Common marketing missteps waste time and money. These 5 fixes are GAME CHANGERS.

How to Find a Marketing Agency (or a Freelancer) 101

How to Find a Marketing Agency - Marketing Fiasco - Throwing Good Money After Bad

Not sure how to find a marketing agency (or freelancer)? It’s not hard. There are thousands. The real question: how to find the right one.

You’ve finally started to make a real investment in marketing. The agency or freelancers you’ve hired seem to be real go-getters. So far, so good.

But what are they actually doing? It’s an important question.

How to Find a Marketing Agency (or Freelancer) 101

The real question for most isn’t how to find an agency or freelancer. The real question is how to find a good one.

In 2019, nearly 41.1 million Americans were freelancing.

Holy shit, right? Are you still breathing? I know. It’s incredible.

Everyone is a freelancer. Everyone’s a photographer, copywriter, designer, brand strategist, and SEO expert.  Your brother. Your neighbor. Your coworker. The guy who sells you paint at Home Depot and the lady who delivers your mail.

Okay, not everyone’s a freelancer. Some people are “agencies.” They’re one (wo)man shows, or they’re running brick-and-mortar shops filled with employees. How many agencies? Roughly 35,000 worldwide.

Yikes. So much yikes that I’m going to pause here so you can take a deep breath.

We Good? Cool. Let’s Continue.

Shifting gears here, people. It’s easy to wonder how to find a marketing agency that’s the real deal. The “how” comes from starting to know what you currently don’t know. Don’t obsess about the numbers. Use them to do a deeper dive.

How can you separate the wheat from the chaff from the heaping pile of trash? It’s a good question.

One common example: Many agencies and freelancers will take any work that pays. If you ask them to write a blog but what you really need is powerful brand messaging, they’ll keep their mouths shut and write the blog. If you ask them to run an ad but your website looks like your cousin Jimmy designed it, they’ll high-five you and run that ad.

Essentially, they’re order takers.

Another example: many agencies and services pump out search engine optimized site content and blogs that contain one repetitive, typo-ridden sentence after the other. This “game the system” model of SEO involves trying to trick Google into believing that your site content has real value.

Ballsy on-page SEO may draw your target audience to your website, but once they arrive do you really want them to see that your site is wearing a bathrobe, its hair still in curlers?

This is your brand we’re talking about. Clean your website house by clearly articulating the problems your company solves and the value you offer. Instead of making site visitors confused if they got the wrong address, make them feel glad they stopped by.

Examples of What Agencies Might Do Why You Shouldn’t Let Them Do It
Buy expensive email lists and then blast out hundreds or thousands of emails each week. Reputable email marketing services don’t let you send emails to purchased lists. More to the point, why not try inbound marketing vs. outbound spamming?
Place expensive Google and LinkedIn ads without first launching an organic SEO effort. Build an engine that runs in the background before paying Google, LinkedIn, and your agency middleman to limo your brand around town. Rarely should ad buys precede foundational, on-page SEO efforts.
Write vanilla site content and blogs that don’t tell a clear story or make your company stand out. If your site content is beyond bland, you need to nail down your brand identity, value, and differentiators before publishing check-the-box content.
Create SEO backlinks manually over a period of months. Cost-effective backlink services can create hundreds of backlinks for you in just hours.

Let’s talk brand strategy for a second. As I mentioned, these days everyone who’s not an expert writer, expert photographer, or expert designer claims to be an expert brand strategist.

Years ago, a company hired me to redo their brand messaging. Just six months earlier, the company paid several consultants to fly in. After meeting with company execs for two days, the consultants came up with this value proposition:

We put people first in a tech-oriented industry. We protect our client’s reputation like it is our own. Our team is obsessed with client outcomes – it is a company-wide mindset.

The consultants then had this value proposition added to the company’s home page above the fold (the area of the website viewed without having to scroll down).

Value Proposition Pop Quiz

Remember the value proposition? No. Weird, right? I mean, I just wrote about it two paragraphs ago. Here it is again:

We put people first in a tech-oriented industry. We protect our client’s reputation like it is our own. Our team is obsessed with client outcomes – it is a company-wide mindset.

Now, answer these five questions:

  1. What does the company do? What industry are they in?
  2. Who is their client? (And why do they have just one?)
  3. What services and value does the company provide?
  4. Why is the client’s reputation in danger? What are “client outcomes”?
  5. Why is the company so self-involved? (“We,” “our own,” “Our team”)


If you’re feeling a little lost, you’re not alone. The worst part about it is that the company paid the consultants for vague messaging and bad advice.

How to Find a Marketing Agency (or Freelancer) 101

To properly vet your agency, freelancers, and other partners, you should first build a baseline knowledge in their purported areas of expertise. Review examples of their work. If you like what you see, try to identify what specific things resonate. If you don’t like what you see, try to pinpoint why.

Ask the hard questions. Will buying email lists and spamming people mar your brand? Is manual backlink-building necessary in this automated day and age? Why pay for ads before initiating a comprehensive on-page SEO effort? Are awesome on-page SEO efforts rendered ineffective when site visitors arrive at your site only to see poorly written content?

Make the most of every opportunity to communicate your company’s offerings, audience, and value. Along those lines, anyone can write marketing mumbo jumbo, but it takes a bona fide expert to craft brand messaging that works.

Whatever you do, do not pay (or continue to pay) a high price tag for marketing services that look good on the surface but ultimately don’t get the job done.

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