If you're a business owner or manager with a real business you'll eventually get to the point where the question changes from, "Do I need marketing help?" to "How do I find the best marketing help?" This will help.

1) See the Work. Marketing folks tend to be great talkers. In fact, many are better sales people than true pros with the talent and smarts to do what's truly best for your business. So, listen to the pitch, then look at the work. And, be sure to invest the time to do that. It's the best starting point to finding the right help. But, that's just the first step.

2) Check out Credentials and Experience. Professional pedigree and experience provides a valuable perspective of who you're dealing with. Once again, talk is cheap, so there'd better be a kick-ass bio or two on the website.

3) Results. Ultimately, it comes down to this. So, on their website do they display great testimonials and case studies? Do they post a few, or many? Do they talk about results? No marketing resource should be seriously considered if they don't.

4) Be aware of The Hidden Agenda. Many "marketing experts" have an expertise that's limited to their special niche. So, while you may think you're getting an objective, professional perspective, you're not. You need to be sure you're getting advice from a source that will help you address your core marketing issues and has no agenda other than to see you successful.

5) How well do they market themselves? It amazes me how many marketing "experts" shrug off their own lame marketing with "the shoemaker's shoes" excuse. If anyone should be great at their own marketing it should be the marketing firm you're considering. Which ties into ...

6) G-Cred. (Google Credibility) is what shows up when you "Google" a business, a name, or anything. It's an easy, valuable litmus test of any marketing service or person you're considering working with. Wanna test it? Google: "Follis marketing"

7) Do they know Social Media? And, more importantly, are they engaged it? Do they have a great blog, Facebook brand page, YouTube videos, Twitter account, podcast, etc? They'd better.

8) Awards. Some agencies put way too much emphasis on awards, but you'll want to work with one that's got some.

9) Press. Press-worthy work is a great, free, added benefit for you, the client. It's another key litmus test. So, have they gotten any? And, if so, are we talking the local Penny Saver or The New York Times?

10) Are they a respected Thought Leader? The more respected they are in their industry, the better the odds are that you can trust them and have a good working relationship. So, some things to find out: Have they been nationally published? Do they speak at high profile venues? Have they been interviewed? Are they profiled on Wikipedia?

11) Do they make it easy to work together? Investing in marketing help can be a scary proposition for any business owner. So, have they developed an easy way to start the process and test the waters?

12) Are they driven and passionate about their business?
It's one of the most important, yet most overlooked, items on the list. If you're passionate about your business you'll want to work with someone equally passionate about theirs. It really does make a difference. (See: "The Power of Passion")

(c) 2012 Follis LLC See more articles.