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In most restaurant settings, full service means the same thing. It means you will be ordering off a menu at a table, where a wait staff will be serving you delicious food and whatever beverage choice your heart desires.

But anyone who has considered hiring a full-service online marketing firm may be left scratching their head. What does full service actually mean in this day and age when internet and social media marketing have rapidly taken over as one of the most effective ways to promote your business?

Unfortunately, in many cases, the answer is not simple. So what should you look for? What are some of the basic services and concepts that you should seek out in what is admittedly a muddled field?

Step one: Look for a teammate

Brainstorming together is one of the most important components to developing a cohesive and applicable online plan. And that can’t happen if you don’t get along. That’s why it is important to find a strategic partner, someone who understands that you are working together for a common purpose and respects your vision.

Step two: Know what you’re looking for

One of the best things you can do to prepare for hiring an online marketing agency is to have some idea of the kinds of services you’d like to try. The problem is, more often than not, you’re hiring professionals because you don’t have the knowledge or expertise to do it yourself.

So if you know at least to ask for various services, and find a company that simply outlines what they offer, that builds a better foundation to work from at the start. It’s as important to know what you’re looking for as it is to know what they offer.

For example, every business has a different target market that can be reached through social media platforms. Pinterest and Instagram are particularly powerful resources with moms and women, whereas Facebook targets a broader audience. Knowing a bit about which platforms appeal most to which audiences is a helpful place to start.   

Step three: Make them do their job

Once that foundation is established and all parties know your priorities, ask for input, advice, and suggestions. Because let’s face it. If they ask you what you want to start with first, chances are your response will be that if you knew that, you would have done it yourself.

According to Business News Daily some of the most common internet marketing services include search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click advertising, reputation management and social media and content marketing strategies.

Understanding what each of those services mean for your business can be challenging, so here’s a rundown:

  1. SEO sounds more complicated than it is. Defined as a process of impacting the visibility of a website online using a search engine’s unpaid, organic results, SEO is essentially a game of wordplay. It’s about maximizing content with words that will help your business’ website be at the top of the list of search results instead of lost somewhere on page 1309.
  2. Pay-per-click, or PPC, advertising helps deliver traffic to websites. In these cases, an advertiser pays the publisher, usually a website owner, when the ad is clicked.
  3. Reputation management is everything, but it has long since stepped outside the doors of your business. Reputation managers are called upon to help manage and resolve any conflicts or issues online, but also to be proactive in avoiding having such things happen in the first place. In the digital world, real-time feedback is a thing of the present, and it doesn’t take much to tarnish a business’ reputation with one little comment or review. Reputation management is focused on keeping that reputation as clean online as you work to keep it in your local community.
  4. Social media and content strategies are the easiest and perhaps most important pieces of the puzzle. Everything is built around high-quality content and engagement using the platforms that work best for your business. The other things don’t matter as much without the content and presence to back everything up.

Step four: Expect more

A good online marketing agency will offer the basic services but should go a step beyond that in providing direction, perspective, implementation, and results. It obviously helps to be on the same page about these components from the beginning, but these things transform an online marketing agency from normal to exceptional.

Expect responsibility and accountability as well by putting guidelines and milestones in place throughout whatever kind of campaign you are running.

At a time when more businesses are partnering with agencies that can help make sense of an otherwise complicated and data-driven world, the time is now to consider your options.

It may seem complicated, but that’s because it is. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be.

By taking steps in knowing what you’re looking for in a teammate, making them do their job and expecting more, you’re truly getting the full-service treatment you deserve.