What are your qualifications? Who on your team has a background in marketing, design, and web development? Who holds degrees or certifications in those fields?
While there are plenty of skilled professionals who do not hold official degrees in their field, if everyone you speak to has a degree in accounting or business, this is a red flag. You’d be surprised how many “market experts” have no formal background in marketing.
Feel free to quiz creative directors, designers, developers, and anyone else billing themselves as marketing professionals. If they are truly qualified, they will not get offended and will be able to answer your questions to your satisfaction.
Who owns the rights to my website?
This is a critical question and will establish how this marketing company views you as a client. Do not accept equivocating or vague answers.
Specifically, you want to know who controls your intellectual property. As the owner of your business, you should have full control over your domain. Any company that insists on buying your domain for you is using this tactic to keep you from leaving. This is a major red flag.
Think about it: if your marketing company owns your domain (your url), what happens if you’re dissatisfied with their service? You’ll either have to pay off your entire contract or pay a fee to have your domain transferred into your name. Not only is this an additional hassle, it’s a needless stress. And if you’re unable to transfer domain ownership, you will have to find another, less desirable domain. That means losing search engine ranking and other hard work you’ve done to build your brand. Any marketing company that uses this tactic knows this.
Always make sure you control your domain. When it comes time to build your site, you may have to delegate access to your web developer so that they can make changes to the DNS records, but under no circumstances should you share your passwords.
For more information, read: What Domain Registrar Should I Choose?
What happens if I cancel or choose not to renew my contract?
Whatever the reason, you may find yourself dissatisfied with your choice in marketing company and want to try something else. You should not be punished for that. Will the company bundle your complete website, assets included, so you can migrate the site to another hosting provider? Will you be able to keep any stock images? Or will your website disappear altogether? If you’re paying thousands of dollars for a website, you should own it.
All of this is related to who owns your intellectual property, so it’s essential to have these points established from the beginning.
How do I make changes and updates to my website?
How does the company handle website maintenance and updates? How easy is it to change a phone number, add new images, copy, etc? Is this part of your initial package, or are there additional fees involved?
Do you offer training, so I can learn to update my website myself?
This is an important question for those who want to take charge of their website and don’t want to go through the hassle of negotiating every change and tweak through an account manager.
What benchmarks do you use to measure SEO and digital marketing services?
How will you know if the services you’re paying for are achieving results? Do not accept jargon-laced, ambiguous promises.
Who creates the content?
This is a basic question, but the answers can vary wildly. What kind of quality can you expect out of your website copy, blog posts, and social media? How much control will you have over content? Is the content of your website, blog, and social media handled by experienced writers, or is it outsourced?
If quality is important to you, ask to speak to the creatives who will be building your product. Verify that they are skilled professionals and not poorly-paid contract workers hired through Fiverr, Upwork, or Verbilio. Marketing agencies will often hire freelancers to cut their costs. If you want slapdash content punctuated with SEO keywords, you don’t need a marketing company or SEO guru. You can easily hire these freelancers yourself.