What questions should I ask before choosing a marketing services provider?

Sal Pecoraro
VP, Marketing Technology and Support

Selecting the right database vendor is not just about technology. It is about how they service and manage your assets in a way that drives results for your marketing organization.

#1.

How long have you been building and hosting databases?

This is a key question that is often overlooked in a lot of RFPs I review. Implementing a marketing database is a big undertaking, and making sure you have a provider that has experience building and implementing projects on time is key to success. There are two main components within this question that need to be addressed:

Hosting: An important first step is to decide if you want to take on the work of deploying and supporting a software-based solution on premise or if you’d prefer engaging a hosting partner who will use their expertise to build, deploy, and support your marketing solution. Often, the hosting partners have relationships with a variety of multichannel campaign management vendors and offer a choice of platforms to fit your existing and future needs. If you are entering a full-service agreement, it is paramount that the vendor you select has the appropriate means to properly service your account. 

Building: Once you have decided on software versus hosting you will need to start a scoping and requirements gathering process for building the solution. Depending on the scope of the project and complexity of the infrastructure, building a marketing database - from initial scoping to final deployment - can take 6-9 months with a hosting vendor and 12-18 months if you are deploying your own software. Timing is everything – and there are many things to consider. Are you staffed to support this process (especially if you are deploying on premise)? If you are changing vendors, how will your business run during this process? You’ll want to disengage the incumbent (who more than likely is not attentive to your needs while you are building a new solution with a different vendor) as quickly as possible.

#2.

What is your ability to scale as the needs of our brand change?

Databases are sizeable investments that take time to build, Chances are that while a database is being built, the world of marketing has evolved and so have consumer expectations. As you make these critical investments into your marketing infrastructure, you must take into account what your future needs may be, and address those on the scoping documents before beginning the process of building your infrastructure.

Framework: the marketing platform you select needs to have the flexibility and scalability of a truly customized solution. A scalable model helps you make better investments based on your current marketing state, while laying a foundation of where you will be headed in the future. 

Partnerships: take a look at the marketing technology landscape and you’ll be overwhelmed; the options seem endless. Having a vendor who has the right relationships and integration capabilities to create an integrated “best-of-breed” solution will help you scale and evolve as a marketer.

#3.

What security procedures do you have in place?

It is important that the database provider you select has the right security measures to mitigate your exposure to data hacking. Your provider should be able to outline their security capabilities relating to data, physical security, firewall protection, and data storage procedures. Don’t be afraid to ask for details surrounding their backup and disaster recovery plans to get an understanding of how they address security.

#4.

What analytic capabilities does your CRM platform offer?

As a marketer, you need to have a deep understanding of the reports and models that a database can produce, develop, and support. Models can change on a monthly basis, so having a CRM structure that can support the updated process is imperative. Reporting is critical to your overall marketing program, and you need to have access to the information that will be most useful as you define and refine your programs. Beyond that, your service provider should outline its strategies for data overlays and the analysis of individual data sources and contributions. They should also be able to describe how they will assist you in the collection, analysis, and use of information for acquisition and retention campaigns. 

#5.

What is your account management and support structure?

Databases tend to be tailored to a client’s current and future needs. Being able to define what your supporting structure will be upfront ensures the success of your programs as you reach new levels of marketing sophistication. In your current state, you may need a full-service account team that will augment your marketing department and manage your campaigns for you, but in the future, you may want more of a self-service model as you scale your marketing department. 

#6.

What are your core data and data management capabilities?

A database without clean and relevant data is a non-starter. Your service provider should be able to outline and execute a master data management strategy that integrates all of your data into one master file. This single viewpoint allows you to have a stronger understanding of what is going on in your organization. Additionally, your vendor should have the ability to cleanse, enhance, and integrate your data in a manner that works best for you, while keeping it current and, most importantly, usable.

Author Bio

Sal Pecoraro

In his role as Vice President of Marketing Technology & Support, Sal is engaged in managing a corporate-wide product vision and strategy to create and maintain leading-edge marketing products and services that are consistent across all divisions. He is known throughout the industry for his consultative approach to identifying solutions for clients’ database marketing and data processing needs. He expertise includes: -Support to qualify opportunities -Consultative strategic recommendations on technology, data content and data processing -Product presentations and demos in person at client meetings or via Webex web conferencing -Solution design -Product marketing, product collateral and trade shows -Strategic advantage intelligence over competitive products -Support for questions and written RFP responses -Sales team product and industry training sessions Sal has been with Yes Lifecycle Marketing for over 14 years and has over 28 years experience in the database marketing and data processing industry, including marketing database applications, NCOA and data hygiene processing, list processing, creative/print production, and consultative services. In addition, he is a member of the Direct Marketing Association, the Forrester Technology Marketing Council Leadership Board, and The Data Warehousing Institute.

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