4 Qualifications Your Inbound Marketing Firm Must HaveWhen you're on the hunt for a marketing partner, it's easy to get lost in attractive websites and expansive portfolios. And sometimes you might put more faith in a marketer's snazzy website than they deserve.

When so many agencies and marketing firms want your business, how do you know which inbound marketing firm will make the most sense to your business?

Here are four qualifications you should absolutely look for in your inbound marketing firm.

You know the basic screening moves, like asking for referrals from other business partners, reviewing agency case studies, and following their blog. But once you narrow down your options to a handful of agencies, here’s how to pick the right firm for you:

1. Verifiable credibility, qualifications, and processes

Trust and credibility are vital in a marketing relationship. After all, you're about to place thousands of dollars and your business's future into their hands. To earn credibility within an industry, the agency you work with should be practicing what they preach with a frequently updated, high-quality blog, engaging social media marketing, and email marketing.

Review the agency's website and look for indicators of trust and credibility (in the form of consistency). Does their website and blog show that they have the experience to handle your needs? If not, you can expect the same lackluster marketing for your company.

If you like what you see, take the conversation further. What tools does the agency use and how are they qualified to implement them? Are they quick to share their information, or are they hiding as much as they can of the process from you? Marketing isn't a magic show. They should be willing to educate you on the tools and processes they use.

2. Compatibility in price, communication, and experience

For a long-term working relationship, your company and your marketing agency need to synch on three different levels: price, communication and culture styles, and experience.

Marketing firms have different pricing models, rates and ranges. Some agencies can quickly price themselves out of your services based on the rate itself or the pricing structure. And even if they can prove an impressive ROI, it may not a good fit if you don't want to spend that much or if you can't see the ROI potential.

Price can often go hand in hand with experience. Marketing firms with a history of high ROI within your industry are worth the investment. Can they show examples?

The final compatibility trait is often overlooked even though it's the heart of your working relationship. The culture and communication style of your company and the firm needs to fit. Honest communication -- whether you take it with a side of "fun" or "just the facts" -- leads to appropriate expectations and progress. Miscommunication leads directly to business disasters.

3. A clearly effective, efficient, and measurable solution

A tactical focus is fine for a one-time problem. But a marketing agency needs to provide a long-term solution that is both efficient and effective; a solution that will save you time and meet the goals you set.

The marketing agency you work with should have processes and software in place to fulfill its responsibilities more quickly than you could yourself. Rather than directing funds toward account management, a focus on doing the work quickly and using their expertise is what maximizes your budget. "Been there, done that" is what you're looking for.

4. HubSpot inbound marketing certification

Certification is important because it contributes to the credibility of the marketing firms you'll evaluate. While there are a lot of different certifications that an agency or individuals at an agency could attain, we recommend HubSpot inbound marketing certified professionals.

Rather than certifying that a marketer has an understanding of a single tactic (like social media or web analytics), HubSpot's certification puts all marketing and measurement tactics together. To pass certification, a marketer needs to understand each tactic, but also how they all fit together into a campaign. Often, you'll find that HubSpot inbound marketing certified marketers have extensive campaign planning abilities that make them more than just an SEO practitioner, content marketer or analyst.

When the whole picture comes together to meet your measurable goals (to help increase website traffic, generate new leads, and nurture new leads to become customers) your marketing dollars are reaching their full potential.

In any industry, "the best" is relative. Don't be distracted by the most popular, the least expensive or the most expensive marketing agency -- pursue the right firm for your unique company.

What else do you look for in a marketing partnership?