Who can best help you to market your new business or amp up your current company?  Well, with an average of over 40,000 online search queries taking place every second [source], statistics recommend that you take your game online. Of course, a simple online search of your own will bring up a list of thousands of companies who claim the ability to “bring traffic to your website.”

The question for you is: How well can you trust them?Let’s put it this way:


I work at a marketing company, and we think it is a noble calling: we exist to help other businesses to succeed.

But you know, it’s really easy for some enthusiasts to get caught up in the sales-y-ness.  Anything to make a dollar.  So try to avoid those peeps and pick a company (they’re out there!) that is going to really, truly, honestly help you.

To that end, here are a few basic hoops to ask your prospective marketing company to jump through before you send them their first paycheck:

Ask for their track record

best choice top quality metal label best icon best product compa“The best marketing company in Minnesota.”

 

Oh yeah? Prove it.  If someone is going to be bold enough to make that claim, I’ll demand that they show me their track record.

Any company that touts itself as The Best should be prepared to whip out stats to prove it. Do they work with any big-name businesses?  That’s a good indication that you can trust them – big businesses do their research and typically don’t waste time on marketing failures.

Maybe their niche is small businesses – what statistics can they give to prove that they have brought success to little mom-and-pop stores?  Can they show you testimonials to prove it?

Ask for a list of deliverables

Cartoon of business staff meeting at a table that looks like a puzzle piece, leader says, After four years and $400 million dollars we have secured one piece of the internet revenue puzzle.

“We’re the best investment for your money”

What are you guaranteed when working with this company?  Marketing companies vary greatly on how they bill their clients and what they’re willing to do for them.

If you are paying monthly, how will you be able to track the progress that’s being made on your website?  A monthly or quarterly report of the background work is great (a lot of the work we do on websites is completely behind the scenes, and not very evident to a regular website visitor).  Or perhaps you are guaranteed X amount of blogs/month, X amount of traction on Pay-per-click.  Whatever.

Just clarify what kind of track-able progress will be reported to you.

Ask for SEO practices

are you using black hat or white hat SEO tactics for your organic search traffic

“Bringing quality leads to your website.”

How does Company X intend to bring traffic to your website? How can you ensure that the traffic they’re bringing in is high quality?

There are a ton of ways to bring traffic to websites.  One of them is simply to publish the website, optimize it, and wait for the bots to find it.  Bots crawl throughout the internet and show up as traffic on tracking software, like Google Analytics.  But they’re not people, and thousands of “visits” from these bots won’t benefit your website or business at all, although they will make your Google Analytics account look suuuper popular.

Organic search traffic can be obtained by reputable means like quality content, blog updates, precise keyword strategies, etc.  This is called white hat SEO.

There’s also a dark side – black hat SEO.  That includes stuffing pages with keywords and trying to manipulate the search engines so they’ll send you lots of visitors. The problem: if you begin using disreputable means to “optimize” your website, Google will hate you and blacklist your site, and your online visitors won’t be impressed (because you haven’t been optimizing for real people). And then you’re back to square one.

 

Your organic search traffic should always translate into quality leads and, ultimately, into revenue for your company.

Do they have a big picture marketing plan?

the big marketing picture for your business

“We’ll increase your leads.”

Can they do more than just bring people to your website?  There’s a missing link between a website visitor and a customer.  It’s called lead generation.

Will your company be able to go beyond simple organic search traffic to help you capture each valuable lead – and turn them into a loyal customer?  This will require more experience on the part of your marketing team, but in the end can make your sales process a seamless process.

(Also, will they integrate their efforts on your website with additional services such as Facebook and Twitter, or industry-specific platforms such as TripAdvisor and Houzz?)

Ask for their recommendations vs your budget

your marketing firm should respect your budget

“Our products will make you successful.”

Does the company you’re working with try to oversell their products to you?  Or do they respect your budget and business size?  An intuitive team will even help you to draw the line on the maximum amount of leads that your sales team or business line can handle.

If you state clearly that your budget must be limited to X and the sales rep for the marketing company urges you repeatedly that “X + $ will get you THIS benefit, you should upgrade,” then, well, you have the freedom to be wary.

Of course, every marketing company can and should offer you upgrades that come with increased benefits for your business.  However, the offers should always be respectful and accompanied by an acknowledgement of your current budget requirements.

What kind of feedback do you get?

what kind of feedback do you get

“The customer is always right….”

Sometimes a prospective or current client will approach our team and ask for some common marketing service to be added to their website.  The catch: we know that their website or company will not benefit from this service, and it is not the most efficient use of their money.

In such cases, find a marketing company you trust that will tell you outright “we know that will be great for our business, but that’s not a good investment for you.”

There’s a ton of great tools out there that can be purchased to enhance any digital marketing strategy.  But if we don’t think a client’s foundation is strong enough to sustain what they’re asking for, we are obliged to tell them outright.

Do they know your industry?

“We’ll take what we can get, no matter your industry.”

Canoe Doodle

Each industry requires different tactics. There are big, name brand companies that require certain methods vastly different from local businesses trying to grow.

The travel industry attempts to bring in people from many different locations and backgrounds, whereas a roofing contractor will target prospective clients within set boundaries.

What is your industry?  Can you marketing company come up with a plan for it without wasting your time?

Are they competitive within their own industry?

is your marketing company competitive

“Cutting edge technology”

Marketing companies are a dime a dozen. Many are good, some are ok, others are just plain bad.  How does your marketing company compare within their own industry?

Spend a little bit of time asking how they got into business, how long they’ve been in business, and the steps they take to remain educated in an ever-changing industry.

Some good indications of a competitive company are: the number of employees (and how long they’ve been with the company), ongoing education classes and conferences, community involvement, retained clients, etc.

Can they keep your website secure?

security

“Safety first.”

Online security is huge.  And it doens’t just apply to e-commerce sites.  Secure connections, encrypted files, and virus protection software are all required nowadays to keep your information safe.

Website protections plans are no longer optional.  Online hackers are continually at work doing whatever they can to be a nuisance to the respectable world.  From spam links to viruses and internet blacklisting, your online security is something that your marketing company should take seriously.

Who will help me if something goes wrong?

made in the usa

“Hello, do you know your party’s extension?”

 

Where is your marketing company located?  Who does the prep work and strategizing?

A lot of big companies outsource their employment opportunities to citizens overseas.  Without downplaying the importance of a job to those who live overseas, it can be frustrating to try to cross a language and social barrier to try to solve a 10-minute dilemma.

When working with a marketing company, are you assigned a specific contact person or are you left with a generic 800 number? If a problem should arise, it’s better to know who you can go to for quick resolution.


 

All in all, entrusting your business with the right online marketing company can be a great experience.  Best of luck to you as you work hard to grow your business.

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