Beyond the RFP: Choosing a marketing operations technology provider

MarketSphere

MarketSphere looks to bridge the gap between IT and marketing. The company provides a specialised set of skills around understanding the application of technology to all aspects of the marketing function, including team, process, technology and results-driven tasks. MarketSphere has consulted for 20 of the US’s top 80 advertisers using its Control the Chaos methodology.

When hiring new members for your marketing team, you carefully review their resumes, look at their experiences and portfolios of work and ask a myriad of questions in a series of interviews. Your goal is to ensure you find the person with the right experience and personality to add value and be a good fit within your team.

Another step in that process is to speak to references. While you know a job candidate wouldn’t use anyone as a reference who wouldn't say good things about him or her, you can at least get the chance to ask a few questions about how that person works, and get a sense of whether or not they can do what they say they can do.

The same process should be used when selecting a software provider for your Marketing Operations (MO) initiative.

Marketing Operations technology can be an expensive investment – both in terms of budget and time – so you want to make sure before you engage their services that they can do what they say they’ll do and be a good fit for your needs.

An important part of that process involves speaking to references. First off, don’t be afraid to ask for references from the technology provider. Again, you know they probably won’t have you speak with someone that wouldn't speak highly of their work, but at least you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions of someone who has been through the implementation process and beyond. Also seek recommendations from your own personal and social networks. Word of mouth can go a long way in helping you get the information you need to make an informed decision and feel comfortable with selecting a particular provider.

When you do speak with references, look for references that are similar to your organisation. Ask questions such as:

  • Are they in the same industry?
  • Do they have some of the same operational challenges?
  • How well did the MO solution they implemented ultimately fulfil their needs?
  • What kinds of challenges did they meet along the way and how well were those challenges handled?
  • What did they do to avoid challenges in the process in the first place?
  • How well does the technology fit their needs?
  • Is it updated frequently?
  • Are technical issues identified and resolved quickly?
  • How does their team like and use the solution?
  • Did they stay within their initial budget? If not, why?

Also make sure to ask about non-technical factors. After all, you’ll potentially be spending a lot of time with these folks, and you want to make sure the working relationship is solid. Ask things such as:

  • How long was the implementation?
  • Did it take longer or shorter than was predicted?
  • How much change management did they include within their processes (beyond training)?
  • How did they show that they were listening to your needs as a client?
  • Dig down into specifics to get a good handle of how the relationship worked. Find out why they were happy with the result, if they met or exceeded expectations and how.

This is your chance to make full use of a reference and get a buyer’s perspective on their experience. While that doesn’t always translate to the experience that you’ll have with the same MO software provider (nor are references the only deciding factor in your selection), it can give you a wealth of information that RFPs and sales pitches can’t.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia or take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia.

Tags: managing technology, CMO/CIO relationship. data-driven marketing

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