Great creative is nearly a commodity.

As a smaller strategy and branding agency, we work in a very competitive space—boutiques, global holding-company networks, independents, and agencies that fly under the radar. I’ve seen all of them deliver great creative. How do marketers looking to build a brand and grow their business decide among all of the creative agencies?

As clients, you should demand more.

Great art, copy and production are table stakes, not the goal. Small agencies can be very powerful partners. They can be agile and affordable. But for marketers working with a small agency or about to hire one, look for the following red flags:

No method, just madness.

Expect a process that works. You’re trusting an outside firm with your most valuable asset: your brand. You’re taking a risk by committing significant resources with the faith that the investment will pay off. Your agency must have a clear point-of-view on the market and how to win it. They should also be able to demonstrate a proven process to get there. If it feels like your agency is making it up as they go, they are. And they should be fired.

Not up in your business.

Demand a business partner instead of a creative vendor. There is a good chance you hired a small agency because of the price tag and better access to their top people. But don’t allow that to lower your expectations. Your agency should insist on being involved in your business and accountable to the results of their work. If they’re not? Grounds for dismissal.

Unclear and unfair pricing.

The agency practice of “pricing low to win” is the fastest way to win and then immediately lose the business—often within a year. It creates an unsustainable environment where the relationship is under a constant barrage of bad news, and the work loses value because it’s literally undervalued. In this scenario, no one is investing in anything. If your agency “nickels and dimes” you to compensate for a bad deal, it’s time to put them out of their misery. Let them go.

The number of small (or large) agencies that do great work can be overwhelming. But the choice becomes easier when you look for an accountable partner who knows the value of solving your biggest challenges.