5 questions to ask technology platform vendors before you buy

14 Dec 2016 | By Mathias Kruck

It’s that time of the year. You’re looking at your Q1 budget, and you need to make some decisions – fast. You know the KPIs you need to hit in 2017, but it sounds impossible to map that ROI goal to the messages you’re hearing from vendors. You need a technology platform to help you increase digital revenue and you need it now. According to Forrester, 80 percent of digital transformations will miss the mark in 2017 and only 14 percent of businesses will be satisfied with their choice in software.  Start with choosing the right technology and team for your business. 

The buzzword volume on big data management and analytics is turned all the way up. Quiet the noise and get the answers you need by asking vendors these questions:

1. Are we better off going with best-of-breed tools or a full-stack solution?

There are valid arguments on both sides of this question, and the right answer  depends on your particular needs. With a full stack, you only need to deal with one vendor, which can simplify integration, billing, support and other factors. Make the right choice, and you get a single platform that can increase your campaign performance and conversions. However, if chosen incorrectly, you could limit your functionality in the areas that matter most to your business. If you only need to address one particular use case, that might be a sign best-of-breed could be best-for-you. In that case, you will need to do a lot of integration work yourself, but could end up with a great tailor-made stack. In this case, negotiate with your vendors in advance to help you design and execute your solution. 

2. What does success look like?

When researching vendors, insist on focusing entirely on your use case and the key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll use to measure results. It can be difficult to compare vendors if the focus is on how they describe their products and services. Hone in on what their offerings will mean for your conversion or click-through rates, for example, and you’ll get closer to an apples-to-apples scenario. If you say “engagement” and all they reply is “clicks on stories,” then you know you should look again. 

3. What will we need after implementation?

Your interaction with vendors isn’t over when implementation ends. The level of support you’ll want depends on the expertise and size of your team. Ask vendors about their onboarding and services teams, and what level of support would be available to you as a customer. Determine whether you’d get a dedicated point person, and how accessible that contact would be. Good execution is key to your success. 

4. Beyond the price, what’s the overall value?

Simply looking at sticker price is a dangerous way to evaluate vendors and solutions. Ask about overall value beyond the cost. Are you going to get charged for everything that is not out of the box? What kind of support is part of the deal? Is there a variable charge on top of the monthly? On the other hand, would you be able to replace some of your existing tools and save? If you look at the totality of your vendor relationships and have a clear idea of your needs, you can create a comprehensive solution for your organization. 

5. How can I future-proof my investment? 

It’s important to look beyond today’s need - the purpose of your conversation today - and focus on  your organization’s need tomorrow, next quarter, next year and beyond. Ask your vendor where they will be tomorrow, next quarter and next year. Are they still a good fit for where you need to be? The solution they are selling is going to change over time. Will it still do what you need it to do then? In other words - will this vendor be able to change and grow with you, as your business changes and grows?