Hiring the Right Marketing Vendor, Part 2

hiring the right marketing vendorToday I’m continuing Thursday’s post  about finding good marketing vendors.  In that post I walked through the first few steps in the process:

1.  Know what you need
2.  Identify your prospects
3.  Think carefully about your success criteria
4.  Make your first cut

At this point you should have a manageable list of companies or individuals who’ve made your first cut.  They’ve answered your first set of qualifying questions and you know there’s strong potential to work together.   And don’t rule out your gut – if something doesn’t jive, there may be a very good reason.  Focus your energy on other prospects.

Tips for Hiring the Right Marketing Vendor

The next steps:

5.  Analyze your prospects. Now you can invest more serious time in your discussions with your short list of vendors.  You’ll probably meet in person or schedule a lengthy conference call to evaluate their services and your needs.

It’s easy to get sidetracked or overwhelmed with information at this stage.  To keep things as simple as possible, keep your list of success criteria handy.  Your mission is to evaluate each vendor against specific criteria, so keep the discussions focused on the items you need to address.

To better compare apples to applies, you could set up a rating sheet for each vendor.  List your success criteria and rate their importance on a scale from 1-5.  Then rate the vendor objectively on each criteria.

6.  Request proposals. If appropriate, this is the time to ask each vendor to submit a formal proposal.  If you’re looking for simple, straightforward services, you can ask bidders to provide their own proposal and quote.

But if it’s a more complex or intangible project, it’s better to create your own Request for Proposal (RFP) and ask bidders to respond to very specific questions in a consistent fashion.  A standard RFP is especially helpful when

  • The vendor is providing a comprehensive service
  • The project is intangible or has many elements, such as a website
  • You have very specific evaluation criteria and need to compare apples to apples
  • You’re evaluating a large number of bidders (more than four)

Here are some tips for issuing an RFP:

  • Ask bidders to answer specific questions – your “success criteria” – so that you have those responses in writing for easy evaluation.
  • Ask bidders to respond in your desired format. Many vendors have standard proposal templates that address typical questions, but it can be time-consuming to find the answers you need.  Do the same with your pricing sheet – you want to be able to compare prices from different bidders, so ask them to standardize the way they bid.
  • Ask for suggestions on alternative or new ways to solve your problem. If it’s wildly outside the scope of your RFP then you may have to start the process over from the beginning.  However, if the new approach can save you substantial time and money, it may be worthwhile.
  • Share as much information to potential vendors as possible during the bidding process. Let them know your timeline, budget, desired payment terms, needs in detail, your desired results, the reporting methods required, and penalties for failing to meet those results.
  • Be respectful of your bidders’ time. Yes, you’re the client, but if you’re overly demanding, confusing or scattered during the bidding process, the vendor may decide that you’re troublesome and bid a higher amount as a result.  People want to work with people they like and respect, so treat your potential vendors just as you want to be treated when you’re pursuing a new business opportunity.  Don’t waste their time if you have no intention of working together.


7.  Evaluate, negotiate & award the project.
If you’ve used an objective rating method, you should have a fairly clear ranking of your final bidders.  If a few of them are close, negotiate terms and pricing with your finalists.

As you finalize your decision, pay special attention to these issues:

  • Accessibility. How easy is it to get ahold of them?  Keep in mind, the way they interact with you before you buy is a great indicator of how it will be to work with them.
  • Credit and payment terms. Do they offer credit?  Do you find their terms acceptable and reasonable?
  • Long term value. Does this company seem concerned with establishing a long term relationship with you or are they looking for a one-time quick sale?  Especially with projects that are detail-oriented or new, you’ll want to work with someone who is supportive, knowledgeable, and truly vested in your overarching success.
  • And finally … price. Remember the adage “You get what you pay for.”  Don’t just choose the lowest bid – choose the vendor that best meets your criteria for success.

Choosing the right vendor can make or break your project, your budget, and your sanity.  Put the time in, select a partner that can support your needs throughout the process, and you’ll set your project up for success!

Want more info on this subject?  You may want to also check out these posts:

MARKETING VENDOR TEMPLATES / MARKETING PLANS / PROJECT MANAGEMENT

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