Back in the “good ole days” I viewed my vendors as strategic partners. I relied on them to keep me abreast of marketing trends and to share lessons learned from experience across their client-base. While it may not be possible to do that anymore because of the issues identified above, it is possible to develop that kind of relationship with an anchor vendor, and I would go so far as to say this should be an imperative.
You are spending a significant amount of money with each of your anchor vendors. It is not unreasonable to expect them to provide additional value-added services without turning every conversation into a sales call. As you work on your technology strategy, you should ask your vendors to provide their insights into what other companies like yours are considering and doing with their marketing technology stacks. Chances are, they have insights that go beyond the role and direction of their own products. They’ve also got a front row seat when it comes to seeing potential integration and performance issues as new products are introduced into the stack.
As marketers, we are easily attracted to the latest marketing jargon and to promises of the latest innovation in marketing technology. Sometimes we get so enamored with the invention of a new product category and the brilliant marketing behind it that we become convinced we have to buy a new product or platform, even if we are not entirely sure why we need it or how we’ll use it. Your anchor vendors can often provide a sanity check when it comes to new technology and can help you assess where, if anywhere, it might add value in your stack.
For those shiny new things that make sense for your business, the first step in your evaluation process should be to assess what your anchor vendor has planned in that area. It may be that your needs can be satisfied by the vendors and platforms you already have in place, and the same holds true for any new functionality that you may need in your stack. By keeping track of your anchor vendors’ road maps, you may be able to save money, time, and integration headaches that come with the sourcing of new platforms.
I recommend that as part of your vendor contract negotiation process, you request that vendors share their road maps with you on a quarterly basis and assign a point of contact that you can leverage for advice and information as you evolve your stack. It is in the best interest of your anchor vendors to keep you close, to ensure that you continue to leverage more and more of their functionality and to make it increasingly unlikely that they will be displaced.
Another key advantage to staying close to your anchor vendors is that it gives you an opportunity to provide input and to influence their road-map direction. At CabinetM we love nothing more than knowing that we are developing the features that our users want.