5 Steps to choosing the right marketing partner for your startup

So you’re thinking about hiring someone to help manage your marketing. Good idea! It can be difficult to do your own marketing (and do it well) while building a business or launching a product -- believe me, I've tried. Crafting the perfect Facebook ad (for example) and selecting the right audience can take a ton of time. It’s best to hire an expert.

How do you find the right person? If you ask for recommendations from friends or Google "Freelance Marketing in Seattle," you’ll get a ton of options, but make sure you run each candidate through these five steps to choose the right person.

1. Get proposals from multiple vendors. And make sure the quote is on a "not-to-exceed basis."

Contact at least three vendors and ask for proposals. The proposals don’t need to be fancy. A one-pager should be plenty. Feel free to use my template here.

Some consultants charge by the hour and others by project. I recommend both. I like to estimate the number of hours it takes to complete the project, add any additional costs and expenses and then present a total-project-cost (TPC) that is on a not-to-exceed basis. This process sets clear expectations up front so you know exactly what you’re getting and there are no surprises. In addition to a TPC, the proposal should include a summary, goals, creative treatment and project timeline.

2. Evaluate response time - “ How you do anything is how you do everything.”

As you go through this vendor review process, make sure the contact is responsive and on time. You’d think this would be just table stakes, but you’d be surprised about how many people just don’t put a value on quick response time.  You shouldn’t have to wait on a response from your marketing vendor.

3. Evaluate personality - are you going to like working with this person

Even if you're only looking for help with a one-time project, make sure you like the person and can establish a rapport. Some of the most successful campaigns I’ve worked on were with people I had chemistry with. It may sound weird, but everything is so much more productive if you understand each other. Meetings are faster, there’s less follow up and campaigns are generally more successful if collaborated with two people who get along, have similar tastes and interests. This is where the old adage comes from that people want to do business with people they like.

4. Check out experience

Check to see if they have the right kind of experience. Like working with your target audience, for example. When I helped launch the Package Guard, we were targeting (1) people who had frequent deliveries and (2) busy moms -- I am both. I was able to develop relevant and engaging content for this audience without having to spend time doing a ton of research and reviewing buyer personas. No matter how good a marketer’s portfolio is, make sure they can hit the ground running.

It’s also extremely beneficial to partner with a vendor who has startup experience. Startups are way different than other businesses. The insane pace and level of scrappyness required to be successful can be challenging if you’re not prepared for it.

5. Call references

After you’ve done your homework of contacting multiple marketing vendors, requesting proposals, reviewing their work ethic and personality, make sure you call past clients as a final step to validation. Your new team member will probably need access to business information like your Google Analytics account or credit card information and you want to make sure your future team member is the real deal. If he or she passes the five steps, I’m confident you have an extremely qualified partner to help grow and scale your business.