questions to ask a marketer… And what to look for in the answers!

1. What area of marketing do you specialize in?

Anyone who claims to be a generalist anymore is probably pretty new to the field. Most marketing professionals have an affinity for one type of marketing over another, even if they do a wide variety of things. You want to hear things that matter to software companies, such as public relations, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, copywriting, and graphic design.

2. How do you think you can help us?

Obviously, they should have taken a look at your website and have some concrete suggestions. A really promising candidate will ask a lot of questions and show a good understanding of your market.

3. How do you normally work?

They should be able to explain the process they use. The more clearly they can define what they need from you, what they are going to do when they get it, and what you can expect from them, the greater the likelihood that they will work out.

4. What would you expect me to provide?

They should be able to tell you exactly what information they will need from you. Typically this would include information about your company, your products and your market. You’ll also need to share your marketing strategy, campaign goals, and the kind of results you want.

5. What kind of tools do you use?

They should name tools that are specific to the type of marketing they do. A graphic designer might name Photoshop, InDesign or Quark. An SEO expert might say Moz (formerly called SEOmoz). A PR person might mention Vocus or PR Newswire. What’s important is that they can name the tools quickly. If they can’t name their preferred tools, that’s a red flag.

6. What kind of reporting will you deliver?

You want to set a schedule of regular reports that document the work done and the results achieved. The content of the reports will vary depending on the work that is being done, but they should be able to tell you how they will keep you updated about their progress.

7. How long will it take to see results?

You want to hear a timeline that sounds reasonable to you. Nothing is going to happen instantly.

8. What kind of results should we expect?

People who promise spectacular results (top listings on Google, articles in the Wall Street Journal) should be able to provide examples to demonstrate that they have achieved this in the past. Otherwise, look for someone who sets reasonable expectations.

9. How much will it cost in all to get those results?

You want them to be able to come up with a ballpark that includes the cost of their time plus expenses. It can be hard to do this accurately with little information, but hearing what costs they factor in can tell you a lot.

10. How could I do it less expensively?

There is always a cheaper way to do anything, and most small software companies are well served by focusing on the 20% that delivers 80% of the results. If that’s important to you, asking this question can tell you a lot about how budget-conscious this person will be.

11. How long have you been doing this type of marketing? Who else have you worked for?

Optimally, you want someone who has several years of experience working for another small software company or for a company in your market. The more experience in the software industry and/or your market, the better. They will already understand the issues and be able to deliver higher quality results fast.

12. How do you keep up with changes in the field?

They should be able to name several blogs, websites, or gurus they follow. If they can’t come up with any names, find out why they don’t think that’s important to do.