Those of us in the digital marketing field are truly lucky. We work with the best and brightest around. Many of us have dedicated client services teams at huge search engines like Google who hire amazing employees from universities such as Stanford and Berkeley. As a Stanford grad, I must say it doesn’t get better than that (go Google)!

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However, as you grow your career in digital marketing, you won’t always be working exclusively with huge search engines. In your career, you will likely work with a mix of large companies, mid-sized companies, smaller companies, and individuals. You may have business interactions with a variety of entities including:

-Search Engines
-Software Companies
-Agencies
-Contractors and Freelancers
-Interviewees
-Employees Across Your Company
-Existing Partners
-New Prospective Partners
-People Trying To Sell You Something
-More!

Today’s post is meant to offer some advice and tips on how to discern great people and great digital marketers from those you may want to avoid. I have learned in my career and personal life that it’s all about surrounding yourself with greatness. Pick people who are true winners, and your career (and company) will thrive.

Tip 1: Always Meet Face-To-Face

Before I do business with anyone, I have learned that an in-person, face-to-face meeting is incredibly beneficial. There is so much you can learn about someone in person that’s just not possible over the phone, via email, or even via videoconference. Pay special attention to sincerity, overall attitude, body language, and effort. Also, see if your potential business partner is willing to meet at all. We are all busy these days. Those who take that extra time to meet get extra points in my book.

Tip 2: Do A Google Search and Check References

Does your prospective business partner have a history within digital marketing? Do you have any mutual friends who have worked with this partner? Does the partner have any references he/she can provide? It always inspires confidence when I can get an authentic, warm review of a potential business partner. It’s one thing to hear how great someone is first-hand, but it’s a whole other ballpark when an unbiased, mutual connection is willing to put their own reputation on the line to vouch for them. Don’t have the ability to check references? Spend some time on Google (and Yahoo!/Bing) performing searches and looking for information about the party you are evaluating.

Tip 3: Check the Track Record

Are you evaluating a business that has been around for years, steadily growing, and now employs dozens of people around the world? If so, the track record alone speaks for itself. It’s almost like intelligence of the group. Most of the time, people do not thrive in this industry (especially at an enterprise level) unless they are good. If the business in question has already been hired by dozens of important brands, you can often rely on that track record to feel somewhat safe and sound in your own decision. However, what if the business in question is newer and you are one of their first clients? Their lack of track record does not hurt them. However, it means you need to do more first-hand research yourself.

Tip 4: Ask Pointed Ethical Questions

It’s not only about skill, but also about honesty and integrity. In fact, I once asked a CEO about single most important characteristic that has helped his impressive career. He said, “Honesty.” That truly resonated with me. What we do in digital marketing is difficult, but not impossible to learn. On the other hand, honesty is a core value that one either has or doesn’t. Ask pointed ethical questions to see if the business party in question belongs as part of your extended business family.

Tip 5: Have A Great Attitude And Assume The Best

I always assume the best until proven otherwise. As I mentioned earlier, we work in a special industry. 99% of people and businesses out there are amazing. I don’t want you going through your day-to-day worrying about everyone. However, I am trying to say, “Keep your eyes open.” That’s all. It’s important to have that reminder from time-to-time because the level of service and professionalism we often receive in this industry is so amazing that it creates a feeling (bubble) of security.

Tip 6: Sever Ties If You Make a Mistake

If you’re around in business long enough, you will eventually regret at least one of your partnerships. It’s very difficult to avoid. First, realize that you are not alone. Second, realize it’s not your fault. My advice: Sever the ties as quickly as possible, in a fair and honest manner.

Thankfully, most people in our industry are amazing. People will make or break a business, so I always advise working with the best!

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Ian Lopuch
Ian Lopuch is a top online marketing executive with over 8 years in the industry. In his spare time, Lopuch is an avid blogger at PPC Ian.