Originally published in AllBusiness.com
As always, I find inspiration for my business articles in the things I experience personally. Let’s start this article off with a little TMI: I am divorced and dating at 40. It’s an interesting world, and I’m learning a lot (though I have to say, it’s not for the faint of heart!). It occurred to me that there are parallels between what you’d want in a good mate and what you’d want in a content marketing partner, someone who will help you to produce articles, blog posts, and other creative content to promote your business and your goods and services.
Here are five “dating tips” to help you find the perfect partner:
1. Find someone with aligned interests
When you’re dating, some guys make it clear that they’re looking for something that you’re not: a casual relationship, a mother replacement, a fishing buddy.
The same goes for a content marketing agency or professional—even a company that has a stellar reputation might not be aligned with how you envision your marketing strategy. And that’s okay, because there are plenty of (marketing) fish in the sea. Hold out for the one that speaks your language, and who, when they start talking strategy, gets you excited.
2. Date around
In my 20s, I didn’t date much. I’d meet a guy, fall in love, decide he was the one, then move on (I warned you: TMI!). Had I actually dated more, I might have been exposed to different types of guys and interests, which would have been a great way to learn more about the world and myself.
If you snatch up the first content marketing provider you talk to, you might miss out on others that have different perspectives or services offered. Take your time interviewing candidates so that you can compare them all and choose the one that best fits your company’s needs.
3. Don’t fall for sweet nothings
Just as men can compliment their way to a woman’s good graces, content marketing firms will only present their best side. They are, after all, experts at marketing! Beyond the shiny presentation, you need to see firsthand what a company can do. Ask for client references, and to see examples of their work as well as results. How much traffic did they send to a client’s blog? How many people signed up for that free e-book download? How have they increased ROI and conversion for their clients? Remember: The proof is in the pudding.
4. Know what you want
I actually have a list of characteristics I want in a partner. Sure, he doesn’t have to have 100% of them (although it’d be great if he did), but I use it as a metric to see if a potential suitor even comes close to checking off the boxes. If he doesn’t, I know that no amount of wishful thinking will make him a good fit.
You can’t expect to hire the best content marketing partner if you don’t know what you want and need. Do you want someone to completely handle every aspect of your content while you remain hands-off? Do you want to provide outlines for articles so they have your voice and experience? Do you want additional marketing services from your provider? Making a list can give you clarity on what to look for, and it can help you weed out anyone who’s not a good fit.
5. Don’t put a ring on it just yet
So you’ve decided on a content provider and begun working together. It’s always a good idea to have a trial period, whether it’s simply for them to produce one article or work for a month, to see if it’s a good fit. You should work well together, but you won’t know that until you actually try it out. Telling the provider that you want to work on a trial basis informs them that you reserve the right to cancel the arrangement if it doesn’t suit you. Should you not feel good about continuing the relationship past the trial, there are no hard feelings if you decide not to continue.
The content marketing partner you choose should make your work easier. They should be so well versed in the art of attracting people to your site through great content that you don’t have to worry about it anymore. And most of all, you should enjoy working with them. Don’t settle