Hiring the right marketing company is critical for the development of your business. Think of a marketing company as a partner, with both of you working toward the same goals. Not only do you want to avoid marketing agencies or consultants that may not provide good work, but you also want to find one that is the right fit for your particular business.
The purpose of this blog post is to prepare you for that first conversation. To simplify things we are going to focus on the process of hiring a company to create a website. We have a list of questions for you to ask your potential marketing agency, as well as what to look for in an answer.
What marketing services does your company offer? Is there a primary service of your company?
It is not uncommon for digital marketing companies to offer multiple marketing services, and this can be very beneficial to a client if they need multiple services. It should be noted however, that some internet marketing companies will have a primary service, and then offer value added services.
If you are looking for a website then make sure that the agency you are looking to hire is a web design company first. You don’t want an SEO company that offers bargain websites as a value add service creating the face of your business online!
How do you create your websites?
The two types of websites that you will generally find are custom made websites and pre-designed template websites. Both of these options can be good, it’s just a matter of determining exactly what is best for YOUR company. If you are a smaller business working within a budget, then pre-designed templates can be the way to go. You can have a state of the art, professional site for a very reasonable amount of money.
If you have a larger budget and require a very specific design, then a custom built site is the way to go. You can have a unique site that stands apart from your competitors.
Again, both options are excellent, but you need to determine which is best for you. A small business may want to avoid custom builds and larger businesses may want to explore the benefits of a custom built site.
Do you have a portfolio?
It is vital to see the quality of work that a marketing agency has performed in the past. Most reputable agencies will offer a portfolio on their site for viewing, and top agencies, being proud of their work, will feature this portfolio prominently!
If you don’t see a portfolio displayed on the site, and if you hear “ums“ and “uhs” when you ask for one, consider it a pretty big red flag. Ideally you can see at least six well designed websites in a portfolio. This also gives you the opportunity to see if the quality is up to snuff, and the design style is one that matches your business’s needs. If the designs don’t seem to match what you are looking for but you like the work, go ahead and ask if the company can meet your needs.
Do you have references?
Just like the portfolio, good internet marketing agencies will have a list of testimonials and references available for potential clients. If these are not made available, consider it once again to be a pretty big red flag.
What is entailed in the development process?
Any good web design agency should be able to explain in detail the process of developing and launching a website. The four major phases of creating a website are research, design, development and launch. Research includes learning about your business and industry, usually through an intake questionnaire and possibly an onsite visit. Design includes creating the style of the site (including fonts, images, colour schemes, navigation bar, site architecture, etc.). Development involves the implementation of the design and required testing. Finally, launch is the final stage, putting the completed product live on the internet.
What is the total amount of time it will take to complete the website?
This is entirely dependent on the scope of the job. If we are talking about a website with a massive architecture with hundreds of pages of content and complex features, it could take up to a year. Most websites for small to medium sized businesses can be expected to take between 30-90 days. A good agency will also point out that this time period will also depend on you, the client, as you may be providing a lot of the content for the site. If the client drags their heels then the process could take far longer than it should. A quality agency will insist that their clients submit content on a timely basis in order to adhere to a schedule; it’s in everyone’s best interest!
Will I have input in the design of the site?
This one is important. Top agencies WANT input from their clients. I know, as a web designer, that I am not an expert in the products and services that you offer, so you input is invaluable. This is why I have a detailed intake form, why I do research into your field and your competitors, and why I communicate regularly with clients.
The reverse of this is true as well, however; good designers are aware that you are not an expert in web design, and the good ones will always steer you toward good marketing concepts and away from poor decisions.
What will I be responsible for?
As mentioned above, the client is generally involved in providing content to the web designer. This can include:
- Images to be used
- Written content
- Contact information
If you aren’t sure about supplying these, a quality agency will walk you through it. Often, as with Bush Marketing, graphic design and copywriting services are available if you would prefer not to supply them.
How do you price your services and what is included?
This should be clearly laid out. Is it based on an hourly estimate, or a flat project price? What is included in that price and perhaps more importantly, what is not included? What is the billing structure? The price should be make sense considering the level of expertise displayed by the agency. If you aren’t sure, do a little more research.
Will my website be mobile friendly?
If the answer is anything but “yes”, move along.
Who will own the website once it has been completed?
There are many budget website services out there (Squarespace, Wix, etc.) that offer solutions for those with strict budgets, but once you stop paying your monthly service fee, your website is gone. That’s because they own it. If you are prepared to make that sacrifice, knowing that if you ever decide to make a change you will have to start again, then terrific.
That being said, you REALLY want to own your site. Make sure this distinction is made when you speak to an agency.
Will I be able to make changes to the site myself or do I have to pay a designer?
This question has a lot to do with how much flexibility you will have with the site moving forward, and how much you can expect to spend. Modern websites tend to have what is called a CMS, or Content Management System. This will allow business owners (or employees) to make basic changes to the content of the website, add blog posts, add portfolio items, new products, etc. Having a CMS allows great freedom for the business owner, and can save a bundle. The last thing you want to do is pay a marketing company their hourly fee for every little change you may need on your site.
After reading through this you should now be prepared to qualify any marketing company that you may be interested in hiring. Follow these guidelines and you should have great success moving forward.