Evaluating and Selecting a Washington DC Interactive Marketing Services Firm

by Avatar in Blog February 10, 2013
How to evaluate your digital, interactive marketing partner, for local and regional businesses – particularly in the Washington DC and Northern Virginia marketing and advertising area.

We’ll put it out there – as you evaluate prospective partners like KME Internet Marketing to help with web marketing initiatives, gaining exposure for your business and driving new sales from the Internet, this is exactly what you should seek.

Research and ask about ALL of these skills and expertise domains, either directly, or as part of your Solicitation or Request for Proposal/Information (RFP/RFI):

1.    Is the firm accessible, with local, hands-on, in-person availability of subject matter experts?  Professional, personal service and communications are critical.

2.    Who exactly will you be working with; are these professionals accessible?  The firm’s website should include leadership profiles and pictures, and these individuals should be well-known in the industry and accessible via professional social media (i.e. LinkedIn). The firm’s leadership should have demonstrated at least 10 years in the Internet Technology industry.

3.    Is the firm established, well-known and engaged in the community, with clear evidence of success over time?  Avoid the newbies, the out-of-towners, the affiliate marketing scams (there are MANY around), the off-shore-ers, the “website marketing mills”, the inexperienced recent graduates, the recent career-changers, the part-timers and interns.  Seek those with community roots and involvement, knowledge of local geopolitics. Does the firm appear among the top results itself, in local search engine results? (Try this – search for “Loudoun Internet Marketing” in Google – and note KME is referenced in nearly every result on the first page!). Is the firm engaged in local business and social media forums?

4.    Does the firm require a long-term contract? This is a clear sign of a revenue-focused firm, vs. a customer services-focused firm.

5.    Is the firm “in it for the long haul”? Firms with established certifications and designations, for example “Disadvantage Business Enterprise” (DBE) designations by the State of VA and the SBA, provide evidence of invested commitment to industry and clients.  KME is a designated “SWaM” (VA DBE) and “WOSB” (SBA) enterprise (in process). KME also maintains Google Adwords certifications.

6.    Is the firm focused on sales, or service, from the very first conversation? Fancy websites and reams of sales material or teams of traveling salespeople are no substitute for personalized, expert advice without the overhead – and therefore lower prices and better return on your investment (ROI).

7.    Is the firm specialized, or comprehensive?  You won’t achieve success employing just a web design firm, just a programmer, just a PR contractor, just a social media expert, justan advertising company or employee – you need a firm with the chops, flexibility and expertise to address all your online objectives and challenges, at your price point.

8.    Can the firm “scale”? Does the firm have a robust network of partners and service providers that enable rapid growth and responsiveness to unforeseen or unplanned needs?

9.    Does the firm deliver the right expertise? You may want some of the following services, at different times – but proven, certified expertise across ALL of the following domains is absolutely required for comprehensive interactive marketing success – ask your prospective firm about each and every one; KME is one of only a very short list of “boutique” firms in Northern Virginia whose local personnel can claim this range of expertise, this “value proposition”.

13 Domains of Required Interactive Marketing Expertise:

a.    Project Management – organizing time, schedule, resources, people, budget, campaigns, reviews – with rapid response and undivided attention, with experience from the smallest to the largest and most complex programs. Experience with PMP, CMMi.

b.    Business and Marketing Strategy – understanding your business, evolving the business case, managing requirements scope, dealing with nonprofit or government constraints, managing financial concerns, complying with policies, laws and standards, advising the startups.

c.    Communications – excellence in copywriting, PR, correspondence, Social Media – in Perfect American English

d.    Traditional Marketing – creating and buying print or broadcast ads, direct outreach, etc.

e.    Interactive Marketing – current skills in SEO, SEM, PPC, Mobile Ads, Social Media, Online Coupons, Ad Networks, Reputation Management

f.    Creative Design – unique, compelling audio, visual, video planning and production, for your website, your advertisements, your branding, your social outreach, your email, newsletters and other direct communications

g.    Information Technology (IT) – web technologies and architectures, Internet services and hosting, security and privacy, mobile platforms, digital content management, licensing and SLAs, ITIL, custom programming, systems integration, technical performance, continuity and disaster recovery.

h.    Systems Engineering – managing the lifecycle of a web technology project, from design through testing and “going live”, including conversions, migrations, maintenance and integration with other projects. Experienced with Enterprise Architecture (EA) and SDLC methods.

i.    Information Architecture – the organization and placement of digital content and text copy on your site and social channels, use of “metadata” and “semantics”, the navigation routes and funnels, the user experience (UX) and accessibility (i.e. Section 508) concerns

j.    Training and Transition – understanding what’s necessary for your business and employees or partners to understand and use the new website, review and update content, modify business processes and roles, change application features and configurations.

k.    Business Performance and Analytics – creating and using analytics and reporting tools, to monitor, measure and dramatically improve the success of your marketing, mission or business.

l.    Industry Awareness – constantly evaluating new technologies, testing new services, maintaining awareness of digital trends and events that may impact your business – from search engine algorithm updates, to new website plug-ins and mobile consumer platforms.

m.    Industry Channels and Relationships – your business should be able to take advantage of the firm’s social media channels and networks, content networks, publications and professional relationships. The firm should have access to experts in your industry.