I’ve been exploring the product offerings of different marketing technology vendors this week on behalf of a client, specifically in the areas of search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) tools.
As is usually the case when I have the pleasure of speaking with marketing technology vendors, some conversations leave me with a sense that a particular vendor’s offering is definitely worth further exploration, while others leave me wondering if I’ve entered the Twilight Zone.
To be fair, it’s not always the vendor’s fault. Just as you’d approach any other endeavor, your investigation of marketing technology products, services, or platforms will be more productive when you do a little prep work before your call.
Qualify the Opportunity
Any decent marketing technology salesperson will do their best to try and qualify the opportunity as early in the conversation as posible. Sometimes that starts with the lead form, which is likely part of the landing page you’ve arrived at after a search. Or, it could be during the follow-up email or phone call. One thing’s for sure, that salesperson’s going to work hard to qualify you, your business, and the opportunity before spending too much of their time (because as Ben Franklin‘s told us, time is money).
Make it easy on yourself and the salesperson by investing some time and effort in the following three tasks.
Know the Product, Service, or Platform Landscape
No, I’m not talking about cutting the vendor’s grass. You need at least a basic understanding of the product, service, or platform landscape to have a productive conversation with a vendor. I’ve listed this first for a reason. IMHO, there’s no way you can develop a list of requirements if you’re not familiar with the product, service, or platform landscape. Otherwise, what you’ll have is a failure to communicate (apologies to Cool Hand Luke) and a less-than-productive interaction with the vendor.
It’s not necessary to have a 25-page RFP. A short bulleted list of the 3-6 items that are most important to you will suffice. And before you jump on a call for a demo, show everyone you’re a marketing technology maven by spending at least 3 minutes on the vendor’s website exploring the product, service, or platform. Just as the salesperson is qualifying you, you can qualify the marketing technology product, service, or platform after some exploration of the vendor’s website.
What if the website doesn’t have the any helpful information, you ask? I usually take that as a good indication that that product itself will be lacking, too. Then I cross that vendor off my list.
Know Your Budget
I learned a long time ago that everyone has to get paid. That applies to marketing technology vendors, too. In order for them to build a sustainable business, they will have to get paid for their marketing technology products, services, or platforms.
In many cases, pricing will not be listed on the vendor’s website. I’m not a big fan of this approach, as it tends to make me feel like they’ll be setting the price after they find out a little more about my business, clients, budget, etc. I always feel better when a vendor openly lists their pricing on their website.
Either way, your experience with the marketing technology vendor will be a lot more rewarding if you have a good idea of what you’re willing and able to spend on any given offering. If you’ve got $500/mo. available to you, make that clear up front. I promise you that doing this up front will help prevent the conversation from taking a nasty turn at some point later.
What About Your Experiences?
Have you had good (or bad) experiences when researching marketing technology products, services, or platforms? What else would you add to my list above? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.