I joined Social Media Group last month as the Account Director, I’m a “seasoned” (but not too seasoned) interactive marketing-communications professional with nine years of online experience. I’m writing this as a public service having been exposed to many agencies, vendors in the past.

We all know there’s no shortage of companies wanting to sell consulting services.

These organizations claim to have different skill sets, specialties, and successes. It’s not always easy to discern the differences and for a client who wants the cream of the crop, the decision can be especially daunting. It’s important that certain criteria be assessed, here are 5 indicators that will help identify a competent agency.

1    Investigate Their Track Record
Deconstruct the senior management team individually. Do they have a wide range of expertise? Where did they come from and what’s their industry reputation. These are often over-looked criteria but these factors will drive the innovation and direction of the organization. It’s important to be aware of previous roles, successes and any other work they have been responsible for within your vertical.

2    Check For A Backbone
Moving from consulting to service deployment, a strong process and methodology is the backbone of any successful interactive agency. An organization that invests in developing a well-defined methodology for implementing a program will be more likely to deliver successfully – on-time and on-budget. Look for a company that’s willing to be transparent about the way they work.

3    Look For Balance
Big ideas are great, but back to the previous point, if the company isn’t able to bring them to fruition they will fall flat before they can succeed. It’s essential that a great strategy can be transformed into tangible execution seamlessly within a single organization.

4    Make Sure They’re In The Know
A competitive shop needs to stay current and on the cutting edge of the latest strategies, tactics and winning technologies. The digital space changes daily and a company that doesn’t invest in their own knowledge may not deliver a forward-thinking campaign. In the digital landscape, innovation is essential. Make sure to partner up with a pioneer.

5    Demand An Education
A good agency will spend time teaching their clients about the online space, their strategies and chosen technologies. While some clients will only digest this information in varying degrees, an understanding of the medium will allow a client to be a more active participant in the process.  More importantly, clients should understand what they’re paying for.

Don’t be afraid to kick the tires and ask plenty of questions when selecting an agency. The right choice can lead to a long-term partnership and plenty of success.  Remember these guidelines and don’t get sidetracked by less important details.