By Don Nicholas • 10/15/2012
If you’re reading this post, you’re probably looking for an Internet marketing company, agency or consultant to help with your Internet marketing strategy and execution.
Internet marketing is easy to do and hard to master.
Internet marketing companies come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re shopping for one, it’s important to find an Internet marketing company that’s a good match for your organization. What makes an Internet marketing company a good match for you?
After working in Internet marketing for almost two decades, I’ve seen more failed relationships than successful ones. Each Internet marketing company worth its salt will have a framework that defines its approach to the art and science of online marketing. Some organizations will specialize in pay-per-click advertising. Others make their living building and testing effective shopping carts. And still others, like Mequoda Group, are specialists in organic audience development (increasing website traffic using free content, search engine optimization, and social media). It’s entirely possible that you may need more than one firm that’s a specialist in an area where you need help.
Key advice: Pick an Internet marketing firm that specializes and aligns with your needs. If you need more than one firm, make sure you understand which of them will be helping you set your global Internet marketing strategy.
Finding the right Internet marketing company website
This may sound simple, but choose a firm that practices what they preach. If you’re looking for a pay-per-click expert, check out their Google ad words program. If you’re looking for an Internet marketing company with expertise in search engine optimization, check out their content marketing strategy and search engine rankings. If you’re looking for a specialist in e-commerce, check out their company store. The simple fact of the matter is that service organizations that practice what they preach know their material much better than those who don’t. Teaching is great. Consulting is wonderful. Doing is the ultimate test of an Internet marketing company’s ability to take their system and best practices and apply them to a real-world situation.
Evaluating an Internet marketing company website
If you’re going to hire an architect, check out where they live and work. If you’re going to hire an accountant, ask to see how they keep their books. And if you’re going to hire an Internet marketing company, check out their website. Is the architecture functional and easy to follow? Is the design crisp and clean? Is the content well-written and entertaining? An Internet marketing company that does a great job with its own website is much more likely to do a great job with yours.
Judging the organizations they serve: business models and domains
If you like what you see in terms of findability and usability, move to the next stage of checking out the organization’s clientele. You’re looking for two things.
First, do they work with organizations that share your business model? Are those organizations market leaders?
Next, are any of the organizations on their client list in your marketplace? Not all Internet marketing strategies work in all markets. Look for an Internet marketing company that knows your space, understands your domain, and has proven that their strategies work in your market. Forget about competition. Finding an organization that can execute in your market is much more important than protecting proprietary information. The Internet is a very public place and almost any competitor can discover everything about how you operate with a little research. It’s much more important to find a strategy that will work for you because it’s already worked for someone with your business model in your space.
Three key Internet marketing company services: training, coaching, technology
When you enter into a relationship with an Internet marketing company, agency, or consultant, there are three core competencies that you’ll meet.
First, you’ll need training for you and your staff. Effective Internet marketing programs are about discipline and scale. Choose an organization that can teach you business processes that can be repeated and scaled inside your organization.
Next, you’ll need ongoing coaching to make sure the chosen Internet marketing strategy is working as advertised. Analytics, regular meetings, and milestones should be core components in the coaching relationship.
Finally, most Internet marketing companies can offer you a technology framework that will drastically lower the cost of building and maintaining your Internet marketing systems. While the age of open source software has dramatically cut the investment required to build and maintain an Internet marketing system, you still don’t want to go it alone. Updates and maintenance will be required to support your evolving business model and best practices. Make sure you choose an Internet marketing company that is committed to ongoing research and development in the maintenance and advancement of their system framework.
Evaluating the trial offer: setting scope, timing and timelines
Since choosing an Internet marketing company is such a major commitment, it’s important to carefully evaluate their trial offer. A company confident in their offerings will work with you to create an Internet marketing plan that spells out your business model, technology needs, staffing needs, investment and payback. They will do all of this for a relatively small fee before asking you to commit to a large project or long-term relationship. Ideally, the Internet marketing company you select for coaching and consulting will offer you an array of support services and the option of working with other firms specializing in areas where they lack expertise. The hallmarks of a good Internet marketing company are flexibility and focus.
Community, feedback and relationships
Last but not least, look for an Internet marketing company with a user group. While your primary relationship will be with your service provider’s staff, much value can also come from building relationships with other clients. Because the best Internet marketing companies have a framework and set of best practices which they maintain and advance, that company’s clients are also using similar business processes and best practices. Look for an organization that accepts feedback, encourages community and facilitates meaningful long-term relationships.
Internet marketing is hard. Best practices continue to evolve as customer behavior and technology change and adapt. Choosing the right Internet marketing company can place you in a well-organized community dedicated to mutual success. A successful Internet marketing company is successful because its clients are successful. Join a club in which you’d like to be a member.
If you’d like to chat with me about the process of choosing the best Internet marketing company to help you grow your online business, contact our Member Services Manager Ann-Marie Sullivan, and she’ll happily schedule an opportunity for us to talk.
If you have a question or thought you’d like to share with the Mequoda Community, please post it below and we’ll comment back as required.
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