Ecommerce: 7 Questions & Red Flags When Hiring A Digital Marketing Agency

More and more DTC eCommerce businesses have approached us recently looking to hire a new digital marketing/eCommerce agency because they’ve either:

  • experienced an agency that oversold its capabilities and under-delivered results
  • realised they need to outsource some digital marketing efforts for speed and scale

We get it. Finding the right partner to drive your eCommerce marketing efforts is hard.

So today, we’re sharing some tips on how to hire the best digital marketing/eCommerce agency for your needs, as you go on your quest to find your marketing diamond in the rough.

Know your business numbers and goals before looking to hire

It’s important that you understand what you want to achieve with your digital marketing agency before looking to hire one.

This will help you determine how much work needs to be outsourced.

At least for us at Leaf, it’s important to understand the current and desired state of your business during our introductory chat to see if we’re the right fit for each other from the start.

And trust us, sorting this out early on will save you a lot of time, money, and headaches down the road.

Any digital marketing agency worth its salt will not try too hard to win you.

They care about building long-term partnerships with their clients, not earning a quick buck.

To do this, they will want to find out if there’s potential for this with you by asking you to elaborate on some of these points on your business during your introductory call:

  • Short, medium, and long-term objectives 
  • Current marketing strategy
  • Current ad spend budget and performance numbers e.g. ROAS, AOV, etc.
  • Profit margins and unit economics
  • Target customers
  • Business roadmap and current team structure
  • Product info and branding

A good digital marketing agency will pay attention to your answers, because they actually care about the bottom line of your business on a deeper level, and not just their own profit.

After all, there is a difference between hitting ROAS targets vs. scaling ROAS at profit.

So use your introductory call to see if your potential agency cares about your bottom-line… Or theirs.

Questions to ask the digital marketing agency:

How will you measure success?

Success can be measured in many different ways.

And reported metrics fall into either one of two buckets:

Vanity metrics – statistics that are nice to see, but can’t tell you how they make a difference for your business goals.

Actionable metrics – statistics you can tie into your business goals or use to improve on for specific goal-driven tasks.

Examples of vanity metrics:

  • Ad spend
  • Impressions
  • Page views
  • Downloads

Examples of actionable metrics:

  • Average Order Value (AOV)
  • Lifetime Value (LTV)
  • Conversion Rate (CRO)
  • Return On Ad Spend (ROAS)

What you want to hear from the digital marketing agency is their consideration of your goals when suggesting metrics to measure.

And if you want to take it a step further, see if the agency talks about how they will attribute marketing efforts to your bottom line.


This is something that many agencies shy away from because of how complex it is.

That, or they say they can do it, but then usually end up tracking your funnel wrongly.

For us at Leaf, for example, marketing attribution is a key performance indicator that we use to measure all stages of the eCommerce funnel.

We always include our technical services in our proposal, which includes customer journey implementation & maintenance from click to purchase. We do this because, with new clients, more than 90% of them come in with the wrong setup. So we correct and rework this to ensure that your business can scale at profit.

What’s your process and approach?

Understanding how the digital marketing agency works, thinks, and communicates, helps you to gauge whether or not they’re the right fit for you.

Remember, you’re hiring them for their expertise, so they must be able to detail their process in an organised and strategic way to suit your needs.

Ideally, the agency will be able to outline the following:

  • how they will communicate with you
  • how they approach your eCommerce funnel – top, middle, bottom
  • overall project timeline
  • reporting and check-ins

Who will we be working with and what is their level of experience?

What might happen is that you’ll speak with a director who is great at closing deals.

But then, once onboarded, you end up working with a junior team.

Asking this question upfront helps you know exactly who will manage your account and execute the actual work.

Also, be sure to ask if the agency has partnership status with big companies like Facebook, Google, or Shopify.

This is usually a good indicator of whether or not they’re qualified, for example, according to Facebook,

“Facebook Business Partners (formerly Facebook Marketing Partners) are companies that Facebook has vetted for their expertise. They have the experience to help grow your business – from running ads, to selling products, to engaging with your customers.”

You need to feel confident with the team you’re working with so that the both of you can maintain a good working relationship and you can reach the goals you’ve set out for your business.

Red flags to watch out for when hiring a digital marketing agency:

You don’t have direct access to your data and advertising accounts

This is one of the most important red flags to watch out for.

You must own and have full access to your data and advertising accounts, period.

Your agency should be granted access, not you.

Something is seriously wrong if you either:

  • need to go through your agency to access your data or ad accounts like Google Analytics, Facebook Ads Manager, etc.
  • or if your agency creates your ad account using their own Business Manager

Agencies who own your data and ad accounts either don’t know any better (which means they’re inexperienced), or worse, so they can hold you to your contract or know if you’re trying out another agency. It’s a pretty unethical and shady practice.

Don’t let your data be held hostage.

Talk to the agency and check your contract on data access, management, and ownership before signing it.

They promise you specific results and don’t use data and analytics to track and measure performance

Run for the hills if the digital marketing agency guarantees you specific results like 10X ROAS, especially within a short amount of time.

This is usually a ploy to get you stuck in a contract.

There’s no secret sauce when it comes to eCommerce marketing, especially now when we’re in the midst of a third-party cookie apocalypse.

It’s all about testing and iterating based on your marketing data and analytics to ensure that you’re spending your money in the right way.

Another red flag is if the agency doesn’t track and measure performance by harnessing tools like Google Analytics because this means that you will not be able to make data-driven decisions for your business. Guesswork alone is not going to cut it for eCommerce, you must be able to back up your plans and hypotheses with data so you don’t crash and burn down the road.

The agency uses a plug-and-play or set-and-forget approach

Agencies that use plugins or set frameworks to run your ads and optimise your eCommerce funnel, probably don’t care much about the profitability of your business.

This is taking the easy way out in a time where advertising and eCommerce are constantly changing and require a more hands-on approach.

A good digital marketing agency will continually test and iterate based on past/present/trending advertising, business, and market data and insights.

They will take into account your future goals when coming up with a strategy so everything works together towards scale and profitability.

They say they can do everything

This can be a tricky one.

Depending on your needs and budget, a generalist agency that claims they can do it all for you definitely sounds worth it.

But the capability to do everything at a high standard is rarely the case, and we’ve heard the same from our clients too.

To be fair, some all-in-one agencies do work out well.

What’s important here is for you to be clear with what you need.

For example, what works for some of our clients is a hybrid approach:

The in-house marketing team has ownership of the brand, while their digital marketing partner like us, brings in the expertise and speed of scale.

Another consideration:

If your monthly marketing budget is lower than £5,000, then specialist agencies are usually unlikely to take you on as a client. This is when a generalist agency comes in handy.


If agencies aren’t your thing, work with a tech company like Leaf that combines tech, code, data, and a team of experienced specialists to provide end-to-end performance marketing services for ambitious eCommerce businesses like you! Get in touch now.
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Want to scale your eCommerce revenue profitably?
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