You know that the business atmosphere has changed a lot in recent years. You know there is now a great need to build a strong online presence if you want your business to succeed, especially on a global scale. So you also know you’ll have to hire people to take charge of your online marketing campaign. Like many other businesses, perhaps you’ve considered hiring a third-party marketing company for this purpose. In fact, you may already have started checking out a few of the companies that have sent you online marketing propositions.
If you take some time studying the proposals emailed to you or simply listening to a particular company’s representative, you’ll probably find a common thread – the promise of getting your website to rank for all your chosen keywords within just a few months. Be careful not to fall for this kind of sales pitch. Many of those who did ended up experiencing great disappointment when their performance dropped significantly, even when they saw a marked improvement in rankings during the first couple of months. When hiring an online marketing company, don’t look for promises; look for results.
Here are a few questions you’d do well to ask before you hire a marketing company. The answers to these questions should help you determine whether a particular company will be able to give you real value for your money.
Questions to Ask the Company
- How long have you been in business?
While you don’t really need to look for a company with decades of experience, it certainly will be nice to choose one that has had several clients before you. You wouldn’t want to be part of a company’s trial-and-error phase, would you? This question also opens the opportunity for the company representative to tell you about their history, which can give you a good idea as regards their level of expertise and the values they hold, even if the rep doesn’t directly talk about those things.
- How would you describe your online marketing process?
If the marketing company you’re considering is indeed a reliable one, they shouldn’t have any problem explaining their processes to you. In fact, they should be eager to make you understand how they go about the process. The best marketers know that understanding is the first key to building trust and they also know that trust is very important to sustain your working relationship, even as you go through rough patches because there are bound to be rough patches along the way. It is generally a bad idea to go with a company that does things “just for the crawlers”.
- Are you currently working with anyone in my industry?
Note that the most reliable marketing companies avoid working with two competing clients. If a company already has a client operating in the same industry as you are, determine if that client is a direct competitor. If not, then it may benefit you to hire the company, as they’re already familiar with your industry. The fact that they have a client in the same industry also helps you determine if they’re the right company for you by checking the performance of the said client.
- What can you say about the current design of our website?
A credible online marketing company will cite the positive and negative points of your website. They will point out the problems and tell you how they can help solve those problems. If all the company has to tell you are praises for your site and the way it is designed, you may want to think twice about hiring them. After all, what else can they help you with if your site is already okay as it is, right? If your site isn’t really okay and they’re just pulling your leg, then that’s all the more reason not to hire them.
- How long should I wait to see positive results?
If a company guarantees significant results in a month or less, look elsewhere. A truly credible online marketer knows it takes at least two months to see any real results and even then, they probably wouldn’t give you any guarantees other than that you will see a gradual yet constant improvement in your online performance. Online marketers know the industry is highly dynamic, which is why there can never be specific guarantees.
Remember that there are no guarantees in the dynamic world of online marketing. At most, a marketing company should only guarantee a gradual yet constant improvement in your performance.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What specific services do I need?
Perhaps you already have a few in-house personnel handling some aspects of online marketing and you only need help with the other aspects. Or maybe you already have an in-house Internet marketing team, but there are a few specific components they’re not very good at. You need to identify what specific services you’ll need from a third-party online marketing company so you’ll know what you should be paying for. Note as well that each marketing company has its own specialization, so the answer to this question will help you determine which company to go for based on your needs and their expertise.
- Am I satisfied with the way the marketing company tells their story?
Bear in mind that a good online marketer is not only very adept in the technical side of marketing, but is also very creative. As a general rule, a creative person tells good stories. While you’re asking a particular marketer some questions, therefore, you need to listen not only to the answers given, but also to the manner in which the answers were given. How do they talk about their history? How do they relive their best client experience? How do they recall their worst client experience? All these will give you an idea as to how creative they are.
- Is the company possibly hiding poor quality of service?
While you’re doing interviews of prospective marketers, you may want to look for red flags that’ll tell you they’re hiding something. This is especially important if what they’re hiding is poor quality of service. Some of the most common red flags are the following:
- Failure to give specifics such as a list of past and current clients for reference or the processes they follow in their marketing schemes.
- Failure to provide exact URLs for samples of their work.
- A claim of having non-disclosure contracts with all their clients.
A truly credible marketer will have nothing to hide, so you can expect them to be proactive in showing you samples of their work or providing you with references.
- Am I really getting good advice about my website?
When you ask for feedback about your website, listen very carefully to the advice you are given. If the marketer tells you to publish as many pieces of content as possible because that’s what search engines are looking for, you’re probably better off hiring someone else. This is especially true if the marketer tells you the quality of your content isn’t as important as the quantity you publish on a regular basis. If you are told that the design and format of your posts aren’t really important, then you should also consider hiring another company. Internet marketing today requires you to publish high-quality content, and design and format are among the components that dictate quality.
- Does the company engage in practices that can harm my brand?
There are many online marketing tactics that used to work, but can now harm your brand in more ways than one and in very little time. Make sure the marketing company you hire no longer engages in these tactics if they did in the past. Do some research to make sure the company you’re considering doesn’t post their clients’ content to junk websites or pay for links to their clients’ sites. Note that bad link-building has been found to cause the largest amount of damage within the least amount of time.
To make sure you hire the right online marketing company, you’d do well to heed the following reminders:
- Just because a company ranks first on search results doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right company for you. When they rank websites, search engines like Google take into account the age of the domain and the length of time a business has been in operation. So a company can rank first simply because they were there first. That doesn’t mean they can address your needs. Do your homework first.
- Bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to online marketing. The right marketer for you could be one that has less than ten employees. What’s important is their ability to cater to your needs, not their size.
- Keep your shopping spree a secret. It is indeed a good idea to schedule consultations with several marketing companies before hiring one. It helps ensure you hire the right company. But that doesn’t mean you should let each company know you’re still shopping around. You may think that’s a good way of making them compete for your business, but the tactic could actually backfire, especially if the company you’re considering is an established one with a lot of potential clients.
The importance of online visibility has made Internet marketing a very lucrative industry. Make sure you don’t fall prey to unscrupulous people taking advantage of this industry boom. Educate yourself.