How to Evaluate Potential Marketing Technology Vendors

  • Tips to evaluate marketing technology vendors and content marketing platforms.

When considering a content marketing platform, or any marketing technology for that matter, there are several key questions to ask prospective vendors. Here is a simple checklist to help you through the process.

Vendor Evaluation Checklist

  • History. How long has this business (product) been in the market? The martech space is nearly doubling every year, which means many new tools have flooded the market. Many tools are new to the space with a very short history in the market. Be sure to ask about their experience with {enterprise, mid-market, or small} companies. It’s important to determine fit and experience levels with businesses of similar size and processes to your organization.
  • Support and service. Gain an understanding of the support and other services provided by the vendor. Is support free or is there a fee? What levels of support are included with the contract versus having to purchase a higher level of support? What additional services are free and which ones require a fee? How much assistance will your team get from the services team? What is the basic level of service afforded to all customers versus an extra service package? Give examples of your specific use cases and ask for recommendations from the vendor.
  • Checklist to help evaluate marketing technology vendors.Consistency. Is there a transition from sales to post-sale? Dive into the experience level of resources who will be assigned to your account. Beware of companies who bring the A team for the sales process, then pass you off to inexperienced resources for implementation. If consistency is important to you, ask point blank, “Will I work with the same team throughout the buying and post-sale process?”
  • Customers. How many customers does the vendor have? What is their retention rate? What percent of their customers stay with them every year? This is the holy grail for SaaS companies. If a company does not have strong customer retention, it’s very likely their product will not be around in future years.
  • Feedback and feature requests. How does the vendor handle feature requests and customer feedback? Do they have an active community, a user summit or other ways users can share ideas?
  • Analytics and reporting. Which reports are out of the box versus custom? Are the reports self-serve or do they require an administrator to create them? Find out if there are options to easily and regularly output key metric reports to executives and key stakeholders, especially those who may never use the system. Does the system provide monthly snapshots and comparison reports? Will you have the ability to (easily) customize reports and tailor them to your company’s needs?
  • Resources. Will the tool require a central administrator? Can your team use the tool on their own? A bigger question to ask yourself: Will your team use it? How will the tool help your team be better at their job? Will you need further technical resources and/or more human resources?

Remember Qualitative Factors

  • Qualitative factors. How and why do they win deals? How long does it take customers to go through the onboarding process? Ask vendors to describe a typical installation process and timeline. What sets them apart from other vendors in the space?
  • References. Ask to speak with other customers. Get three references in your industry or similar business size. In addition to references — which any legitimate technology vendor should have no problem providing — you can also develop your own questions with the vendor and within your industry community to find out more. Some ideas:
    • Post questions in relevant LinkedIn groups, asking your peers to provide feedback on experiences and recommendations.
    • Ask precise questions about roadmaps and integrations, especially when the vendor’s immediate answer is, “Yes, we can do that.” You’ll want to clearly understand if they can do what you’re asking today or if it’s on their product roadmap. For many platforms, “on the roadmap” can mean a perpetual “six months from now.” With integrations, it’s important to understand if this technology replaces or works with other technologies in your marketing technology stack. Your IT department can help vet this with any prospective vendors.

Evaluating a marketing technology platform is an easier and more successful process if you use this checklist to evaluate prospective vendors against consistent criteria. Some vendors may try to derail your RFP (request for proposal) process by trying to bend it to the terms where they win. Stand your ground and make sure your potential vendors adhere to your evaluation criteria. After all, you are the customer, and how they behave during the RFP process will give you clues to the treatment you’ll get if you choose to become their customer.

 

About

Peg Miller is Co-Founder of the B2B Marketing Academy, and consults with high growth companies on their marketing, content and product strategies to achieve revenue results.