Hello and welcome to another episode of Conversations with a Digital Strategist. Happy New Year! I know you’ve been wondering where I was. Well, I took a few weeks off to one, enjoy the holidays with my family and two, get over that pesky cold.
Hopefully, you survived the holidays and had a great new year. On this week’s blog I’m going to move off the topic of metrics just a bit. I’m going to discuss six rules for how to ensure vendors are producing the results you need. So enough with the intro, let’s get into this episode!
Cool Tool of the Week
This week’s cool tool is Worth the Read. Worth the Read is a WordPress plugin. It adds a read length progress bar to posts and pages. As well as, an optional reading time commitment label to content titles. An article published by Marketing Land back in April 2014, explained that there is a psychology behind letting people know how much time it will take to consume the content on the page. The article states:
When people see a headline that piques their interest — and know in advance that it only takes a couple of minutes to read — they’re more likely to click the link. — MarketingLand article (April, 2014)
Placing this at the top of every blog post, encourages customers to read your content. I have this on all my blog posts. Why not try it out and see if it increases the length of time on page for your blog posts. This plugin is available for free in the WordPress plugin directory. Just search for Worth the Read. And if you didn’t know, now you know.
The purpose of this episode is to in no way beat up on vendors. My objective here is to educate you on getting the most out of the relationship. As I’ve said before and educated client is the best kind of client.
A Quick Story
Let me tell you a quick story to drive this home. About four years ago I bought my first house. It’s a cute little house, perfect for me in my opinion. However, about four months after I moved in I started having problems with my plumbing. I called a company to come out and fix it. They told me a pump needed to be cleaned and that I should stop putting grease down the drain. Now, this wasn’t my first time living in a house. I knew good and well not to put grease down a drain, but I said okay and let him clean the pump. I assumed the house’s previous owner must have done the damage. That of course left me $200 lighter, but I digress.
Over the next year, I continued to have issues with this pump. Finally they told me I needed a new pump. So out of my pocket went $4,000 and in went a new pump. Well, the new pump also failed. And the plumber (a new guy from the same company) told me I needed to stop putting grease down the drain. I informed him that I didn’t do that. He cleaned the pump, while I started to fume at the assumption that I was causing the problem. I decided to do a bit of research. I changed my bathing soap, shampoo, detergents, and stopped using my dishwasher. In fact, I did everything I could think of, to fix the issue from the inside.
Needless to say, the pump failed on Thanksgiving this year, which was the final straw for me. I called the company back out and he cleaned it but to the tune of $500! He, being a new guy with the same company, told me I probably should have gotten a grinder/pump combo. I guess you can imagine how angry I was. He was telling me the pump THEY told me to get was the wrong kind of pump. How was I supposed to know that?
Morale of the Story
Long story short, a week after Thanksgiving I called a new company and they came out to install the new grinder/pump. Another $4,000. I tell you this because it stresses two things. One, if you continue having the same issue with the same company, switch companies. And two, knowledge is key. Having the information of what the pump is supposed to do and the different types of pumps, would have saved me a lot of money and heartache. I would have been able to speak to the plumber more intelligently and I would have identified his BS when I heard it.
Having a basic understanding what your vendor can and can’t do, should and shouldn’t do, will and won’t do, will save you in the long run. Below are the six rules of working with vendors.
Rule #1: Understand Expectations
The first rule is to understand expectations. This means make sure they understand the expectations you have of them. And be sure to understand the expectations they have of you. Put it all on the table. There should be no surprises. Explain to them:
- What targets you expect them to reach and by when
- How often you expect to meet with them and whether that should be in-person, via telephone or virtually
- How you expect communications to come through — can they email everything to you or should they pick up the telephone
- What decisions do you want input on — everything or just the major stuff
- How do you want to be integrated into the process
- Are there other departments or vendors who should also be included in the process
- How long do they have to respond to your inquiries — do you expect a response within 24 hours
- How often do they submit status reports
In addition to the expectations you have of them, what expectations do they have of you?
- Do they answer emails and phone calls on weekends or during holidays
- How much time do you and your team have to make decisions about creatives or campaigns
- How will payment be handled — are you charged separately for paid search and social campaigns
- Is your paid search, paid social and display accounts separate from theirs and if you split will you be able to take your account with you
Rule #2: Drive Home Your Objectives
When working with vendors, if they’re a good one, the first thing they will ask you is “what do you want?”. What are your marketing objectives? You want to run ads, post to social media, showcase content, for what reason? If you need help pulling together your objectives, I’ve got your covered. Check out my blog post Crafting Awesome Objectives. You can find a link to this post in the show notes on Level360.co/podcast/episode_17.
But, the vendor shouldn’t just know what your objectives are, they should fully understand them. A good vendor will ask additional questions to get to the root of your objectives. Give them as much information to work with as possible. Provide examples if you can. Meeting your objectives should be their sole goal. If your objective is to “increase sales of your widget product line to an average of $20k monthly by December 31, 2018”, the vendor needs to know the details. Where are current sales at? When do you normally see a lull in sales for this product line?
Rule #3: Read Your Contract
I cannot stress this rule enough. Before you do any signing on the dotted line, you must, must, must read your contract. Read the whole thing. From the roody to the toody. Leave no stone unturned. If you don’t understand the wording, ASK! Never sign something you don’t fully understand and agree with. I also strongly suggest having an attorney look at any contract you have before signing it. Sometimes the legalize is so convoluted only an attorney can understand what it means.
If there is something in the contract you don’t agree with or doesn’t sound right to you, say something. Negotiate it! The contract should be mutually beneficial, not just something that benefits the vendors interests. The contract should protect you as well.
Rule #4: Have an Exit Strategy
This needs to be in the contract. And if it isn’t don’t sign it until they put it in there. You need an exit strategy. No! You need an exit strategy that works for you. Many companies will put wording in the contract requiring the client to pay an exorbitant amount of money to get out of the contract. If you’re a smaller business, this may mean disaster for you.
The question is, what happens if we determine in 3, 5, 7 months, this relationship is not working for one or either of us? How do we part ways? The answer to this question shouldn’t be “you pay us $10,000 and we’ll go away.” Be sure you understand how to end the relationship, up front, because 6 months into the contract is too late.
Rule #5: Speak Up & Ask Questions!
This is not the time to be timid, ladies and gents. You’re running a business here and you can’t be focused on feeling embarrassed to ask questions or tell someone you don’t like or want something. You must do what’s in the best interest of your company. Remember your objectives! Always remember your objectives.
If your vendor does something or comes back with an idea or design you dislike, speak up and let them know. This is not just valuable to you by keeping you on track to meet your objectives. It’s also valuable to the vendor, because they want you to be happy with their work and refinement is part of the process. You aren’t going to like everything right off the bat and they know that. You aren’t hurting their feelings by being honest.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions either. The old adage “there’s no such thing as a dumb question” is true. If you don’t know something, the best thing to do is ask an expert. You’re paying these vendors to be your expert, so ask as many questions as you like.
Rule #6: Use Independent Measurement
This last rule is mainly for working with marketing firms. If you are working with a marketing firm be sure to use independent methods of measurement. You never want to take your marketing firm’s analytics at face value. Not saying they are known for lying, but you want to always independently verify their numbers. This may mean you run your own analytics reports or hire an outside analytics firm to send you reports. This way, the marketing firm can focus on your campaigns and your analytics firm can tell you how close you’re getting to your goal.
The overall message of this week’s episode is get rid of the fear and put the needs of your business front and center. No one is going to look out for your company like you will. There are amazing vendors out there, but they are keeping their best interest in mind, it is imperative you do the same thing. Also, communication is key in every relationship and the vendor client relationship is no different. You should select a vendor you feel comfortable with. One who will work hard to get you toward your goal and will work with you, not just for you.
Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of Conversations with a Digital Strategist. If you have questions about anything I covered, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like more information about me, visit my website at Level360.co. I’m also social, you know. Follow me on Twitter at Level_360. Or on Facebook at Facebook.com/Level360LLC. Until next time, live true, work smart, and in the words of one of the greatest strategists to ever live, think different! Bye!
Intro and outro music by: DJ Quads
DJ Quads Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/aka-dj-quads
DJ Quads YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCusFqutyfTWRqGhC8kHA5uw