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Denise An Instructional How To Guide to Marketing Software Vendor Selection

 

The Disciplines of Vendor Selection

Best practices in marketing software selection include several key disciplines and skills which are directly attributed to successful outcomes in prior projects. Marketing vendor selection should begin with three key fundamentals of precision, communication and management, for without these essentials, vendor selection is uncontrolled and uncertain, and the results often disappointing.

  • Precision. In product design, quality depends on a precisely specified design. The same is true when you develop your business and software requirements: use case by use case, function by function, step by step. We've taken the core principles of product design, simplified them, and applied them to our mission here.

  • Communication. Once you know what you want to accomplish, you have to precisely communicate it to your potential vendors. We've taken the basic values of the rigorous RFP—clarity, conformity and control—and made them a natural part of the marketing software selection process.

  • Management. The project management disciplines you'll impose on the implementation process need to be brought to bear during the selection process. The issues you face are the same—milestones, resources, dependencies—and the response to those issues must be as rigorous.

Let's look more closely at each of these.

Software Selection Project Precision

For the Marketing Automation vendor selection process, precision means tightly and totally defining your workflows, processes and tasks. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Draw a Picture. Bring each functional group together (all the telemarketers or all the campaign managers) and set in front of them a simple challenge: "Draw a picture of what you do." It may look something like this:

    Marketing Picture

    The boxes are the Actors: in this case the Actors are the Inside Sales Rep (A) and the Spreadsheet (B).
    The arrows are the Actions: in this case the action is a data entry function.
    Dotted Lines are the Aftereffects: the impact on downstream processes.
    Beneath the Arrows is the estimated time it takes to complete the Action.

  2. Create a Business Process Narrative. This drawing then needs to be translated into a step-by-step narrative, highlighting the Actors, Actions and Aftereffects.

  3. Inventory Technologies. Document what business software applications, desktop software programs, hardware or other productivity or automation tools are used in the process.

  4. Identify Impacts. Some actions impact other processes—direct or downstream. It's critical, for instance, to understand that an email campaign will impact a trade show presence.

  5. Define the Performance Metrics. Any software vendor selection will rest on demonstrated ROI. In order for your vendors to help you with this, you have to give them real numbers.

Project Communication

Request For Proposals (RFPs) are tortuous to respond to, and equally tortuous to create. Done well, they are also the most clearly communicated statements of specific requirements and, because of their standardization, the most efficient process for vendor selection. And they ensure that the procurement process remains objective and produces the best result. There's no reasonable way to predict exactly how you should phrase your own specific RFP questions, but making the RFP document more like a communication process and less of a check box exercise will clearly engage the vendor and produce superior results. Here's a sample structure.

  1. Did you read and do you understand the function we've described?
  2. Did you read and do you understand the specific and measurable goals we want to achieve?
  3. Can your marketing software directly and without customization achieve them?
  4. Describe the specific product functionality or modules that will achieve each of our goals.
  5. Describe the specific workflow processes by which your solution will achieve each goal.
  6. Describe, in days, the length of time to implement your proposed solution to accomplish our goals.
  7. Describe, in days, the training necessary for us to become proficient with your proposed solution.
  8. Estimate the length of time for us to reach investment break even on your proposed solution.
  9. Describe how your marketing program will interact with our legacy systems (i.e. ERP system).

Take note that while a weighted and prioritized functional requirements listing is essential to uncover those items that any particular marketing software system does not accommodate, the above questions go beyond volumes of check box requirements detail to gain a more qualitative understanding of how the marketing program achieves the company's top goals and objectives. Steering the marketing software selection project toward the top goals, and not getting totally immersed in line item functional requirements, is proven to result in a more strategic product selection that generates superior ROI.

Project Management

Preparing to select a marketing software vendor is a process that must be methodically managed to achieve predicted results. There are multiple stakeholders that must be recognized and included in the process — including the executive team, sales, customer service, product engineering, IT and others. Communication to stakeholders and potential vendors is an ongoing responsibility. Information has to be gathered, distilled, standardized and then used to fuel and support the process described here. Statistical and financial data, without which ROI is a fantasy, has to be gathered (and sometimes created). In the methodology we're presenting here, project management is key to mitigating risk and achieving forecasted results — and includes the following functions.

  • Securing executive sponsorship to promote the vision and purpose of the project, and allocate resources.
  • Assembling a software selection project team with representatives from each stakeholder group.
  • Identifying a clear project scope and success metrics, and preventing scope creep during the project.
  • Gaining consensus among the stakeholders and project team of the analytics needed to measure return, and the specific investment objectives to be reached.
  • Facilitating the group meetings from which the process diagrams emerge.
  • Reading, understanding and translating those diagrams into business process narratives.
  • Coordinating technical information related to each element of the defined solution.
  • Handling contacts with the long-list vendors.
  • Keeping project schedules (including response deadlines) managed and intact.
  • Identifying project deviations at the earliest opportunity and implementing course corrections timely.

Next - Requirements Definition >>

Best PracticesVendor SelectionRequirements DefinitionRequirements Document

 

 

 

Quote

Request For Proposals are tortuous to respond to, and equally tortuous to create. However, when done well, they are the most clearly communicated statements of measurable requirements and, because of their objectivity and standardization, the most efficient process for vendor selection.

 

 

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