What to look for in an outsourced marketer
In my last post, I lambasted bad marketers, and how hard it is to find a good one. The truth is, just like lawyers and cops, when the chips are down, you need them. You especially need them when you want to use smart words like "lambasted", which is never used in polite conversation - but is a killer on opinion blogs or on Fox News.
Without good marketing, you'd have never heard of McDonald's, Apple, or Kim Kardashian. And let's be honest: who among us hasn't scarfed a Big Mac while surfing on the iPad looking for the next Kimmy photo that will break the Internet?
In truth, good marketing is a must for any business - large or small. Ever heard of Dollar Shave Club? A literal garage start up that in two years reached $60 million in revenues - all started because of one little well produced Youtube video, a website, and some really well strategized social media. Marketing done right can save your business, and lead it to real growth.
So what can you do to actually find good marketing help, when you want to outsource your marketing to an individual? Here's nine ways to 'background check' this person. Besides an actual background check.
1) Google them
The world's source for everything - including your next potential marketer. Do a search on their name - just be sure it's the right person. So filtering a name like Steve Smith is difficult, but add their location, "marketing" or their known title to their name and hopefully you're on target. I'll do photo searches, too to make sure I've got the right person if I've met them.
The person you've Googled is supposed to be a marketing expert, and it should be easy to find them. Once you have found them, if they have a lot of links and credibility, that's great (hey, I just Google selfies myself with "marketing" added). If it's hard to find them and they don't have much going.... hmmmm.
2) Check their website
Any outsourced marketer hanging their own shingle better have a modern shingle. That modern shingle is a website. Is it professional? What do they claim are their specialties? Any testimonials that you can check out?
Make sure it's updated, and that their language is clear on what they can do for you. Because if they can't communicate what they do, how will they communicate what you do?
3) Check their LinkedIn Profile
Everyone has a LinkedIn profile. A modern marketer should have a complete profile, and some activity, too. The best ones have a good summary, and actual background in marketing, a whole slew of Skills and Endorsements, and inbound recommendations about their work. To this last point, make sure the recommendations aren't reciprocal "you scratch my LinkedIN profile and I'll scratch yours" recommendations. It's a major bonus if they have published articles or work.
Take 20 style points away for LinkedIn photos like these.
4) Check their results
This one stumps many 'marketers'. Instead, most of them point to their experience doing marketing - that is, the task of marketing for many years. But what client results can they show? You know, I've been trying to get my lawn to have less crabgrass and weeds for 20 years, but it doesn't make me an expert at it. A good return on investment (ROI) can take several forms, but they need to show you something of meaning.
5) Check their work
Most marketing has a visible component. So, if they are a strategist, they need to show you their strategy documents, and perhaps a before/after comparison of that strategy (see #4 above). If they claim to be a social media expert, look at their client's social media (don't look just at their own). A PR specialist needs to have their clients out in front of the public, in key places. If they are more of an ad buyer, find out what buying they've done and where they've done it. If they are a writer, they need to show you published work and it needs to be written for the intended audiences. Certainly, if they are more of a 'creative' marketer and focus on design and brand - look at their portfolio and see if their style matches your needs.
If they claim to do it all - strategy, social media, traditional ads, copy, PR, web, analytics, video, branding... wow, they are unique and need to get out of the house a little more. But make them prove it.
6) Figure out if expertise in your industry is important
This isn't as much of a deal breaker as some may think, but think of it as a really 'nice to have' item on your checklist. Remember, you are 'buying' someone that will tout your specialty and industry, and if they have some knowledge of your customer and what makes them tick, your competition and their strengths and weaknesses, and what has worked for others. If you're the kind of place that hires or outsources to someone, leaves them alone and says "let me know when you have results", you really need someone who has worked the industry successfully.
On the other hand, if you are willing to spend a little time training them on your "way" of business and all about your customers, products and services, competition, and give them access to people who know where you really fit in the marketplace and your strengths/weaknesses, a marketer new to your industry can even bring a fresh and more effective perspective to your marketing strategy and tactics.
7) Can you work with them?
This one makes me cringe a little just thinking about it. I've met many many self-serving, egotistical, arrogant, rude, and dishonest people. Hey, not all of them can get jobs as politicians! But somehow, they get work as marketers. Sometimes it's because they are really good at what they do, and their clients put up with their proclivities because they know they'll get results. And sometimes, people are lemmings who have a masochistic need to be tossed around by these wanna-be Donald Trumps.
There's some nice honest marketing folks, too. But like a U.S. President, nice guys aren't always the right choice at a specific time (see Carter, Jimmy). You really need to fact check #1-6 above. You just need to decide: if they aren't all that nice - are you OK with it?
8) Awards - do you care?
OK, a disclaimer. I've won almost two dozen awards for my work. Most of the credit goes to the team I put together. But here's the dirty little secret to awards: very few award events factor in actual results into the winning criteria but rather design and 'wow, that's different or cool' factors. Different or cool doesn't pay the client's bills, but it does make the marketer's bills higher. On the other hand, if someone has no awards, perhaps that's a bad sign, too. This is probably the least important factor in determining if your marketer is right for you.
The good news: help is out there. No go find it.