It’s not for nothing that corporate houses are increasingly targeting the World Wide Web to reach out to potential customers. This year itself, more than 70% business organizations announced expansion of their allocated budgets for digital marketing activities. Internet penetration levels have come a long way since the days of dial-up connections a couple of decades ago (less than 2% people had access to the web in 1995) – and at present, 4 out of every 10 people use high-speed internet services on a regular basis. Connecting with target users online – for raising awareness about particular products, increasing business leads, and paving the way for business growth – is vital, and that is precisely where the importance of an efficient digital marketing company comes into the picture. Over here, we will provide you some handy pointers to search for an internet marketing company for your business:
- Jot down your needs – And search accordingly. Although online marketing companies are often clubbed together – not all of them offer the same set of specialized services. There might be agencies that primarily provide search engine optimization services (SEO), and do web designing projects as an addition. Many companies that are into traditional forms of marketing have started venturing into the digital medium. Create a list of the marketing goals that you have for your business, and start looking for digital marketers that would be best suited for your purpose. The core services of the company you hire must be beneficial for you.
- Do not overly rely on business directories – Yes, e-directories are helpful as reference sources – but you should be wary of picking web marketing agencies from any random directory. There are scores of obscure directories which simply feature names of companies in exchange of a submission fee – and do not take any responsibility regarding the proficiency, or even the genuineness, of the latter. Ideally, create a shortlist of 4-5 companies, get in touch with their representatives, ask for detailed free service quotes, compare, and then take a stand.
- Ask for client references and case studies – Any half-decent digital marketing company would have scores of ‘testimonials’ on their websites – praising its services to the high skies. You, the customer, however, have no way of verifying these testimonials unless you probe further. Doing so is fairly simple: you need to request your chosen internet marketing partner to supply the details of a few of their past projects, where the clients’ business was actually helped by its services. Ask for the contact information of a couple of clients as well. A good online marketing company will not hesitate in providing such details. Doing a thorough background check will keep you safe from fraudsters too. After all, what does it take to write a few lines of fake testimonials?
- Look for the best, not the cheapest – If a company’s USP is ‘cheap internet marketing services’, run a mile from it. Digital marketing in all forms (right from organic SEO, to paid campaigns and other online promotional activities) is a specialized field – and like all other specialized fields, it comes at a price. You need to understand that firms that promise such ‘cheapest’ services cut corners in some way in their marketing activities – compromising the overall quality of their services. Avoid such companies, and instead, look for one that would be ethical in its operations, can justify its pricing structure (and does not charge a huge advance payment), and most importantly, is in sync with your requirements. You need to find a ‘best’ match, not just a ‘cheap’ service provider.
Note: If possible, hire a digital marketing company that has already handled projects related to your niche. The ‘relevant experience’ always comes in handy.
- Be wary of the bad apples – Every profession has some, and online marketing has more than its fair share of such fraudulent companies. Look up the companies you have shortlisted on reliable sources like the Better Business Bureau (BBB), to authenticate their claims. Before signing on any agreements, keep an eye out for hidden costs and/or other such tricky policy clauses. Inquire about how the company plans to go about promoting your business on the World Wide Web (that would give you a rough idea of whether it has even understood your business needs or not). If you get stuck with a bad marketer, you will keep shelling out money – and there will be hardly any results in sight, even after months and years.
- Bust those myths – Do not let the many prevalent myths about internet marketing cloud your judgement. For instance, there is a thoroughly baseless belief that a company that ranks the highest on the Google SERP (search engine results page) for keywords like “SEO+(geographical region)” is the best. Such high rankings might be due to the domain age of the website of that company – and not even closely related to the quality of service it provides. Companies listed a couple of notches below might actually be better. There is no reason to believe that hiring an overseas digital marketing agency would be unduly risky either. In this day and age of quick, real-time communication and information-sharing, geographical distances have ceased to be a factor. In many cases, an overseas company might be at a position to help you better than a local one.
- Find out how success will be measured – Businesses differ from one another (precious little is common between, say, an online retail store and a law firm) – and separate sets of parameters, known as Key Performance Indicators, are required to monitor their performances. Find out from the representatives of the internet marketing company you wish to hire, what KPIs they will be using to track the progress of your business. Unless the ‘right’ KPIs are tracked, you might end up getting misleading reports…and ultimately, be clueless about how your company’s marketing campaigns are doing.
- Is the biggest digital company also the best? – That will be a ‘no’. The biggest digital companies, of course, know their job well (that’s why they have managed to become big in the first place) – but they may not be best-suited for your business. For starters, if you do not have a big enough budget, the senior executives of such companies will probably not look into your project – and the junior employees who are given charge might prove to be…well…not as competent. Your focus should always be on finding a company that would assign your project to its most experienced, efficient personnel. The complicated hierarchy of a ‘big’ company can be a roadblock in this regard – and a ‘smaller’ company might probably prove better.
- Don’t let your project get outsourced – Unfortunately, this is something quite a few digital marketing firms do. They accept projects from clients, take the advance payments, and promptly proceed to delegate the tasks to another, third-party, little-known agency. Clarify whether your chosen marketing company does the same as well, and if the answer is yes, start looking for another firm. The marketing for your company on the online space should be done by digital marketers who are prepared to take complete responsibility for their actions. The company that you get in talks with should be the company that handles your project.
- Ask for reports. Regularly – You hire the services of a digital marketing partner because: a) it knows the nitty-gritty of online marketing better than you do, and b) you do not have the time to invest on marketing activities. However, the onus is on you to ask for reports from the internet marketing firm on a regular basis. These detailed reports are the only sources of information for you to track how good (or otherwise) a job the marketing company is doing. Reports should be either monthly or quarterly, and should include information on all the KPIs. In addition, there should also be a mention of the strategies the marketing agency plans to implement in the next term. If a digital marketer seems reluctant or vague about providing reports, that’s a telltale sign that all is not right with it. Start looking for an alternative.
- Will there be any ‘black-hat’ activities? – Do not use the phrase ‘black hat’, but find out how exactly the marketing company plans to optimize your business website and social media profiles (Facebook page/post ‘likes’, Twitter followers, etc.). There is no dearth of new digital marketers that indulge in wholesale spamming, content plagiarization, keyword stuffing, link buying, and other such ‘black-hat’ promotional strategies. Such moves can lead to serious penalties being imposed, from which it is difficult, if not impossible, to recover. It takes time to build the reputation of a business on the web in a natural way. Have the necessary patience, and never settle for ‘black-hat’ tactics. They don’t pay.
- Separate departments for separate tasks – Let’s just say you need a complete overhaul of your existing website, or want to build a site from scratch. The services that you will need will include domain registration and hosting, website development and designing, content development, creation and promotion of social media pages, and overall optimization. The digital marketing agency you select should have separate teams of developers, web content developers, SEO and SMO specialists, apart from general data entry staff – who would be in charge of submissions (speaking of which, make sure that your site does not get submitted to blacklisted directories!). If the same person or group of individuals do all of these jobs, rest assured that their service quality will be below-par, at best.
- Awareness about the latest trends – The field of digital marketing is in a constant state of flux, new trends are evolving and being followed – and unless your digital marketing partner keeps track of such trends and techniques, it won’t be able to serve you in the best possible manner. For instance, mobile marketing has arrived in a big way over the last five years or so – and in addition to having a fully responsive, mobile friendly website, you might need a SMS marketing campaign, and even a dedicated mobile app for your business. Static marketing techniques that worked like a charm in 2005 are no longer sufficient now. The company you hire must be able to come up with solutions that follow the latest optimization techniques.
- Look for a creative bunch of people – Web designing and content development in particular, and overall internet marketing in general, require a lot of creativity. Go through some of the previous projects of the companies you have shortlisted, and find out how (and whether!) they have managed to add a creative touch in their works. Put informal questions regarding the previous success stories and failures (even the best digital marketing agency will have some!). The last thing you want is pay money to a firm for the creation of a ‘boring’ website. The attention-span of people online is short, and if a site does not capture their attention within the first few seconds – they’ll stay away from it.
Most online marketing companies offer multiple service packages. Go through each of them, and select one based on your exact requirements and, of course, your budget. You should request for a couple of initial free consultations as well. Keep in mind that digital marketing is a continuous process, and the firm you choose should be up to the challenge of meeting the evolving needs of your business. A strong online presence is vital for the success of any company – and a good web marketing firm can ensure just that.
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