\u201c93 percent of communication is nonverbal.\u201d Ever heard this statistic? It\u2019s a number that is often thrown around \u2014 and just as often debated. It comes from a famed 1972 study by psychologist Albert Mehrabian, who conducted multiple studies that concluded human communication is divided as follows: Words: 7 percent Tone of voice: 38 percent Body language: 55 percent Add tone of voice and body language together, and we come up with 93 percent nonverbal communication. What does nonverbal communication have to do with vetting digital agencies? When you\u2019re vetting a digital agency and asking them questions, you can't just listen to the words. You have to keep both your eyes and ears open, because there is more being communicated nonverbally than there is verbally. An agency could provide all the "right answers," but you could still wind up regretting the decision to work with them because you weren\u2019t paying attention to nonverbal signals that might have tipped you off. Ignoring these signals could lead you to miss an important red flag. 5 Digital Agency Red Flags Recognizing and avoiding red flags is the key to protecting yourself against a bad deal, or at least a bad experience. Not every red flag is an automatic deal breaker, but it should at least prompt you to dig a bit deeper and ask some more questions. If the agency can\u2019t satisfy your concerns regarding the red flag, it\u2019s time to walk away. In my experience, there are a few red flags that many people sail by when interviewing prospective agencies. Below you\u2019ll find a few bright-red flags you shouldn\u2019t ignore. If the phrase caveat emptor (\u201cbuyer beware\u201d) ever would apply, it\u2019d be now. Red Flag #1: Vague Answers When you ask a question about the project, the agency should be able to give a clear, detailed answer. For example, one of the most basic questions a digital agency should be able to answer is \u201cIf my website goes down, what happens? Who do I call or email? How long before I can expect a response?\u201d If you ask this question, the digital agency should be able to respond with something specific like, \u201cBill is our tech-support guy; you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and he\u2019ll respond within 24 hours.\u201d Or \u201cYou\u2019ll have 24\/7\/365 tech support at 1-800-XXX-XXXX.\u201d A specific answer like the one above is a good sign that the agency is on their game. But let\u2019s suppose the agency responds with \u201cWell, you shouldn\u2019t have any trouble, but if you do, call our office and we\u2019ll figure it out for you.\u201d That answer might sound reassuring, but it tells you absolutely nothing \u2014 it doesn\u2019t offer any solutions in the event your website goes down. If the digital agency can\u2019t give you a clear, concise answer to this simple question, make a note of it and keep listening. If you continue to receive vague answers like this in response to other questions you ask, you\u2019ve got a clear red flag. Red Flag #2: The Pebble in Your Shoe When you\u2019re vetting a digital agency, you\u2019re effectively interviewing them for a job. So you need to act as if you were hiring an employee to join your staff. The interview questions might be a bit different, but the process is about the same. In a job interview, you\u2019re not just checking the candidate\u2019s qualifications, you\u2019re also feeling out the employee to see whether they would be a good fit for your team. The same goes for a digital agency you\u2019re thinking about hiring. If the behavior exhibited by the agency rubs you the wrong way during the initial interview, you\u2019re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Nothing worse than a pebble in your shoe while hiking \u2014 the same applies for a client\/agency relationship. As the founder and president of a digital agency, I\u2019ve interviewed and hired many people over the years. Some of those interviewees were bright, engaged, and dressed the part, and these folks have been great assets to my team. I\u2019ve also had candidates who wouldn\u2019t look me in the eye, laughed way too loudly, or reeked of a cologne that could fend off attackers. I\u2019ve learned by experience that if something about the candidate rubs me the wrong way during the interview, that trend is likely to continue and get worse if I hire that person. In other words, while I try to be as open as possible, I\u2019ve also learned not to ignore the little indicators that could detract from our office environment. The same applies to any digital agency you are considering. If the behavior exhibited by the agency rubs you the wrong way during the initial interview, you\u2019re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. It\u2019s like feeling a pebble in your shoe. It only bothers you a little at first, but if you don\u2019t take off your shoe and remove the pebble, it\u2019s going to feel excruciating after about a half mile of walking. If something annoys you or makes you uncomfortable at the beginning, you\u2019ll be even more uncomfortable the longer you let it go. Red Flag #3: Nonreferences Most digital agencies will have a curated list of references, and if you call them, they\u2019ll likely have great things to say \u2014 otherwise, the agency wouldn\u2019t have them on the list. But if you really want to dig deeper, find some companies they\u2019ve worked with who aren\u2019t on that list. You can often find these through backlinks, mutual acquaintances, or even the sample websites the digital agency has provided for you. Call some of these companies and ask about their experience with the agency. If they left, find out why. If they are still with the agency but not on the list, you might find out what the unfiltered story is. Now, while your hope is obviously to hear nothing negative about the agency, in the interest of fairness, a negative review shouldn\u2019t be a deal breaker in itself. There are many reasons why businesses make and break alliances, and there are also two sides to every story. If you do hear something negative, remember to take it with a grain of salt, and use your own best judgment. However, if you hear a significant number of horror stories from this uncurated list of nonreferences, or if several of them have the same complaint about the company, there\u2019s a pattern of broken relationships, and that\u2019s a red flag that you should not ignore. Red Flag #4: Your Gut Tells You No Suppose the digital agency you\u2019re considering is a referral from a trusted friend. This friend of yours works with the agency, loves them, and swears by them. However, after talking with the agency, you figure out that your friend\u2019s referral is the only positive thing they have going for them \u2014 nothing else jives. They give vague answers, their contractual agreement is one page long and says almost nothing, and the non-references you find aren\u2019t giving them good reports. In fact, if it weren\u2019t for your friend\u2019s strong referral, you wouldn\u2019t even be considering this company at this point. You feel like you\u2019re being biased and unfair. Is your friend seeing something in this company that you don\u2019t see? Or in the immortal words of The Clash, "Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?" No. Actually, the opposite is probably true: you\u2019re seeing something your friend isn\u2019t seeing. Your friend is saying yes, but your gut is telling you no. Always go with your gut. This holds true even if you don\u2019t find overwhelming evidence that contradicts your friend\u2019s recommendation. You don\u2019t owe it to your friend or anyone else to enter a working relationship that you feel could harm your business. If you can\u2019t get comfortable with the agency, no matter how subjective that feeling is, there\u2019s no harm or foul in walking away. But let\u2019s also be clear: if all other signals except for your friend\u2019s recommendation are pointing in the opposite direction, you shouldn\u2019t walk away. You should run. Trusting your gut is far from scientific, but not every business decision you make has to be. You always have the right to say no. Red Flag #5: An Ambiguous Cancellation Policy Every relationship ends at some point \u2014 including ones of a business nature. If you're working with a digital agency, you need to make sure they offer a clear cancellation policy within the contract you sign. If a digital agency fumbles when you ask the question "what's your cancellation policy?" or responds with something like "Oh, why talk about leaving when we've barely begun?" \u2014 that's a huge red flag. It means they don't really have a plan for when you decide to say goodbye \u2014 which will guarantee a mess when you inevitably do part ways. Learn more about why your cancellation policy is the most important part of your contract with a digital agency. Have more questions? Contact us today to learn more about how to choose a digital agency.