Confession: I am not a great window shopper. If I see something I like, want or need, I buy definitively. I am unapologetic about my 'buy cycle' because I enjoy working with clients who assess their needs and make swift decisions accordingly. I believe it's karma of sorts. This doesn't mean that I spend frivolously. It doesn't mean that my favorite clients do either. It means that myself and other buyers like me have a list of wants and needs and when they find something that fulfills my criteria, they act. I do not allow myself to be paralyzed by 'what if' or 'if only' scenarios.
When you're choosing a digital marketing partner for your small business, you are essentially selecting another employee. How is hiring a web marketing firm comparable to hiring an in-house employee?
If you're expecting big results, your monetary investment will be comparable. This concept is similar to hiring a key employee. If you're trusting this person to run point on a project, a division, or group of clients- you'll need to invest in what they bring to the table.
If you aren't going to speak online on your company's behalf, your marketing group should. As with any key employee, you should trust that they can articulate your intent. Your digital marketing team might be your first line of defense. Remember if you aren't communicating with your clients, your competitors are.
Although you won't be involved in the day-to-day, you will have to have a working relationship with the marketing firm you select. Establishing how you'll work together and what works for both parties is all part of vetting each entity for fit.
Expect that there will be growing pains. When you hire a new employee, you onboard them. You provide them with dedicated on the job training. Your marketing firm will require the same on some level. Allow time for a learning curve.
Make sure that they're able to bring unique ideas to the table. They should know their field and be prepared to keep you up to speed with digital trends. They should be prompting you for the next steps, ideas to grow, ideas on how to better engage your audience or exciting ways to communicate the message of your brand or business goals.
When they succeed, you succeed. Your marketing team should be invested in your success. Your marketing team should be rooting for you. If a tactic or campaign doesn't succeed, they should be diagnosing and adjusting the issues to improve the future.
You'll want them to be versatile. What good is an employee that's a one-trick pony? Well... it means they are good for one trick. How effective is that? For a small business owner, it's not. If you're a small business looking to hire out digital marketing work, you'll need a team that can handle a variety of services.
If the team that you select cannot multitask, you'll have holes in your marketing strategy. If you've got holes, that means that YOU the business owner will be filling them. Small business owners have enough to do. Your marketing team should be quarterbacking your marketing projects, at the very least.
Noting these factors, there is a time and a place for window shopping. No matter how simple a web or marketing project might seem, if you're starting with new people, you'll need to be committed. Even when you're not the one 'doing the work,' you have to be invested in the success of the project. Your feedback and guidance is a requirement. Thus, if you're not committed to onboarding a new "team member" you'll want to spend more time evaluating why you aren't ready and preparing for how you might ready yourself. To avoid paralysis (making no decision), establish a timeline and stick to it so that you keep things in motion.
In my experience, too many business owners have the intention to do something, or they 'know that they should' but don't carve out a timetable to hold themselves accountable. Remember that every day you spend offline, is a day that you're falling further behind. Business might be great in December... but you also want the phone to ring in January.