Ok, so some of you may be saying...don't you offer these services? Why would you want to tell people how to 'screen' you? Well, the answer is two-fold. In the best interests of my potential clients, they should know what and who they are hiring. The more informed they are the easier my job becomes and more time is spent on achieving results rather than explaining 'who I am'.
Secondly, if I know what is going to be asked I can have a great response ready, and more importantly, I can be prepared to explain the answer in layman's terms (ie. easily understandable).So, onto the questionnaire for initial screenings:
Dear [Prospective SEM Vendor],
Thank you for entering into a dialog with us as we vet potential SEM vendors for [Name of Company]. In order to keep the process as streamlined as possible, please take a few minutes to respond to this questionnaire. Our goal is to not waste your time.
The answers can be as detailed or short as you deem appropriate. We look forward to the process of getting to know your company better. We're happy to read articles on-topic originating from your agency, if you provide the URL in any question's answer. Thank you in advance for your efforts.
Pay Per Click
1. Is anyone in your firm AdWords Qualified or a Yahoo Ambassador?
2. Does your agency have a designated Google or Yahoo rep?
3. What is your agency's revenue model for PPC: percentage of spend, percentage of revenue, monthly fee, hybrid?
4. Do you have a monthly PPC minimum spend or fee?
5. What method does your firm use to manage PPC: by hand, by automation (what tool), hybrid?
6. Do you use our credit card, your agency's or another method? How will you invoice us?
7. What reports do you typically send clients and at what interval?
8. What PPC channels are you experienced with (Google, MSN, Yahoo, Facebook, etc...)?
9. How does your agency measure PPC conversion and ROI?
10. Is it in your vocabulary to do multivariate landing page/ad message testing?
11. How much PPC spend-cash do you handle annually?
12. Please submit 2 short PPC case studies highlighting success.
13. Please submit 1 short PPC case study highlighting failure.
14. Please submit 2 PPC client-references.
1. What link-building tactics and methods will be employed?
2. Does your agency have a content creation practice, or will you guide us in building out our content?
3. How do you measure organic prominence in light of Personalized Search?
4. What keyword research tools are used?
5. How does your agency measure organic conversion and ROI?
6. What methods are used to mine competitive intelligence about our competitors?
7. What is the billing model for organic-related services? (retainer, hourly, flat monthly fee, etc...)
8. Do you test organic landing page performance with PPC?
9. What steps do you take to insulate clients from becoming too dependent on Google?
10. Please submit 2 short organic case studies highlighting success.
11. Please submit 1 short organic optimization case study highlighting failure.
12. Please submit 2 organic optimization client-references.
1. What channels are you currently active in for clients? (StumbleUpon, Digg, Facebook, etc...)
2. Give examples of how channels might be used to bolster the overall SEM effort?
3. What reputation monitoring tools will be used?
4. What is the frequency and substance of your reputation reporting?
5. What is your experience with open source blogging software like WordPress?
6. What are your typical non-blogging uses of blog-style software?
7. Please submit 2 short social media case studies highlighting success.
8. Please submit 1 short social media case study highlighting failure.
General Vendor Qualifications:
1. How many full-time employees in the agency? What are their roles?
2. What SEM conferences did you attend in the past year, and which do you plan to attend this year? (SES, PubCon, SMX, etc.)
3. What SEM conferences will your staff speak at this year?
4. What trade publications, online or paper, do you write for and on what topics?
5. Please submit 3 links to articles you or your employees have written.
6. What forums is your agency "known" in? (SEW, Sphinn, Cre8asite, etc.)
7. Links to your profile pages please
8. Traditional affiliations (BBB, Chambers of Commerce, etc...)
9. SEMPO member?
10. Does your agency have in-house programmers and designers or do you outsource?
11. If outsourcing, what are your partner-vendors' URLs?
12. What analytics other than Google Analytics are used?
13. Is there an in-house method to measure offline conversions (phone, etc.)
14. What experience does your agency have in local/mobile?
You might eliminate questions that don't apply to your company's specific marketing application or outside of your comfort zone. Any agency that's worth its salt will welcome the opportunity to participate in a focused vetting process.
Giving credit where credit is due...content derived from Marty Weintraub.