Finding the right vendor can be challenging. The vendor that works for one company might not be a fit for another, and the reasons for that can vary.
We don't have to look far for some examples. Some of Influence & Co.'s own leads have given us some insights into why they're vendor shopping. Here are just a few:
Something all of these leads have in common? They're in pursuit of a great vendor-customer relationship, which is crucial.
A good vendor is akin to an incredible in-house team. You should hire your vendor the way you hire your own employees: on capabilities, values, and what it's like to work with this company in the day-to-day.
When you hit a stride with a vendor, you can execute across valuable marketing metrics while saving your own team members time that they can use to hyperfocus on your product, customers, or other initiatives. When you can trust a vendor, you know the company will come to the table with ideas that make your department and organization better.
When you really get in deep with your vendor — after years of trust and a proven record — you have a voice of reason for your business. You've got an outside perspective that is still tied to and motivated by your success but can objectively make recommendations for your strategy.
But to achieve a vendor-customer relationship of this depth, the vendor and the customer have to be a good fit.
To help you make sure your vendors are a great fit for your business, let's dive into some indications you might want to start pursuing other options.
Perhaps you started with your outsourced agency when you needed a very specific skill covered. As your strategy has expanded and matured, it's natural that your current agency might not be able to grow with you.
For example, you might have kicked off with a talented SEO firm that got your organic and paid efforts off the ground. Over time, though, perhaps your need for consistent on-site content to fulfill your keyword strategy has expanded but your SEO firm doesn't have writing capabilities in-house. Its strength might be in data but not writing for the buyer's journey.
This is just one example, but to put it simply: If your needs have evolved past what your vendor can offer, it's probably time to find a vendor that will grow with you.
The operative word here is appropriate. If you're running a paid campaign, a week or two might be a typical life cycle for an ad or paid search effort to run with some success. However, if you're bringing on an agency to do demand generation, content development, or other longer-term efforts, it'll take months (ahem, closer to a year) to establish any credible return on your investment.
If you've been cruising along with your agency and have yet to see anything of value, it's time to reconsider where your budget is going.
The client-vendor relationship is often like a romantic one — over time, things can get stale. If you're starting to feel shuffled around within the agency or you aren't getting individual attention because you've been on the client roster for a long time, it's worth considering a change. Sometimes partners get complacent. If your vendor isn't bringing new ideas to the table or isn't evolving with your market, cut it loose.
As your company has grown, your team has probably grown along with it. If your team and vendor are now duplicating efforts, it might be worth exploring other options. Lay out the roles at which your vendor excels and look at your team's own capabilities. If you see overlaps, it might be time to either scale back with your vendor or determine whether its services are still needed.
If any of the above situations sounds like your experience with a current vendor, don't worry. Plenty can meet your company's unique needs. If now is the time to look for a new vendor partnership, make sure the vendor you choose has a few key qualities:
From the outset, your vendor should focus on making expectations known, relaying important information, and fostering collaboration between your teams. As you're vetting vendors, take stock of all the materials and communications you receive. Thorough documentation, prompt responses, and thoughtful, proactive conversations are great indications that a vendor relationship might be successful. If you're unsure of what's going on with a potential vendor or don't know whom to talk to, something is off.
It will take vendors some time to understand your specific product or service — and maybe even your market, if it's quickly evolving or niche. That's normal. However, if a vendor isn't actively seeking to learn more about your company, that's a red flag. As you vet vendors, make sure the vendor you choose asks thoughtful questions that dig into your business philosophy, sales cycle, value proposition, and other applicable areas.
Look for vendors or agency partners that can give you insights into your own methods. Ask questions to determine what kinds of backgrounds or technical skill sets a vendor brings to the table. Is the vendor familiar with your tech stack? What kind of client strategies has it executed before? What verticals is it most familiar with? As you're choosing a vendor, make sure it has the necessary base knowledge and the kind of expertise your unique company needs.
A positive relationship is crucial for a successful vendor-customer partnership. If you're not seeing results from any of your vendors, you're not feeling heard, you're outgrowing your vendor's capabilities, or changes in your team have made a vendor obsolete, it might be time to reevaluate those partnerships. And when you find another company to work with, make sure it has the qualities of a great vendor partner.
I'm a VP at Influence & Co. I like my coffee black, my whiskey straight, and travel when I can afford it. I think most people just want to feel heard, and I’m happy to comply. I've also taken a sworn oath to never eat sushi.