Marketing services seem to be offered everywhere these days. A Google search for the term “marketing services” brings up 349 million pages in under a quarter of a second. With such a glut on offer and new marketing services firms seemingly popping up daily (and folding just as quickly), how do you weed the absolutely useless from the absolutely essential? The following three steps can help you find and select a modern marketing service that won’t leave you hanging, whether you are looking for general online marketing and branding consulting, search engine optimization and/or link building, website writing, “traditional” marketing such as PR or event management, or any other small business marketing consulting services your company needs, online or off-line or combination of both.
1. The first step in deciding which marketing consulting firm to engage with is to scrutinize the firm’s website – even if it is not online marketing services you need. Scan the website’s writing, assess any affiliated blog, even see if you can delve into the company’s link building strategies and its reputation in the marketing consulting hierarchy. If you have the knowledge or know someone who does, view the page source information on a few of their website’s pages and see if the site itself is conscientiously and neatly constructed. Is the company slapping a WordPress template or other generic content management system-borne design onto a crowded server or did they write, design, and develop their site from scratch? In web programming, templates are like a cheat code, and outsourcing or short-handing the writing of one’s own website is a surefire sign of askew priorities.
2. The second thing to consider before signing the check is whether those marketing consultants are actually in local, or at least regional, or whether they are abroad. There is nothing wrong with outsourcing marketing-related website programming if you want a high bounce rate and terrible reception. You can see this theory in practice by looking to the marketing wizards at Coca-Cola: Nearly every country where you can find Coke has a different cola flavour, unique can and bottle sizes and styles, and varied marketing strategies that support beverage giant’s near-constant revenue growth through highly targeted, highly expensive and highly lucrative online and offline marketing. With Coca-Cola’s recent new mini-can roll-out in the U.S., you can be almost 100% sure that the marketing team behind every key step was based in the U.S. and had direct knowledge of the relevant market preferences. Your own marketing initiatives are not like Coke’s (unless you’re reading this at Pepsi headquarters), but the same principle of market familiarity applies.
3. Finally, find out about the linking strategy of the marketing consulting firm you want to hire. One of the easiest ways to determine whether or not the company has Google-approved link building strategies that will not get your website banned is to go to Yahoo and type the following in the search bar: Site:www.domainyouarechecking.com . In the top left corner, you ought to see a small button titled “In-links.” Click on that button and you will see a drop-down menu on the upper right-hand corner that allows you to search the incoming links going to the consulting firm’s website, without having to wade through interlinking strategies. (Interlinking strategies are useful, though not as important in helping you choose what company to use.) Inbound links coming from relevant, highly ranking and highly visited websites that are name brands is what you want to see. Online marketing might seem like a binary jungle, but the mirage of madness actually masks fairly strict rules. Pick a marketing services firm that doesn’t know what it’s doing, and see your site penalised, or even blacklisted, in no time.
In the end, go with your gut. You know your business and your target customer market. It’s a crowded marketing services field out there, and mixed in with all the mess and the extraneous Flash sites are the real knowledge stores, the real bang for your buck. These three basic steps should help you narrow down your choices and minimize your risk of signing a contract with one of the many firms who are secretly trying to figure it out as they go.