What Should You Look For?
While every business will have unique needs, there are some common characteristics you should look for when hiring a company to manage your online marketing.
1. They’re Flexible
Some marketing agencies have cookie cutter plans for you to choose from, and are very reluctant to try to put something custom together for an individual business. However, one size doesn’t fit all. If an agency you’re evaluating isn’t willing to have a conversation with you about tailoring a plan to fit your business, you might want to really think about whether you want to work with them because that’s likely indicative of what you can expect moving forward when it comes to other aspects of dealing with them.
Now, in defense of agencies, I will say that sometimes a business owner will be absolutely set on what they want to do, but in talking to them about their goals, there’s actually another approach that will work better. In that case, an agency or professional will likely advise that you go another route. Don’t mistake sound advice for trying to fit your company into an existing cookie cutter plan, because there is a difference between the two. Just be cautious if a marketing agency’s pitch sounds like it doesn’t fit your business’s needs.
2. They’re Not Pushy
The last point is a great segue into this topic. Salespeople shouldn’t be pushy. I have always been a strong proponent of sales integrity, so as soon as a salesperson tries to strong-arm me into buying something I instantly write off that business. Entrusting someone with your company’s marketing is a big deal and your salesperson should treat it as such. If you are dealing with someone in sales at an agency and they are badgering you all the time about whether or not you’re going to be buying or they’re always trying to upsell you, they probably have their own interests before yours. Take your time when making a purchase and make sure that when you choose a company it’s because you want to work with them.
3. They’re Transparent
There’s no reason that a marketing agency should ever withhold your keywords, ads, or performance data from you. Look for an agency that’s going to be transparent with the work that they’re doing.
Now, there may be times when processes or tools that they use are proprietary and won’t be shared with you in order to protect their business interests. This is quite different though than withholding the essential building blocks of your marketing efforts or the resulting performance data reports. This should either be shared with you or made available to you (for example by allowing you to log-in to Google AdWords or Google Analytics).
4. They’re Willing to Work to Keep Your Business
Marketing success doesn’t come overnight, but that doesn’t mean that a marketing agency should require you to sign a lengthy contract. The reason that some agencies require contracts at all is because there are clients that have a tendency to try something for a few weeks and then give up and cancel the service if they haven’t hit their goals yet. Requiring a contracted period of work guarantees the agency that they will have the proper time to prove themselves to their client without having to worry about the threat of impatience.
For this reason, a short-term contract of 2, 3, 4, and sometimes even 6 months (this is okay for SEO, but really too long for PPC) isn’t something that should scare you off. However, being required to sign a 9, 12, or 18 month contract doesn’t really make a lot of sense when it comes to online marketing because in that much time, the landscape of online advertising can change so dramatically that down the road you may be stuck doing something that isn’t the best option for your business anymore. Long term contracts like that also give agencies a lot of time to get complacent with your account because they know you’re locked in for the long haul.
5. They’re Local
Using a local agency may not matter for your business, but it may. Depending on the nature of your business you may want someone nearby so that they really understand the nature of your market, and so that you can meet occasionally for coffee or lunch to discuss performance and future opportunities.
Evaluating a marketing company and have questions? Comment below and we’d be happy to answer any questions that you have! And as always, we’d be honored to have LionShark added to the list of contenders!
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!
Photo from Flickr (Joanna Bourne)