise and over deliver. If your marketing agency is promising from day one that you’ll be on page one of Google search lickety-split, this should be a huge, football field-sized red flag.

If you want to reach one million Instagram followers or Facebook likes by next month or see a 100 percent increase in leads by next week, the only way those goals can be achieved is through shady, temporary tactics that are ultimately fleeting. You might land more leads, but will they be qualified? Definitely not. In fact, they’ll be junk leads. Will you get one million followers? Possibly, but Facebook is wise to nefarious activity and may shut your page down for inauthentic profile-boosting activity—or a few weeks after you get those likes, all of those profiles might get purged because they’re fake.

The better, more effective, and long-lasting path? Find a digital marketing agency that will help you build a powerful paid search and social plan, create campaigns for brand awareness, and develop strategies for landing pages and campaigns that will generate the most qualified leads possible.

In marketing, everything takes time, and there’s a good reason for that. Time is necessary for creating brand awareness, loyalty, and social proof in order to pull in leads and turn them into customers. If you want to achieve staying power, invest in doing things right the first time—and take your time! After all, very few good things—your marketing plan among them—happen overnight (and, let’s be real, most of them are actually ice-box desserts).

4. Deliver Only the Positive Data

Data is great, isn’t it? You can see hard numbers and charts and graphs showing how your business is accelerating and growing, as well as which campaigns are most effective and which are underperforming. But data can also be distorted or manipulated to paint a positive picture 100 percent of the time that probably isn’t really there 100 percent of the time.

Even the best companies have up days and down days, as well as campaigns that work and those that flop. The data your digital marketing agency presents to you should reflect reality—not just what they want you to think is happening or what you’re expecting to happen.

Some campaigns will be amazing, and you’ll have data and reports to celebrate. But some efforts won’t go as well. An agency that can take that in stride, analyze what worked and what didn’t, and pivot is the kind of agency you want to work with.

What Now?

This list could go on and on. In fact, just to get one more in before you click away and fall down a cat meme hole: If a digital marketing agency doesn’t have clear processes for onboarding and managing your account, timelines for deliverables, communication tactics, and other nuts and bolts of basic project management, consider looking for an agency that does. Your marketing partner should be organized, communicative, available, easy to work with, and all in on helping your company achieve its unique goals.