Every organization, at some point, outsources part of their B2B sales or marketing activities. Sometimes it's just for a specific deliverable. Other times, it's for a more sustained engagement such as lead generation,web design, inbound marketing, etc. For those of us who have been there, the selection of the vendor can rest on many variables. Are they the cheapest? Are they local? Were they referred by a peer whom I trust? Do they have the skills? Do I trust them? Can I work with them?
In my experience, it's the last two questions that are the most relevant: do I trust them, and can I work with them.
Let's be honest with one another. We're always going to want, and negotiate for, the best price and the fastest delivery. Most of us don't mind paying a small premium for good service. After all, we're all business people and we understand nothing is free. The best phrase a vendor ever shared with me was " Your options are you can have it good, fast, or cheap. Pick two!" I think that sums up nicely the tradeoffs that always come with working with vendors. That being said, most marketers are constantly having their budget, and their effectiveness, scrutinized. As a result, you want to make the right vendor selection.
With that said, let's assume you'll negotiate for a reasonable price with a reasonable delivery. If the vendor can't do that then they clearly don't want your business.
So what does that leave to influence your vendor selection? Ah yes - the peer referral or the vendor location. Let's start with peer referrals. I love referrals. Most of my friends, professional and personal, understand my idiosyncracies. They appreciate that I have high expectations and that I don't always have patience. They value my single-minded focus on lead generation and measurable results. As such, when they refer me to someone, I can usually assume they believe the vendor's approach and personality will match my own. In turn, I can assume they've done work together and my peer truly has experienced great things from this vendor. My peer's very integrity rests on the results this vendor will deliver to me. I may be somewhat overstating it, but not by much. This is why word-of-mouth remains the most powerful lead generation tactic today; because we trust our peers.
But should a referral be your number one influencer in your decision making process?
Finally, the last thing to consider is location. Is the vendor local? Are they on the same time zone? Do they speak the same language? In the age we live in, telecommuting is the norm and long-distance project teams are typical. With that said, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting between client and vendor. It's one thing for me to say something to my vendor, but it's another thing for them to see my body language. It takes the relationship to the next level. It creates alignment.
So is location a prominent influencer on your vendor selection?
Alright - let me cut to the chase. I'll tell you what I've learned to be true. I've learned price is critical. I've learned integrity is paramount. I've learned referrals are a good way to short-list vendors. And I've learned to never sacrifice success to save a few bucks on my vendor.
But most of all, I've learned that my vendor selection comes down to trust and relationships. Do I trust this vendor? Can I work with this vendor? Does my gut tell me that I'll be successful with this vendor? Do I believe this vendor is earnest and engaged? Do they understand me and my requirements? Can I be brutally honest with them? And will I be okay if they are brutally honest with me?
The truth is that every sale starts and ends with trust and relationship. Look at your own sales cycles and you'll see these issues often play the largest role in why your customers choose you or your products or services. Everything else is important, but secondary.
So. Do you agree? Go ahead. Be brutally honest with me.
There comes a time in many business’ life where they will need to hire outside service providers. Whether it be computer programming, or designing a new website, business consulting, logo designs or even legal, sometimes you just need an affordable resource for your business development requirements. It can be quite difficult for new entrepreneurs to accomplish these tasks with so many expenses and when funds are tight. Not only can some service providers charge very high prices, but also equally challenging can be finding good quality people to do the job. At My Lead Agency, we put an extra emphasis on affordability for that very reason. However, sometimes you can’t even afford a nimble agency like our own.
When a customer came to us recently with a modest budget and seeking our services, our creativity was called upon. In a nutshell, their budget was too modest, if you know what I mean. We decided to work with them, free of charge, to see if we could help them achieve their goals within their constraints. That's just how we roll.
Initially, they had tried placing an ad on a few local classified websites, to merely receive horrible results. The skill level that was needed was just not there. So it came as a shining beacon of light to them when we recommended expanding the search beyond the local realm. We suggested a few different freelance websites. We started to look into them, each having their own unique ways of functioning, all with their own advantages and disadvantages.
There seemed to be two distinct types of freelance websites. The first type, like crowdspring.com or designcontest.com, let’s you list your project details and how much you are willing to pay for the work. You then send this money to the website who holds on to it. The artists will then submit their work to you. The vendors advise that you should expect to get 30 or more submissions. Obviously the more you pay, the more likely people will want to work on it. You then pick the design you like, and only then does the winning artist get paid. If it so happens that none of the work is what you want, there is no cost to you. You get all your money back.
The second type of freelance website, such as guru.com, allows you to list your project just like the others sites; however you do not put a set price, although you may give a price range you are willing to pay. You then wait for artists to respond to your project with their price tag. It is up to you to then choose which artist you would like to do your project, and only then do they start working on the project.
Based on our customer’s requirements, the guru.com website seemed more fitting. Within the first day of posting the project they received about five responses. The next day it was up to about ten responses. Not only were prices very affordable, but also our customer was also able to view many different portfolios and personal websites. The quality of these artists was outstanding; some of them even worked for major corporations like Disney, or ran their own studios. The hardest part for our customer was choosing which artist they actually liked best. When they finally decided upon one, we helped them write up a project agreement for five different pieces (including some revisions) and they started to work.
The quality was great but the process was not without issues. Minor conflict arose when things needed to be changed and the artist liked them the way they were. All of this may have been avoided if our customer and the artist had been able to talk face-to-face and get these details figured out. Eventually, our client determined the artist had become too difficult to deal with them, so the project was cut short. It was a little bit frustrating for our customer as they felt like they were back to square one again. However, all was not lost, as they were able to go back to one of the artists they had debated using, and successfully finished the project with them.
Freelance websites are excellent tools for the budget conscious person; you can easily use them for small, one-off projects. Nevertheless there are strings attached. The lack of direct communication can be a unique strain to getting a simple project accomplished. These service providers can work for simple tasks but they lack the abilities to coordinate an integrated guerrilla marketing campaign. Said another way, I wouldn’t advise using them to augment your demand generation strategies, or any inbound marketing or marketing automation projects, but I would suggest they could be an effective resource for small, budget-friendly engagements.