As marketers we have a tremendous amount of experience working with a variety of vendors such as designers, website development firms and search engine optimization companies, to name a few. When you have experience working with vendors you know which questions to ask, you know how to push for them to deliver and you likely have systems and processes for managing these vendors. As someone who started their career in production, I have worked with a number of vendors over the years. Most of them have been fabulous, but there are some vendors out there that could be doing a better job – especially when they are dealing directly with the end-user (CEO, GM, etc.) and with an end-user (will refer to them now on as ‘client’) that may be new to marketing and to working with marketing vendors.
We recently began working with a client who developed their website relatively recently. For this client, the website was a significant investment and represented a big leap as they began to undertake some marketing activities. When we met with them they were quite disappointed in their website and in their vendor. And I can’t blame them, it wasn’t a great experience and there are repercussions that we are now helping them to solve. I won’t elaborate on the specifics but it got me thinking about marketing vendors and the role they need to play especially when working with clients who are non-marketers.
- Read your client – Any experienced vendor can assess their client to understand their level of knowledge. Simply asking a few questions can help you understand if this client has ever done say a brand re-design or website development project before.
- Speak their language – While we all have ‘lingo’, it’s really important to speak in clients’ terms. It helps to ensure everyone is on the same page and shows that you can listen and adapt your approach accordingly.
- Set expectations – Be clear on what it is that you are going to deliver, what that enables (or does not enable) the client to do, and review with them to ensure it meets their expectations. This is where speaking their language comes in. For example, if you are a website firm and are not providing a CMS, you will want to take the approach of explaining what a CMS is and then confirming whether or not it is a need. Taking an extra day or two at the outset to review deliverables and confirm expectations can go a long way to foster a positive and successful working relationship.
- Regularly communicate – Keeping your client informed on your progress is essential and one that is simply good business practice. Send a regular update or determine during the expectations stage when you will communicate, who will be the point person and what are the key phases of work so the clients always knows where things are relative to the project plan.
While they are likely many other things vendors can do, these are the basics and ones that every vendor should actively practice with their clients.
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