There is an overwhelming array of online marketing websites out there. I’ve listed some of my go-to websites in this post. You can refer them to get a foot into the community of online marketers.
But sometimes the advice you’re looking for doesn’t come from “thought leaders”, it comes from people who’ve walked the path less taken. They don’t always follow the status-quo. Instead, they see patterns and craft their own way of achieving results.
After having worked as a local marketing consultant for 4 years, I’ve compiled 7 guidelines that you should look for in a marketing consultant.
1) Your business doesn’t need to follow conventional wisdom.
Doubt the conventional wisdom unless you can verify it with reason and experiment.
– Steve Albini
Your marketing should be customized to fit your business goals, not the other way around. Similarly, you should avoid hiring marketers who promise results by applying a “standard package” on your website. It’s essential that your marketer takes the effort to assess your business objectives before creating a marketing campaign.
2) No, you cannot treat consultants like your employees
As a business owner, you have 2 options when it comes online marketing – Hire an agency or hire a freelancer/independent consultant. I usually recommend local business owners to test both options with small test contracts.
One major advantage of hiring an independent online marketing consultant/freelancer/contractor is that you can develop a personal relationship with an expert who understands your business goals, from anywhere around the world.
However, consultants are not your employees. They work on a contract to contract basis. Getting a long term commitment will not be easy and hence you have to be very careful that you pick the right person for your needs.
In a successful relationship, your consultant can seem like a dream employee. Someone who makes your life convenient and stress-free. On the other hand, an unprofessional or unethical freelancer can cause a lot of irritation, anxiety and frustration.
3) Don’t hire an online marketer you can’t trust.
I often say that the most important factor in online marketing is TRUST.
— Suneel Thomas (@TechAchari) February 17, 2014
There are no easy solutions in online marketing. It’s serious work that requires an expert level of effort and time investments. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise either doesn’t know what he/she is talking about or is a liar. Beware of schemes like ’30-day ranking guarantee’, ‘instant 80% new visitors’ etc. If they sound too good to be true, it probably is.
You should always evaluate the level of professionalism and ethics of your consultant before you let him/her manage your business online. You can do this via detailed interviews, emailing references or by his/her online reputation. After all this, if your gut still says no, keep looking. I cannot stress enough on the importance of trust.
Pro-tip: Trust works both ways. I have said no to clients who couldn’t convince me of their intentions. Top performers know the importance of trust and hence, they value it greatly when they receive it from their clients.
4) Avoid Jargon (ab)users.
As far as possible (AFAP anyone?), hire someone who doesn’t overuse marketing jargons while talking to you. Your online marketing consultant needs to understand your world, not the other way around. If someone can’t convey one’s message to you without using jargons, how is he/she going to do it with your customers?
Don’t get me wrong, marketers use a ton of jargon and industry specific terms while working among each other. We’d go bonkers without them! But when it comes to creating strategies or communicating with clients, the best marketers put extra efforts to speak in plain English with their clients.
Having said that, if you are completely oblivious to this field, you can read 40 essential SEO terms that most online marketers use.
5) Have clear goals. And track them.
This is very important. Ensure that you set clear goals and work towards achieving it. Start small and do it one at a time. Your goal can be getting more traffic, email signups, branding, earning links etc. Whatever it may be, ensure that your marketer creates a campaign strategy for each goal.
Track every action on your website. If you aren’t happy with the progress, evaluate the data and restructure your campaign. Ask your consultant to send you weekly/monthly reports in an easy, understandable format. Learning about your audience and acting on the data you track can potentially change the direction of your entire business.
6) Ask for help. Everyone else does.
Delegating the online reputation of your business online can get intimidating. Like most things in life, the start is the toughest part. That is why you shouldn’t be afraid of asking for help from people you trust. The inbound marketing community are amazingly collaborative. If you need your questions answered or your fears resolved, simply ask. Many experts provide hour long consultations for the exact same purpose.
Hell, if you unsure of doing that, email me. Though I can’t work with everyone who contacts me, I certainly do try to help most of them with quick, actionable advice. Everyone can use some good karma after all :).
7) Work with someone you want to hire irrespective of the price
SEO/inbound marketing isn’t cheap. There are too many examples of businesses getting hurt because of their failure to understand the hidden cost of cheap marketing services.
The difference between 1). being penalized and irreparably damaging your online reputation vs 2). generating consistent, trackable results in the long term is insanely huge! The proverb “you get what you pay for” is an understatement in this case. Make sure to prioritize online marketing in your annual budget .
8) Bonus Resources :
Yay! You made it till here. I’ve compiled these resources for you
Analyze your website for free: Enter your website link in WooRank to get a free technical SEO review.
Free Backlink Report: Sign up with MajesticSEO and get a free backlink analysis for your website (If used correctly, it’s true worth is over hundreds of $$!)
Tools to run a website: My recommended list of resources to run a website business.
I love talking to business owners and connecting with fellow entrepreneurs. Was this post helpful to you? Have more questions to ask? Lets talk, use the comment section below.