question marks I recently spoke at a conference in Florida for a group of franchise owners.  My plan was to keep the presentation educational about inbound marketing and I assumed the audience would be novice.  To help generate engagement during my presentation, I planned to hand out copies of the Inbound Marketing book and HubSpot T-shirts to attendees that ask questions and offered suggestions.

I was pleasantly surprised when the crowd was not only willing to participate, but eager to. The group ranged from beginners to people currently practicing inbound marketing. Attendees displayed knowledge of organic ranking, social media , blogging , conversion, etc.

As we began the presentation, we discussed ideas about what topics would make good blog articles , how to get to the top of Google and how social media applies to their business.  As we got further into the material an interesting shift happened.  The questions from the audience began to change and they wanted to understand more of what they'd heard and what was accurate. 

From the questions they were asking, I came to one major conclusion: There is a lot of junk out there! 

In other words, they had heard a lot of false and bad information and had no way of knowing if what they'd been told was true or false.  

Attendees had also spent a lot of money and trust with consultants or companies who had provided false information.  I don't think this audience was the minority, in fact I think this is the unfortunate truth of many people trying to figure out how to use their website as a marketing tool.  

I've compiled a list of 9 questions you can use when trying to figure out if a marketing company you're currently working with or thinking of working with is a credible partner.

1. Where does your internet marketing data come from? - If they are guessing, than their guess is as good as yours. I wouldn't recommend you pay someone to guess.

2. If their data comes from "research", you should ask "Can you explain what you mean by research?" - If they are gathering information off the internet, remember any one can publish anything on the internet and that still does not give you a source of where the data comes from. This would go back to the original point; their guess is as good as yours.

3. What guarantees do you offer? - This is a trick question as a guarantee is a red flag. Only Google knows what Google is going to do and no one can guarantee what will happen. Instead, they should offer you case studies or average results their customers have seen over a certain amount of time.

4. How many customers do you have? - If a company has 0 to very few customers, this is not a good sign.

5. What is the average length of time a customer stays with you? Or, what is your customer retention rate? - It's great if they can get customers to sign up for their service, but if customers don't stay this is an indication of the quality of service.

6. I heard Google ranks sites better organically who also spend a lot on Adwords, is this true? - This is a trick question as it is not true. The company you're asking should correct you on this if they know their stuff.

7. How do you feel about us purchasing our own tracking and reporting capabilities? - There are services that allow you to track how well you're ranking for keywords, track your inbound links, the quality of those links, social media presence, etc. These reports need to available 24/7 as monthly reporting is not sufficient because the internet moves in minutes and hours. You can tell the company you're currently working with or vetting that you're getting your own tracking (either HubSpot or another service), even if that company offers some type of reporting. A company who is worth their salt will be pleased you're tracking their work. They will not be threatened by your ability to track their work. A company that deters you from tracking their efforts doesn't want you to see what they aren't doing.

8. What type of content creation is included? - Content is the backbone to getting more online visibility. If a company is only going to optimize your site and not to do any continuous content creation would be like starting your car and never leaving the driveway.

9. How will you get material for the content you'll be creating? - No one knows more about your industry than you. Any company you pick should be using you as a resource to come up with the content they are creating. Poorly created content or irrelevant content will fall flat and not drive results. 

Image credit: Don Moyer

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Originally published Apr 20, 2010 3:00:00 PM, updated March 21 2013

Topics:

Inbound Marketing