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Choosing the right suppliers for your online marketing
25 November 2011
Business owners are often unsure how to choose suppliers of digital marketing services such as websites, marketing and more recently, social media. Business owners are busy running their own business and often don’t have enough information to choose the best suppliers of these specialised skills. This can lead to choosing solutions that aren’t fit for purpose or entering into supplier relationships that don’t achieve the required outcomes.
In the past few months I have spoken to business owners being approached to spend in excess of $50k per year in Search Engine Optimisation services, and medium business owners feeling let down by web development companies and consultants who aren’t reliable or able to service their client needs.
A business own must first know what the objective of the activity is – and the objective isn’t just about creating a new website, but also what the business needs the website for, what business outcome it is going to achieve. The website required for a business trying to derive revenue from selling products online is very different to a simple website that just explains where to find a retail shop and the opening hours. The same thinking should be applied to email communications or a social media strategy – being able to clearly articulate the objectives of the work is key to briefing a new supplier.
When deciding on any supplier of digital marketing services, whether it is a new website or ongoing online marketing or social media community activities, there are some key questions a business owner should ask:
1.What businesses have you supplied services to before - ask for examples of where these services have been provided before – make sure you check out links of the sites, examples of the online marketing collateral. It can also be important to find a supplier who has worked with a business from your particular industry before – that way you can be sure they understand what is likely to be important to your business.
2.Can I speak to some of your existing and previous clients – any reputable company should volunteer information and contact details about existing clients. Make sure you follow up and ask these contacts all the questions you want to know. Ask them how it was to work with the supplier, whether they delivered on time & on budget, and whether they are still working with the supplier on an ongoing basis.
3.What results can I expect – you shouldn’t feel shy to ask for results - when you are spending money for a solution, it is important to understand what you can expect. Results that are focused on business outcomes are what you want to hear, not that a site achieved x number of visitors to the website, but what that meant to the business. You want to know that $x spent on marketing activities, drove $xxx of sales.
4.What are the upfront costs? What are the ongoing costs? Get a full understanding of the costs required to get started eg design and build a website, create an email template. Understand what the ongoing costs might be such as ongoing hosting of a website or monthly campaign costs for online marketing. There may also be costs for adding new pages to a website or making changes to the designs of marketing collateral.
5.What ongoing support and activity will there be? What happens after the initial work or launch – ask about what will be in place to monitor websites and optimise your online marketing efforts. You want to have enough feedback to understand what is working well and what isn’t achieving the results. You also want to know what is in place if you need support, such as the website going down, or if you need to make some changes to the website. Ask for Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) that will apply to websites as you want to be sure you understand what level of support is in place.
Most of these questions are common sense, but business owners can be reluctant to ask them - perhaps because online marketing and websites feel technical or daunting. But you should apply your business experience and ask for the same information and assurances from these suppliers as you would for any supplier to your business.