What You Can Learn From Million Dollar Firms

Full service marketing firms can handle everything from hiring actors, writing scripts and shooting videos to designing a website. They also tend to be ridiculously expensive. Several times in my career I’ve had the pleasure of being tasked with hiring a full service marketing firm. It’s not like you might think; you’re not left having to fend off calls from sales people that know little about the business they’re selling.

You see, when you’re looking for one of these places, you’re talking to people that know the work. Phone conversations with them feel a lot less like buying a new car, and more like a brainstorming session.

The Search

A few weeks ago I was asked to find one of these firms for a corporate website redesign project. This project was a bit different than the others I’ve outsourced so I decided to go with someone entirely new. I received referrals from a couple of friends and did some searching on Google to end up with a list of five marketing firms.

That may not seem like a lot but I can tell you it was amazingly tough finding that many companies. Most were either lacking on the design side or the marketing side. It’s truly difficult to find a company that is strong on marketing, video production, web design, usability and SEO.

The Top Three

Once we had our firms, we sent out the RFPs with a deadline of two weeks. Three out of the five contacted us back so narrowing down the list was a no-brainer.

So we scheduled phone calls with our top three companies to go over the project. One of them really blew us away to the point of us saying “I really hope we can afford them.”

How Did They Do That?

First, he asked the right questions. When you’re talking to a company like this, there are certain questions you know you’re going to get.

  • What’s your budget for the project?
  • Do you have a required completion date?
  • How many pages/sections?
  • Why are you looking to redesign your website?

And several more covering project requirements so they can give an accurate estimate. That’s the boring part of these interviews, answering the same questions over and over.

What they did an exceptional job with, was asking questions that no one else asked. Questions that told us that these people knew their stuff. These are the type of people we want working on our project.

Some of the questions:

  • What does your sales engine think about your marketing site? How can it help them close sales?
  • What’s your positioning strategy?
  • In your calls to action, what are the different types of users that you want to focus on?
  • What calls to action do you currently have on your site? How do they differ by page type?

And so on. See what’s happening here? They’re letting us know that it’s important for them to find out how our company works. To design an effective website they need this information.

I’ll admit, they tripped me up with a couple of these questions. I just didn’t know the answer. It was a little embarrassing but marketing isn’t my field so it can be excused.

Did it bother me? Of course not, I’m hiring them for their expertise after all. I want them to dig into all the important stuff that I’ve not thought about yet.

What’s the Lesson Here?

How do some of your previous conversations with prospective clients compare? If you were competing for a project with a company like this, how would you do?

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Web Design

This is really good information for web company to learn. thanls


Thanks! Glad you found it useful.

Chris Phillips

Exactly…I think it’s essential to know as much about your clients business as possible. Open Source CMS’s and Web Apps like Bidsketch, among many other advancements in web development/sales processes, have made web developing more efficient. I feel obligated to my client’s to ask those types of questions about thier business. It makes the difference between a website and a Web Presence. It seems natural to me that the developer/project manager moves over into a roll more along the lines of a integrator/consultant.

Thanks Ruben for the info and for all the great new features in Bidsketch. Im truly impressed with how fast you have answered every request we have had. Bidsketch and Freshbooks integration completes our Sales/Marketing/Project Management efforts. It is changing the way we do business…..we do more of it. :)


Thanks for the kind words!

>> It is changing the way we do business…..we do more of it. :)

That’s music to my ears! It’s absolutely my #1 goal so I’m very glad to hear this :)

chad Jarratt

So, when the company or company’s you reviewed asked what your budget for the project is. Did you give them an answer…?

We have had some dialog around the office about if this is a question that needs to be asked or not. Some feel like this makes up look like car sales people, I think everyone has a number and by sharing it with us, we can maximize the most out of there budget.

I’m in favor if you can’t tell… but I never get an answer so I’m starting to wonder… Thanks,

Nice write-up…


Chad – we didn’t give an answer because we just didn’t know. The executive team wanted to see some estimates before they would set a budget for the project. A lot of people seem to work this way. Also, I do think many people feel like you’re asking for a budget to bill up to that amount so it’s partly a trust issue.

Does it hurt your image and make you look like care sales people? It’s not black and white like that I think. Some people will be put off by this, others will feel like you didn’t care enough to ask about it and think your company is sloppy. Maybe a good approach is to directly talk about why a budget question is going to be asked before asking the question. Not sure.



You ask the budget question to know if your client potential client has the budget to invest in the wish list they want you to fill for them.

If you haven’t fished out the wish list, I can see way people would fee this way. If they say well we don’t want to share this. My response is, we can save a lot of time if we know the type of budget you are looking at we can let you know if we can do everything that you require or not for that investment.

8 out of 10 i get a number and 9 out of 10 i am over it, and let them know that should the budget be out of reach we can customize it based on there needs and priorities. Never undersell !

Kind regards,

Kevin Mcisaac

Rle Web Design Company

Good Stuff. Glad a had a few minutes to read this. great information, anyone could learn a lot from this.

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