Today, everyone is a marketing "SuperHero" online. Or so it seems.
The ease of publishing content on blogs, social media and even mainstream business publications has created a wave of marketing experts, each proclaiming their superhero-ness. As companies need expertise to make sense of planning and implementation of digital and traditional marketing programs, how can you tell which firms are actually credible and trustworthy?
Whether you’re a new CMO, VP or Director of marketing at a company looking for a firm for help with strategy or vendors to help with implementation, it can be a real challenge finding the right partner – especially if pre-existing relationships don’t already exist.
The discussions I have with marketers, agencies and enterprise brands every week reveal the uncertainty felt in finding marketing resources that can live up to the hype. I also see what happens when a visionary and empowered marketing firm connects with capable client side marketers – amazing things can happen. So how do you find the right marketing resources? (firms consultants, agencies, software, contractors, employees)
Here are 22 signs of credibility to consider:
Agency Brand Content – Blogs can be very effective at communicating an agency’s point of view and corporate personality. Company web sites tend to be dry and careful or conversely, full of hype. A well written and promoted blog as well as other content produced by the firm can do amazing things for an firm’s reputation in an industry.
Social Networks – The boom of social network usage by members of the digital marketing community gives abundant opportunity to see another side of an online marketing agency. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn get most of the attention but there are niche networks and groups that may be smaller in numbers of members, but very rich in influence with buyers. Publishing, curating and collaborating on unique knowledge through social media formats and networks can give important indications of an firm’s expertise in formats that can match the information consumption preferences of a variety of potential clients. In addition, if the firm does not have a wide base of followers on their social media channels, how can you expect them to help build and communicate with your audience?
Agency Thought Leaders – The ability for motivated staff to share their perspectives easily through numerous publishing channels online creates attention to talent that in the past, would have been squandered. Rather than seeing staff that self promote as potential liabilities, firms that embrace and encourage smart expression of expertise can gain a significant advantage. Empowered employees that work with strong leadership within the agency can be a powerful force – but only when inspired.
Events and Public Speaking – Baring it all in front of an audience so to speak, can go both ways. If the speaker knows their subject matter and can entertain as well, speaking at conferences, regional events, on webinars and at Universities can be very productive. However, if the speaker does not present well or “know their stuff” things can go badly. Presenting “too much” secret sauce to impress potential customers can also fuel the competition, so there is a fine line between being a standout and being an competitive liability. Carefully consider how they present themselves in a public setting to an audience.
Client Testimonials and Advocacy – Client success stories are often one of the first things that catches the eye when looking at different marketing firms. Common mistakes include testimonials that are too enthusiastic or those that are benign but packed as if they’re something special. Most importantly, testimonials should reflect issues of interest to the target audience. Even more powerful is unsolicited client advocacy. When marketers ask their peers for a top marketing firm, who is their first choice? A personal recommendation in that scenario is very powerful. Always, always ask for references.
Case Studies – With more complex situations, companies want to drill down into specifics of how a company does what it does. The changing nature of the digital marketing industry means a continuous set of problem/solution exercises. Case studies present a picture of a company’s breadth and depth of ability to solve a variety of issues. In addition to references, be sure to ask for a few case studies to review.
Industry Awards – Getting recognized by a respected third party can mean a quick trip to the credibility club. However, such awards are only as meaningful as the credibility of the entities giving them out. There are an increasing number of awards in the marketing space and if an agency’s accolades are made up entirely of awards and nothing else, you’ll probably find them looking in a mirror before you see them in front of a computer.
Being Quoted by Industry Media and Blogs – Being cited as an authority on a particular topic in a high profile publication can transform a firm’s reputation and credibility overnight. Getting profiled with a photo in Time Magazine for a product venture we created had amazing effects for Slate Media but not nearly as much as getting mentioned in a very favorable light in the print and online versions