Vetting Third-Party Vendors

5 Things to know when you’re trying to find the perfect business relationship.

In the era of digital marketing, it’s nearly impossible for any small or mid-sized business to manage all the moving pieces without the assistance of an outside vendor. But with all of the different facets and avenues to success, it’s hard to know that you are bringing on the right team. To help make sure you get it right, here are five things to do when you’re thinking about working with a third-party vendor:

1. Ask the Right Question

Like a great dinner partner, it is good practice to ask questions. This applies to when you’re vetting a vendor. Take the time to ask the questions that you need to ensure this is the right fit for achieving your business goals. Ask about average timelines, availability, what happens if there is a last minute issue. Look at their portfolio and ask about current and past clients. Also, find out about payment processes and schedules (how is the billing handled, do you get a discount for upfront payments, etc.).

2. Watch Out for a Sales Pitch

Don’t get steamrolled with a sales pitch. Make sure the vendor can give you clear information and answers to your questions. If you find that they’re skirting around an issue—that is a red flag to be on the lookout for in the future. If you’re getting overwhelmed with unnecessary information or you feel like you’re being steamrolled, it is more than acceptable to redirect the conversation to the priorities that matter most to you. Let’s face it, oftentimes this can be a distraction technique. And no one has time for that.

3. Figure Out Their Communication Style

Like all successful relationships, communication is key. Once you’ve established that a vendor can provide you with the services you need, you should find out how their workstyle will impact you and your team. This is where you should find how available they are for check-ins. Will weekly check-ins align with your schedules? If not, find out daily, weekly or as-needed is a better style for you, the vendor and the client.

Also, pay attention to the vendor’s email habits and response time. Do they get back to you in a timely and professional fashion, or do you feel like you’re sending emails into an abyss? With partnerships, you want to make sure your needs and questions are being met with the attention and timeliness they deserve. And, in an emergency, you want to make sure they’re there with you to fight any fires (literal or not) that may occur.

4. Don’t Get Distracted by Smoke and Mirrors

We can all be impressed by a flashy website or great social media profile. However, we can’t let flash take away from substance. Do your research, talk to people and see if what they’re saying online is matching up with the work and results you’re hoping for with your project and partnership. Nothing should ever feel “over your head.” A true subject matter expert will be able to explain the services in terms you can understand. And don’t forget to ask about performance. If a company can’t show their results, that speaks volumes about the type of work they may produce for you.

5. Hold Out for a Great Fit

The right vendor is out there—trust us. Don’t feel like you and your team need to compromise or feel uncomfortable with any outside vendor when your business is on the line. See if they check all (or the majority) of your boxes.

Remember, If something doesn’t feel right walk away.

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