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Questions to ask vendors before buying a customer journey orchestration solution

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What is customer journey orchestration and how does it work?

Once you have determined that customer journey orchestration (CJO) software makes sense for your business, spend time researching individual vendors and their capabilities. Completing this research will better prepare you for when the time comes to select a specific vendor.

Researching customer journey orchestration

Here are the important steps in evaluating your company’s current CJO capabilities and conducting research on solutions.

Make a list of current capabilities. Make a list of all the CJO capabilities you currently have, those that you would like to have and those that you can’t live without. This last category is critical and will help you avoid making a costly mistake. For example, if you seek to harness the data coming from your call center, make sure to ask vendors about their capabilities in this area, and their ability to perform sentiment analysis on the conversations happening in that channel.

Take your list of capabilities and then do some research. Speak to your marketing peers at industry events to find out who is using which tool and why. Many vendors profiled in provide whitepapers and interactive tools that can help. The MarTech website is a great resource for advice and information on vendors.

Narrow your list to those vendors that meet your criteria. Submit your list of the critical capabilities you’ve identified, and set a timeframe for them to reply.

Decide whether or not you need to engage in a formal RFI/RFP process. This is an individual preference. If you run a formal process, be sure to give the same list of capabilities to each vendor to facilitate an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most effective RFPs only request relevant information and provide ample information about your brand and its needs. It should reflect high-level strategic goals and KPIs. For example, mention your company’s most important KPIs and how you will evaluate the success of your CJO efforts. Include details about timelines and the existing martech systems you have deployed.

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When written properly, an RFP will facilitate the sales process and ensure that everyone involved on both sides comes to a shared understanding of the purpose, requirements, scope and structure of the intended purchase. From the RFP responses, you should be able to narrow your list down to three or four solutions that you’ll want to demo.


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Questions to ask vendors

Set up demos with your short list of vendors within a relatively short time frame after receiving the RFP responses. Make sure that all potential internal users are on the demo call, and pay attention to the following:

  • How easy is the tool to use?
  • Does the vendor seem to understand our business and our marketing needs?
  • Are they showing us our “must-have” features?

Other questions to ask each vendor depending on the type of services they provide include:

Data gathering

  • Does the solution integrate with the systems you currently use to store customer data?
  • What type of machine learning and/or artificial intelligence does the tool use?
  • Are we able to choose different models and tune them to our own needs?
  • Can we segment and view customers by multiple criteria?
  • Can the tool identify anonymous interactions and match them to the correct profile?
  • Does the tool allow us to reconcile data from all of the channels in which we interact with
  • customers?
  • Is the solution GDPR and CCPA compliant?

Reporting

  • Does the solution provide real-time analytics?
  • What do the reports look like and how can they be customized?
  • Does the tool use artificial intelligence and machine learning? How?
  • Is sentiment analysis of relevant customer interactions available?
  • What types of insights are surfaced through analysis and what recommendations does the
  • tool make proactively?

Real-time interaction management

  • How does the tool natively orchestrate interactions or integrate with the systems we use
  • (i.e. display ad management, content management systems)?
  • How is data exchanged? Are real-time or near real-time personalized or segmented
  • campaigns feasible?

Training and customer support

  • How much training will we need to use the software, and what kind of training is available?
  • What level of customer support do you offer, and when is it available (i.e., 24/7 vs. 8/5)?
  • What is the turnaround time for support queries/tickets?
  • Do you provide professional services or support for our transition?
  • What new features are you considering?
  • What’s the long-term product roadmap and launch dates?

Download the full MarTech Intelligence ReportEnterprise Customer Journey Orchestration Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide


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About The Author

Pamela Parker is Research Director at Third Door Media’s Content Studio, where she produces MarTech Intelligence Reports and other in-depth content for digital marketers in conjunction with Search Engine Land and MarTech. Prior to taking on this role at TDM, she served as Content Manager, Senior Editor and Executive Features Editor. Parker is a well-respected authority on digital marketing, having reported and written on the subject since its beginning. She’s a former managing editor of ClickZ and has also worked on the business side helping independent publishers monetize their sites at Federated Media Publishing. Parker earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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MARKETING

6 martech contract gotchas you need to be aware of

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6 martech contract gotchas you need to be aware of

Having worked at several organizations and dealt with many more vendors, I’ve seen my share of client-vendor relationships and their associated “gotchas.” 

Contracts are complex for a reason. That’s why martech practitioners are wise to lean on lawyers and buyers during the procurement process. They typically notice terms that could undoubtedly catch business stakeholders off guard.

Remember, all relationships end. It is important to look for thorny issues that can wreak havoc on future plans.

I’ve seen and heard of my share of contract gotchas. Here are some generalizations to look out for.

1. Data

So, you have a great data vendor. You use them to buy contacts and information as well as to enrich what data you’ve already got. 

When you decide to churn from the vendor, does your contract allow you to keep and use the data you’ve pulled into your CRM or other systems after the relationship ends? 

You had better check.

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2. Funds

There are many reasons why you would want to give funds in advance to a vendor. Perhaps it pays for search ads or allows your representatives to send gifts to prospective and current customers. 

When you change vendors, will they return unused funds? That may not be a big deal for small sums of money. 

Further, while annoying, processing fees aren’t unheard of. But what happens when a lot of cash is left in the system? 

You had better make sure that you can get that back.

3. Service-level agreements (SLAs)

Your business is important, and your projects are a big deal. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get a prompt response to a question or action when something wrong happens. 

That’s where SLAs come in. 

It’s how your vendor tells you they will respond to questions and issues. A higher price point typically will get a client a better SLA that requires the vendor to respond and act more quickly — and more of the time to boot (i.e., 24/7 service vs. standard business hours). 

Make sure that an SLA meets your expectations. 

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Further, remember that most of the time, you get what you pay for. So, if you want a better SLA, you may have to pay for it.


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4. Poaching

Clients and vendors alike are always looking for quality people to employ. Sometimes they find them on the other side of the client-vendor relationship. 

Are you OK with them poaching one of your team members? 

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If not, this should be discussed and put into writing during the contract negotiation phase, a renewal, or at any time if it is that important.

 I have dealt with organizations that are against anti-poaching clauses to the point that a requirement to have one is a dealbreaker. Sometimes senior leadership or board members are adamant about an individual’s freedom to work where they please — even if one of their organization’s employees departs to work for a customer or vendor. 

5. Freebies

It is not unheard of for vendors to offer their customers freebies. Perhaps they offer a smaller line item to help justify a price increase during a renewal. 

Maybe the company is developing a new product and offers it in its nascent/immature/young stage to customers as a deal sweetener or a way to collect feedback and develop champions for it. 

Will that freemium offer carry over during the next renewal? Your account executive or customer success manager may say it will and even spell that out in an email. 

Then, time goes by. People on both sides of the relationship change or forget details. Company policies change. That said, the wording in a contract or master service agreement won’t change. 

Make sure the terms of freebies or other good deals are put into legally sound writing.

Read next: 24 questions to ask ABM vendors before signing the contract

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6. Pricing factors

There are many ways vendors can price out their offerings. For instance, a data broker could charge by the contact engaged by a customer. But what exactly does that mean? 

If a customer buys a contact’s information, that makes sense as counting as one contact. 

What happens if the customer, later on, wants to enrich that contact with updated information? Does that count as a second contact credit used? 

Reasonable minds could justify the affirmative and negative to this question. So, evaluating a pricing factor or how it is measured upfront is vital to determine if that makes sense to your organization. 

Don’t let contract gotchas catch you off-guard 

The above are just a few examples of martech contract gotchas martech practitioners encounter. There is no universal way to address them. Each organization will want to address them differently. The key is to watch for them and work with your colleagues to determine what’s best in that specific situation. Just don’t get caught off-guard.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


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About The Author

Steve Petersen is a marketing technology manager at Zuora. He spent nearly 8.5 years at Western Governors University, holding many martech related roles with the last being marketing technology manager. Prior to WGU, he worked as a strategist at the Washington, DC digital shop The Brick Factory, where he worked closely with trade associations, non-profits, major brands, and advocacy campaigns. Petersen holds a Master of Information Management from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Brigham Young University. He’s also a Certified ScrumMaster. Petersen lives in the Salt Lake City, UT area.

Petersen represents his own views, not those of his current or former employers.

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