Some basic Q&A will go a long way...
Every tax return is the same - except when they are not.
Every crown preparation is the same - except when they are not.
Every H&P is the same - except when they are not.
While there is no tried-and-true recipe for guaranteed success selecting a marketing company, the following pointers are a great place to start. You can ask these questions directly or use them as a jumping-off point for more brainstorming:
- Does the firm have a reputation of being responsive and customer-service oriented? Do you know anyone who has worked with the firm before?
- Is the person on the phone the person you will be working with most of the time? Or do you meet your project manager only after you have given a deposit? Is your main contact at the firm someone who you are comfortable talking to? Do your personalities match? Can you understand each other clearly?
- How will you be able to contact the company or your point-person? Are they available over the weekend or at nights to communicate with you?
- Are you required to use the company for all of your marketing-related services? Will they be willing to cooperate with another firm? Is their system proprietary or open? Can you take a backup of your website and/or other data at any time? Are you "allowed" to have one company build your site, and another company provide SEO or AdWords/PPC services?
- What are the provisions for terminating your marketing agreement if you elected to do so? Are you locked-in for a long-term contract? Have you looked at reviews/comments from people who have terminated their relationships with the firm? Are there any red flags in the comments? (No company can retain 100% of their clients 100% of the time - but how a company handles clients that leave is a very good indicator of how they run their business). Ask them about the last time a client left, what the general circumstances were, and how they handled it.