Today, as medical consumers, we have come to expect our primary care physicians will be knowledgeable enough to identify what’s wrong, but will not have all the skills necessary to treat all of our ailments.

In contrast, when it comes to Internet marketing, we’re still back in the 1950s with the idea that a general practitioner can treat everything that ails us. From overall strategy and web design to pay per click, on and offsite SEO and social media management, we expect anyone who knows anything about the Internet to be able to do it all

Just as all doctors all have a basic understanding of anatomy, all these task require a basic working knowledge of the Internet and marketing, but the individual disciplines require different skill sets to do them well.

Marketing Strategy

Good strategy companies should have a solid background in marketing. They need to understand the real drivers behind consumer behavior, targeting and segmentation tactics and a general understanding of each of the current marketing tactics.

As you evaluate potential strategy service providers, ask to see several sample plans. Even if they white out the names of clients and key details, reading the documents will give you a feel for the depth of their knowledge. Does the plan seem tailored to a specific company or just a series of cookie cutter paragraphs? And most important, is there real meat in the  plan–specific action items, budgets, time lines and measurements?

Web Design

Good web design requires both an artist and a technician. Rarely do you find both these skills in one person. While the artist will focus on the overall look and feel as well as the user experience, the technician will need solid programming skills to make sure it all works well.

As you look at websites that miss the mark (they look good, but don’t work well or function perfectly, but have no  aesthetic appeal), it is usually because the design team was strong in one area but not the other.

Want to know if your potential web developer has what it takes? Look at their portfolio.

Social Media

Looking for a team to manage your social media? This is the art side of internet marketing. Look for strong writing skills and active participation on social networks. While I don’t think there is a specific number of fans and followers required, their accounts should show a pattern of regular activity and interaction with others.

Some of my peers will argue the cobbler has no shoes to indicate they are too busy with client work to manage their own accounts. I don’t buy that logic. Preaching the benefits of social media as a critical component of marketing but not using is yourself is like being a chef who doesn’t eat in his own restaurant.


In contrast,  managing pay per click (PPC) campaigns is more of a science. Look for a company with a strong analytical approach and specific process to  support their in-depth knowledge of the Google campaigns. Finding the perfect headlines and bid prices takes multiple experiments and patiently tweaking the mix to get the right results.

Check out this great article on ten criteria for hiring a PPC company for more tips about what to look for in a PPC company. If you are investigating this service, this is a must-read.

Search Engine Optimization

The discipline of search changes frequently as Google and the other search engines update their rule books. Good SEO takes time, so in addition to their knowledge, the best firms have experience and patience to watch a p0t slowly boil to deliver the results you seek.

Why is SEO so expensive? Unlike PPC, many of the measurement and tracking tools they need to fine-tune their approach are not free. Ask potential partners about their tools, what they will measure and  how they will define success.

One Stop Shop

I know it would be easier if you could just find a one stop shop, a company that can do it all. Going that route may force you to make compromises because companies that are really good at one thing have almost laser focus on developing and refining their skill sets in that area. They stay one step ahead of the  marketplace by continually looking for new trends and tools to expand their craft.

Unless the company is very large it will be rare for them to have the time and resources to maintain that level of expertise in all areas. So what can you do to manage your internet marketing? My suggestion, find one trusted provider and use them like a referring physician, helping you coordinate activities between specialists as you need them.

photo credit: jfcherry via photo pin cc