I usually suggest partnering with an expert in the field when looking to undertake search marketing. Unless you have pre-existing expertise or a lot of time on your hands, you probably won't have the expertise or resources in-house to do it yourself – at least in such a way as to create maximum value.
So that means you will probably be looking for a third-party partner or vendor to help with these activities. Now this might sound like a relatively easy feat – there are tons of companies that offer search marketing services, right?
That's true, but not all services are rendered equally. You need to have a solid idea of what you're looking for, and what you're not, to weed out the good from the great and the bad from the bearable.
To actually find some potential candidates, the easiest place to start is with a referral. Ask around to colleagues in your industry to see whom they're working with. If you don't have any suggested partners, the quickest place to research vendors is using (what else?) a search engine. If a vendor isn't coming in the search engine results, they probably aren't that good at what they do (as the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach!).
Once you have identified at least five vendors (depending on your budget size, you may want to identify up to 10), you should reach out informally to learn a bit about them before deciding to issue a formal request for proposal (RFP). Some of these questions may be answered by trolling through their website, but it may be worthwhile to have an initial conversation with the company.
Some initial questions could include:
After this initial screening, your list will probably have dwindled in size, but you will avoid wasting time on companies that will be unqualified to meet your needs (or unable to do so - e.g., working with a competitor)
It is suggested that you issue a formal request for proposal that outlines what you are looking for in a potential vendor and send this to those that you believe meet your needs after your initial evaluation.
Your request for proposal should ask all of the pertinent things you'd want to know about a vendor, including but not limited to:
Here are some services you might want to request of your vendor:
Which vendor you ultimately choose will depend on many things, often including but not limited to:
While pricing is listed first, it should absolutely not be your sole guiding force in the selection. Often times the cheapest proposal is the cheapest for a reason – the company is desperate for business, hires junior people, or produces lower quality work. For that reason, you need to strike a balance between cost and quality – choosing the proposal that has the highest overall value.
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Julie is a member of the senior strategy team at Klick Health, focused on online media and digital. Julie initially established and led the media practice at Klick for several years, relinquishing leadership to expand beyond media into additional digital tactics. She brings a wealth of experience in search marketing, digital media, and all facets of digital strategy to bear, helping Klick's clients develop innovative digital solutions. As her role has evolved, so have her contributions to ClickZ, which she has been writing for since 2007.
December 12, 2013
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