by Michael Fleischner
If you're a small business owner, medium-sized business, or marketing professional who realizes that you can't be an expert in everything, then finding a Marketing Services Provider to meet your growing needs is essential. However, not all marketing service providers are the same. In fact, there are thousands of providers who promise everything from Advertising to Tradeshow Management. But how can you tell who will deliver for your business and who will not? There are a few things to look for before choosing the right Marketing Services provider who cares as much about your business as you do.
1. Screening Questions. Depending on what type of marketing service provider you're looking for, take time to organize some basic questions that will help you evaluate whether or note the marketing service provider can meet your needs. You should customize these questions based on your specific marketing needs. Here are a few to get your started:
a. How long have you been in business?
b. What happens if I am not satisfied with the result of the project?
c. Please explain the process your will follow for this project?
d. Can you provide me with a list of client references for which you've done similar projects?
e. What is your fee structure?
f. On average, how long do these types of projects take to complete?
Getting answers to these very basic questions will give you're a firm expectation of time, expense, and proposed outcomes. If they are not what youre looking for, you can always negotiate, but keep in mind that the first answers given are usually closest to what you can expect. Don't settle. Keep asking these questions as many times as you need to. Eventually you will find the right vendor who answers these questions to your satisfaction.
2. References. The only legitimate way to know whether or not a service provider has a solid reputation is to call references provided. Often times, individuals ask a vendor for references and never receive them. Even worse is the buyer who receives a list of references and never calls or speaks to them. Don't feel awkward calling a vendor's references. These individuals have agreed to be contacted by future clients. If a vendor is unable to give you a list of references, then you must question why no one is willing to vouch for the vendor's previous work. Finding satisfied clients is one of the most important cues to selecting a vendor that you'll be satisfied with.
3. Shop Around. Be sure to acquire at least three quotes (one each from 3 separate vendors) before making a final selection. You'll be surprised how much money you can save by getting multiple quotes for the same project. Even if you prefer a certain vendor over another, multiple quotes allow you to negotiate and make sure that each vendor is offering the same type of service. If prices vary greatly, ask your vendors why their pricing is so much higher, what are they including that the others aren't?
4. Ask for a Detailed Project Outline. It's very easy for projects to get started and quickly become sidetracked. Before beginning any project, make sure that your vendor provides you with a detailed outline of project dates and deliverables. This will not only set your expectations correctly, it will also detail what's included in the proposed work. Ask your vendor, what happens if he/she misses a deliverable? How often do they complete their projects on time? The point here is to communicate with your marketing services vendor that you have expectations that must be met. This will allow for better project management throughout your marketing services engagement and ensure that all deliverables are achieved on or close to target.
5. Provide Partial Payment. Most marketing service vendors ask for part of the project payment up front. They realize that the fees you pay are partially based on satisfaction and completion of the work. If your marketing service vendor asks for the whole fee up front, tell the vendor that you will only agree to structured payments. This ensures project completion and gives you ability to manage deliverables throughout the project timeline.
If you're going to be selecting a marketing services provider for your business, be sure to