The one question I’m most consistently asked by entrepreneurs is “how do I hire a (fill in the blank – web development, PR, marketing, SEO) firm?” When reading the suggestions below, keep your own company in mind and how you deal with the same situation when the tables are turned and you are the vendor.
The two most important factors are good communication and trust. Here’s why. If the person shows they are truly listening to your needs and respond to your needs, this signals a good communications loop between you two. They will probably work well as a team with you. If they politely listen until you stop talking and then ignore what you said and start selling you something, it probably won’t work. Remember if the communication isn’t there right from the start, it only goes downhill after you hire them. Likewise, it goes uphill if you two are clicking. Another benefit of this alignment of vision, is that they will be thinking of solutions for you to questions that you haven’t asked or even thought of.
I will always select someone who is truly listening to my needs and wants over any other criteria any day. Here’s a quick list of other screening questions to ask:
• Request at least two references – ask them the best and worst features of working with the company. Ask if they are on time and meet their deadlines. And why they no longer work with them (if that’s the case).
• Find out who will be handling your work on a day-to-day basis. That’s the person you want to meet. How flexible are they? Can they turn on a dime and take advantage of sudden opportunities?
• Do they have experience in your sector or have they worked with businesses like yours? It’s not a deal-breaker if they don’t. But then I would revert back to trust and good communications. We saw a consumer design firm create a retail logo for a biotech firm. Wrong! They didn’t take the time to understand the needs of their client.
• Ask for samples of their past work.
• How will the relationship be structured? Get an idea of costs before you sign on.
• How often will they report their activities to you?
• What services can you expect for your money?
• And finally, always create a contract so everyone knows exactly where they stand.