Keeping the Vultures at Bay When It’s Time for a New Tech Partner

July 17, 2019

By Shane Taylor

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For better or for worse, the marketing technology industry is always changing. One look at any martech landscape infographic from year to year will tell a story of growth, consolidation, and cannibalization. There are victors and victims, and reliable, unsung heroes that stay the course through the winds of change.

At some point, though, any company could experience a major shift. Whether it's because of an industry-altering new regulation, a failed IPO, or a threat to the business model caused by Google or Facebook introducing a new feature that puts an entire industry sector out of business — anything can happen. And when it does, whether your tech partner's company survives the blow or not, the vultures begin to circle. As a marketer, your inbox is suddenly filled with "helpful" emails featuring trial offers. Your phone will ring off the hook with calls from new friends with amazing technological advice. The ambulance chasers will be watching your every move, gunning for a way to occupy that potentially vulnerable spot in your tech stack.

At times like this, marketers need to proceed with caution. As many of us already know, choosing the right tech partner can be a stressful task, and one you certainly want to get right the first time. Even if you're moving on from your current partner, desperation and haste cannot be the drivers of your next decision. Keep a cool head and a calm demeanor, and ensure your new partner is going to deliver the business outcomes you need — and that you're not shelling out a quarter of your budget for snake oil. With that in mind, here's some advice to help guide you.

If it walks like a vulture and talks like a vulture, it's probably a vulture.

I can almost guarantee that the first vendor who calls is the last vendor you actually want to talk to. The sales rep that sees that your tech partner is in distress, then immediately calls is most likely looking out for their commission check, not the health of your company. If they're making promises that sound too good to be true, hang up and don't call back. That's a vulture.

How can you spot a vulture? There are some sure signs. The first is that negative speech will likely outweigh the positive. If they're trash-talking about your current or previous tech partner, move along. It's not just that "you don't need that kind of negativity in your life." You don't, but more importantly, you want optimism to help you grow, scale, and move nimbly as a business. You want a partner that really cares about your business and the success of your clients – not just about their own business goals.

 

Expect the Best And Then Some

Your new partners should meet every need you've shared with them, but they should also go above and beyond. When vetting new potential partners, here's a sure-fire list of priorities to consider:

  • Technology and experience are critically important, but don't underestimate the value of relationships. These are people you'll likely be working with for years, so their culture and values need to align with those of your organization.
  • Make sure you're getting the best team. Often we hear about a bait-and-switch, where a marketing team meets a seasoned, experienced partner team — and then gets a less experienced "B" team once the contracts are signed. Don't let that happen to you.
  • Prioritize nimbleness. We're in a fast-moving field, so be confident that your tech partner can keep up with you.
  • Demand great service. No matter what company you work for or what size it is, let prospective partners know upfront that you expect incredible customer service, and nothing less. Customer service is an intangible benefit — but it's so important. If you don't feel cared for, you will never feel comfortable with the choice you've made, and you may never feel secure with upgrades or add-ons, no matter how badly you need them. It's worthwhile to ask for references for any partner you consider, and to ask the tough questions about support and service from your prospective partner's current clients.
  • Make sure your partner has experience in your specific vertical. Ask for case studies to demonstrate this work and ask a lot of questions about how the initial integration went with those other clients. You need to know that this technology platform works well for businesses like yours, and that this potential tech partner is prepared to install and manage their tech for your industry.

 

Your Partner Needs to Care About the Success of Your Business

Marketers don't want to have to change their tech backbones — ever. Technology partners get pretty deeply entrenched in our business, and it's hard to move all that data to a new platform. You need to feel good about the technology choice you make. If you don't, buyer's remorse can set in — fast.

The reality of this industry is that the field is ever-evolving. At some point, every marketer is likely to lose a reliable tech partner or need to make a change. This can often leave marketers at a loss for where to turn next, but it's important to rise to this challenge. Stay strong, stay smart, and don't settle for anything less than everything you want.

Shane Taylor is VP of sales and partnerships at AUDIENCEX.

 


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.


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