So, you’ve decided to hire an online marketing agency. Maybe you’ve reached this decision after struggling with your in-house marketing efforts. Or, maybe you’ve previously worked with an online marketing services provider and weren’t happy with the outcome. Regardless of why you’re exploring new options, you want to be thorough as you embark in the journey of firm selection.

In order to fully weigh your options, you first need to identify your must-haves. Budget and chemistry quickly come to mind when searching for a services provider. However, there are other non-negotiables that will help narrow your choices and drive your decision. Let’s consider the following:

Lead Generation Strategy

Since marketing is about attracting new business opportunities for your firm, you want a marketing services provider that can increase your inbound leads. Developing a solid lead generation strategy requires a thoughtful process and deep understanding of your goals. As such, before any activity begins, a plan should be reviewed, upfront. In addition to having a plan for bringing in more leads, the marketing firm should also be able to tell you their plans for measuring results and their process for deploying adjustments along the way.

Lead generation is crucial for growing your firm—don’t be afraid to hold your marketing services provider to a high standard. You’ll likely want to see how their described strategy aligns with your current practices and what new approaches they are bringing to the table. After all, the leads generated online will need to still be nurtured for conversion.

What to ask:

  • How can you help my firm generate more leads?
  • What metrics will you track to ensure the success of our lead generation strategy?
  • Based on what you know about our current lead generation strategy, what would you suggest we do differently?

After all, firms that generate 40% or more of their leads online grow faster and are more profitable.

Online Marketing Services and Firm Growth

Content Marketing Strategy

In today’s world, it’s essential to have a strong online brand and your content marketing strategy is critical to the success of your online brand presence. Remember, it’s the quality of the content that will dictate how well the lead generation strategy works. Make sure the marketing firm you hire has a clear understanding and practical experience in good content development. However, beyond simply having a strategy for content development, you also want a provider that has a plan for the types of content they intend to generate and how each component of the strategy will work towards attracting new inbound leads and nurturing new business. A good place to start is by aligning your content funnel with the types of audiences you are looking to reach.

Content Marketing Funnel

If your previous content marketing strategy fell short, make sure you explain those experiences to the marketing partners you are evaluating. You want a marketing agency that understands the goals of your firm, but also acknowledges the client issues the content needs to address.

What to ask:

  • What types of content do you think will resonate most with my target audience?
  • What is your plan for developing and generating content?
  • How involved will you be in the process of content promotion?

In-House Design Team

At first glance, this might not seem like an essential capability. However, when your marketing firm outsources the creative design needs of your company, you’re guaranteed to face delays and miscommunications. A marketing firm with in-house designers ensures the most effective translation of your ideas into brand content.

When the entire process is maintained in-house, your marketing services provider becomes more familiar with the look and feel of your brand. Without the need to explain to a third party, marketing efforts developed by a single source streamline the overall process and eliminate the need for multiple retellings during the implementation phase.

What to ask:

  • Who will be my designer? they be participating in all critical client meetings?
  • What is the firm’s design philosophy?
  • How do you see that philosophy translating over to my brand?

Thought Leadership Engine

Quality thought leadership demonstrates a level of expertise and confidence within the marketplace. You want to align your firm with an online marketing services provider that is knowledgeable and up-to-date on current trends in marketing for professional services.

In order to determine if a firm practices thought leadership, look to see if their own website has a robust library of content and resources that demonstrates their command for developing thought leadership. In short, can they walk the talk? You should feel reassured by their expertise and the experience they bring to the table. Just as you use your content to address the questions and concerns of your prospects, your marketing firm should be able to provide the same reassurance.

What to ask:

  • How does your own marketing firm approach thought leadership?
  • Can you articulate which thought leadership vehicles are most effective?
  • Which resources will be part of the creation of thought leadership materials?

Marketing Automation Expertise

When selecting an online marketing services provider, you want to find a firm that will make your job easier. Their ability to effectively use marketing automation to optimize many of your marketing processes is a key upfront indicator of how well they’ll align with your goals.

When interviewing providers, don’t make marketing automation experience a yes or no question. The right firm will be able to identify the basic tactics they use to simplify certain processes. For instance, will they use drip campaigns? Will they add specialized form fills on your site? If they can’t demonstrate their expertise, you should consider a different firm.

What to ask:

  • What type of experience do you have with marketing automation?
  • Which digital tools do you utilize in the marketing automation process?
  • What software platform do you prefer?

There’s a variety of software tools that can be used, but what you are looking for is how well the prospective marketing firm can articulate the benefits and downfalls of various options. Ultimately, the right option will be dependent on your goals, current assets and financial and labor limitations.

The Bottom Line: Ask the Right Questions

Finding an online marketing agency that fits the needs of your professional services firm can be a challenge. However, it’s a much bigger challenge when you don’t know how to assess expertise and fit. By outlining your must-haves and asking the right questions, you can zero in on the agencies that are contenders and eliminate the ones that don’t stack up. Regardless of how you make your decision, don’t be afraid to be selective—selectivity is the key to minimizing risk when selecting your marketing partner.