We’ve all been there - a crappy first date, a lousy job interview, a bad first impression. Sparks didn’t fly, a connection wasn’t made; that is to say, you just weren’t compatible.
Just as with any new relationship, your compatibility with your marketing team should be tested, questioned, or at the very least, considered. The last thing you want, and the last thing they want, is to consciously walk into a situation where both parties feel disjointed or misunderstood. You want to feel heard, right? In terms of choosing a marketing company, you want a team you can trust, one that’s in your corner cheering you on, ready to be your long-term partner. An advisor, perhaps. Ya know, the one who doesn't just see you as a number.
So, how can you tell if your marketing partner is, or will be, a good fit for you? Surprise, surprise, this requires a little bit of legwork on your part. But trust me, you’ll be happy you did. In the spirit of transparency and all things knowledge, we compiled a list of questions to get you started!
Getting to Know the Team
Does your team’s culture fit my personality, or my practice’s personality?
Step one, figure out if you even like the people. Do they match your core values, or are you constantly having to re-explain your vision? Maybe you want a team that’s more analytical, reserved, the business-professional-types. Or, perhaps you’d feel more comfortable with a group that’s outgoing, fun, more of the business-casual-types. Maybe having a bit of both is important to you. Whatever that looks like, write it down, along with your values, and make sure you choose a team that compliments that.
Who will I be working with on a regular basis? How available are they?
A lot of marketing agencies have high turnover with account reps, or multiple people managing one project or client, so it’s definitely a fair question to ask. When you hire a marketing company, you’re essentially hiring new teammates. Whether remote or on-site, they need to be responsive, communicative, and dependable. Check out the company’s “About” or “Team” section of their website before your first phone call - do you feel they’re approachable? Do you get to even see them at all or learn about who they are? When you do have your first phone call, ask them what their responsiveness policy is, if they even have one.
Most marketing projects are viewed from a very long-term level, so investing the time to learn who you’ll be chatting with regularly, and how available they are to you, is kinda important for the overall success of the project.
Offerings & Capabilities
What are your core strengths?
Basically, are they a one-trick pony or a swiss army knife? (Spoiler alert: you want a swiss army knife). Here’s the thing: marketing doesn’t work in a vacuum, it exists in a large, complicated web of capabilities. That means that a good marketing company should be versatile, diverse, and cohesive in those efforts. Yea sure, some companies are better at some things than others, but overall, being well-rounded in those efforts equals potency in results.
These include things like: Web Design, Web Development, Branding, Digital Advertising, Videography/Photography, Copy and Content Writing, Social Media Management, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
How much of the work will be outsourced?
This goes along with the previous point, but it’s just as important to ask. A lot of marketing companies outsource work such as blog writing, web development, or designing. While that’s not the end of the world, it just means that a small piece of the whole pie has the potential to become disjointed or broken. It’s like the telephone game. One more step in the process, or one more person outside of the circle trying to understand your vision, your business, your pride and joy, leaves room for miscommunication.
Do you understand my industry?
“Oh, I just need a logo designed,” or, “I just need them to run some ads for me, it doesn’t matter if they’re not familiar with my industry, it all works the same and I hear they’re really good.” It does matter, and it doesn’t all work the same. Remember, I said marketing does not work in a vacuum. The same philosophy applies to your industry. The way a website is designed for a dental practice is not the same way it’s designed for an insurance agency. Nor does an advertising strategy work the same way in a practice in urban Los Angeles the same way it does in rural Bismarck, North Dakota. Even if the marketing company you’re interviewing works with lots of different industries, make sure yours is one of them, and they have taken the time to learn it.
Strategy & Goals
Who are some of your past clients?
Or, current clients! Seeing proven results, or hearing testimonies straight from practice owners just like you is a great idea when vetting out a marketing company. This could be as simple as checking out their reviews, or asking directly who they’ve worked with. Or, if you’ve heard about them from someone else, asking that person what their experience has been. It could also uncover any direct competitors they might work with, which, if that’s a deal-breaker for you, is probably good to know upfront.
How available do I need to be in order to execute the project?
Plain and simple, are you hiring this company to plug in and go without your input, or are you going to hold their hand through every step? Which scenario would you prefer, or do you fall somewhere in the middle? Knowing these preferences ahead of time will help set your expectations for the project, and help the team you hired better understand how to navigate those expectations as it relates to their business model and timelines.
Some dental marketing companies, for example, ask the doctor to help write the website, which can slow down the entire process tremendously. If that’s something that sounds like a dream come true, then by all means, find a company that does that! If not, then you might want to find a team that takes over that step of the process, since it might be better suited to your goals and timeframe.
How do you measure success?
Success, as you know as a business owner, doesn’t always happen in a straight line. Ultimately, you want a marketing company that’s going to see your success as their success, and take steps to measure that effectively. You want to make sure the team you’ve hired is transparent with their data, celebrates small wins along the way, and reports trends that prove positive change is accumulating.
But keep in mind, if you’re hiring a marketing company as a cure-all, last-ditch effort to save your business, you might want to pause and reflect first. No matter who you’re working with, or what they promise you, marketing is a long, hard road to success. Even “quick strategies” such as digital advertising, can take time to dial-in and get right.
What’s your process for building a website that’s unique to me?
This will probably be a multi-faceted answer no matter who you talk to (remember, marketing...vacuum…yea, you know), but one of the key areas, and probably most overlooked or misunderstood pieces of a website is the writing. A lot of web design companies start with the design, boxing their copywriters in and limiting their ability to tell a story. The best websites, the ones that make you go “wow”, are built first and foremost, through storytelling, paired with amazing design. Ideally, both work harmoniously, and are based on you.
What does a custom website actually mean?
Your practice wasn’t built from a template. It was hand-crafted, well thought-out, dreamt about for maybe years before coming to fruition. A custom website is just that (though, minus the “years” part). Maybe your goal is to have a quickly-built, well-functioning website that serves its purpose, gets your information out there, and gives people a place to contact you. If that’s the case, there are more than enough companies to choose from who do just that. But if you’re going the custom route, this question is extremely important to ask. Is the site based on an original design, or is it built on top of an existing template? Does it feature beautiful, professional photos of your practice, or generic stock photography? Lots of website design and marketing companies say they’re “custom”, but digging further might lead you to discover what works best for your practice, and how to best execute that vision.
Contracts & Deets
What does the typical timeline look like?
“How long until my results”, right? I get it, you’ve come this far, you’ve worked this hard, now you want to see the fruits of that labor. Here’s the thing: marketing strategies that work, and work really well, burn slow. But once they start burning, they will burn for a lifetime. A good strategy cannot be developed overnight, and it certainly can’t be executed in 30 days.
This isn’t meant to discourage you, but hopefully it’ll send up red flags if you hear otherwise from a marketing company you’re interviewing. If you walk into the engagement with the understanding that a good marketing strategy takes time, patience, and perseverance, you’ll be better equipped to keep a keen eye out for overzealous promises or rushed timelines that will ultimately disappoint.
What’s my commitment? Can I cancel at any point?
All too often, horror stories of businesses getting stuck in long-term, overpriced contracts, or locked out of their own websites are shared throughout the marketing agency world. This two-fold question is crucial to ask the company you’re about to hire. Even if everyone has the best intentions walking into the agreement, we can all agree that sometimes life just happens (hello, #2020), and plans change. There might be a time you need to exercise the ability to pause efforts and/or spending when absolutely necessary.
Similarly, you’ll want to understand what they are expecting from you. Do they have a minimum commitment, such as 3 or 6 months? And if so, why? Does it coincide with their strategic timelines, or does it work against it?
Who retains ownership of the creative long-term?
There’s a good chance that any marketing company you hire will likely be developing some sort of creative piece for your project, whether that be logos, graphics, photography, or the website itself. It’s important to understand who truly owns that content, if the partnership should end. And I know what you’re thinking, “well, I paid for it, it’s mine!” and while you ought to be right, you also might be wrong. You see, sometimes sneaky legal language in contracts limits your ability to use that content outside of the scope of the contract. This leads to those situations I mentioned where practice owners get themselves locked out of their own website, or lose it entirely, upon contract release. Not fun. So don’t forget to ask this.
The thing is, not every marketing company is going to be a good fit, and we’re here to tell you that’s ok! But hopefully you can walk away from here feeling empowered to take ownership in the relationship, and ultimately, find a team that becomes long-term partners, advisors, and even friends. When that happens, it’s pretty cool.
Want to give these questions a test-drive? Let us know, we'd love to chat.