Working in a multi-channel marketing environment means having to deal with a variety of vendors. So how can everyone involved be kept happy? We asked Jim Wheaton, co-founder and principal at Chicago-based strategic CRM firm Wheaton Group, for his thoughts.
DIRECT: What are the challenges for marketers working with multiple vendors?
WHEATON: Typically, this is not a problem when specialty vendors have been brought together by a client looking for a "best of breed" solution. This is because the specialty vendors have neither the desire nor the capability to expand their share of the account pie at the expense of the other service firms.
DIRECT: But if a vendor wants more pie?
WHEATON: This is common when one or more of the vendors offers turnkey services. A common tactic is for a turnkey vendor to claim that the multiple media and platforms are increasing turnaround time and costs, thus making it difficult to affordably meet deadlines. Another tactic is to subsidize one or more of the functions that compose the overall solution, in order to remove the other service companies from the equation. For example, vendors that offer high-ticket services such as printing, lettershop and logistics have been known to throw in below-cost marketing databases. Likewise, firms that are managing a large database might offer data mining and consulting at a bargain price. But let the buyer beware: All too often, clients end up getting exactly what they're paying for.
DIRECT: Any examples?
WHEATON: A service company quoted a marketing database at well below cost and was awarded the work. However, the database included no promotion history. Therefore, it wasn't able to support any meaningful data mining on its own.
DIRECT: So what should clients do?
WHEATON: Clients have to make it clear that they won't tolerate infighting, and will severely penalize any uncooperative behavior, including termination of the contract if necessary. Under such direction, it's remarkable how accommodating the vendors become, and how quickly any technical hurdles are overcome!