Arguably, the selection of the software vendor(s) and of the partner who is going to implement your digital marketing program is one of the most important steps of the digital transformation journey (for an SME as well as any other company). Here are some tips to help you with this step.
Four tips to help you think through the selection process.
We have grouped the 20 questions into four tips around style, fit, expertise and engagement, to help you with your selection process. Here they are!
Look at how the software vendor(s) and the partner are marketing to you
Start from looking at how the vendors and partners are marketing to you. Yes, this is about them eating their own dog food (or drinking their own champagne ...whichever version of the saying you prefer).
The questions that you want to ask yourself are:
- Are they able to take your through your journey as a buyer, with relevant information at each stage?
- Is their website design appealing and friendly to you?
- Is their content meaningful and insightful?
- Are they addressing your questions through the media which you prefer to use?
- Do they communicate consistently across these media?
- Did they jump into making you a proposal right away?
A prospect vendor and a prospect partner of yours are third parties that you want to be able to communicate with easily and, given that you are buying digital marketing tools and services from them, you want to see that they are able to market themselves online to you.
There are plenty of reputable analysts that have reviewed the vendors offering and most likely that’s how you got to know of that vendor in the first place (whether explicitly or implicitly). Now you are assessing their fit with your business specifically.
The questions that you want your vendor to answer (for that specific solution, not in general) are:
- What % of their installed base is from your industry?
- What % of their installed base is similar to you in size?
- How many marketing people does the typical customer have?
- How are they organized?
- What are the key skills that the marketing team typically needs to develop?
- Does the vendor support this skill development, and if so, how?
Lots of the discussions with software vendors are typically about features and price, but before you get there, make sure that you have good answers to these six questions above. Also, when it comes to pricing, you can use this as a reference to see how your budget aligns with those of other Singaporean SMEs (and it the vendor pricing is in the right range).
Finally, often people tend to pick the market leader, as it looks like the safest bet. You want to ask the question to pick the best fit to your situation. The partner, more than the vendor, is the party that will be translating your situation into specific needs, and find the best way to address those needs. Which brings us to the third tip...
Partner expertise in your solution
Look for a partner with expertise in the specific solution and do your best to assess their ability to understand your business needs, not necessarily your industry, but rather the business challenge you are facing. After all you and your team have plenty of domain expertise to share with the partner when it comes to your industry.
The questions that you want to ask yourself are:
- Do you think the partner shows a holistic understanding of your business?
- Are they able to provide the solution you want with any of the vendors you are considering, or with just one of them?
- Based on the current interaction with the partner team, was the team able to build personal and professional trust with you (and your team)?
- Has the partner exceeded your expectations in terms of deliverables during the initial proposal stage (for example, did they share insights into the solution, besides answering your questions; or did they suggest to look at more vendors than the one you started from)?
The partner expertise in the solution is what makes them a trusted advisor for you, rather than an extension of the vendor (remember, you pay the partner, not the vendor, so they should work for you).
And again, your team has the industry expertise, as long as the partner has the solution knowledge and is able to communicate and work well with your team, together you have all you need. Working well together often comes down to clearly defined engagement rules.
Clear engagement rules
By now, you have seen and interacted with the partner many times, and you have been able to build trust. Often the delivery team may not be the exact same team that you dealt with up to this point (or even if it is the same team, the man-hours for the various team members that you are going to get is going to change).
The questions that you want to ask from your partner are:
- Who is going to deliver the work and exactly how they map their people to yours?
- What are the channels for these mappings (whether people are going to meet in steering committees every 15 days or are working shoulder-to-shoulder daily)?
- How frequently will we interact in each phase of the work?
- If something happens during the delivery phase and you are not happy about it, what is the escalation path?
If the partner has not volunteered this info, ask for it explicitly. Knowing this information, and making sure that if fits your expectations, is a key factor to the project success.
One more thing...
While a bit outdated (it's from 2013), this infographic by Internet Marketing Inc. gives a great prospective on the digital marketing partner selection.
The selection of the software vendor(s) and partner is a crucial step in your SME digital transformation journey, however hardly the only step. Check this article out for more help with your digital marketing program.