When the time* comes to purchase a MarTech software solution, the considerations are vast and varied. Ensuring you end up with the optimal solution and the necessary level of ongoing support is highly dependent on an organization’s approach to vendor selection.
There’s no question that the MarTech industry is jam-packed with vendors, and they’re not all created equally. Choosing the right marketing software vendor, whether it’s for an off-the-shelf solution or a custom build, requires careful, comprehensive investigation before you even reach the request for proposal (RFP) stage. Internal assessments, information on how the solution will integrate with various business units and systems already in place, and goals for what the software must accomplish are needed to set the stage.
Criteria to Include in Your MarTech Provider RFP
Creating an RFP for SaaS or PaaS platforms is a project in and of itself that requires multidisciplinary input and careful thought. If you’re new to this function, we encourage you to explore a diverse set of resources for guidance.
The questions below are not representative of every factor for every company. Also, marketing software RFPs, of course, must include a range of information not specified here, such as background information on the organization, goals or problems the MarTech solution needs to address, and deliverables. This article is intended to provide inside knowledge from Strata’s unique viewpoint on pivotal items that can greatly impact the vendor selection decision and final cost. You may wish to organize items differently or rename headings to suit the nature of your specific RFP.
Data retention and security
- Do you manage your own data center, or is it co-located with a third party?
- Do you use encryption to protect personal information?
- Is data protection performed in the United States, or outsourced overseas?
- How often is data backed up?
- Do you have server redundancy (i.e., backup servers in case one fails)?
- Have your security practices been certified by a third-party assessment service (e.g., OPSWAT certification)?
- Is web traffic from browsers to servers conducted with SSL protocol to allow secure transmission of private data, such as credit card numbers and social security numbers?
- Do you provide single sign-on (SSO) so that users can securely access multiple applications with one username/password? (For example, in the case of former employees, SSO allows companies to more easily cease access across all applications by removing one ID from the main system rather than disabling several different sets of usernames/passwords.)
Data security is paramount. Whether you’re in the healthcare industry and bound to HIPAA regulations, or you’re a retailer with proprietary customer information to guard, it’s essential to take an in-depth look at a vendor’s data security practices.
- Is the application cloud-based, or an in-house application that would run on internal systems?
- Is all development performed in-house or outsourced? (The benefit of in-house development: any systems issues that arise can be addressed more easily.)
- Can reporting be automated?
- Can reports be customized?
- Can some reports be globally shared, while others are managed privately?
- Are there reporting dashboards?
- Which data points can be captured?
- Will you build on to the solution to accommodate new users, capabilities, features?
- Can the solution be built to adapt to growing needs?
- What date are you available to begin this project?
- Approximately how long will implementation take? (Keep in mind that this depends on the complexity of requirements.)
- What is your software development procedure/lifecycle?
- Do you practice iterative software development or a more traditional waterfall approach?
- What is the testing process?
Approaches to product development vary widely among individual vendors. For example, both the iterative model and waterfall approach offer advantages and disadvantages. The iterative model allows greater flexibility and adaptability but is more vulnerable to the risk of unforeseen late-stage issues.
How you gauge the responses in this section will depend heavily on the scope and nature of the solution your organization needs.
Account Management/Ongoing Support
- Describe the account management structure – will we have a dedicated account manager?
- How are your service agreements structured in terms of availability and levels of support?
- How many clients and users do you currently support?
- How comprehensive is customer service access? (E.g., do you offer chat sessions, live training?)
- Do you provide a user guide and other support materials?
- Do you provide a knowledge base with educational resources such as Q & A, recorded videos, live webinars, or best practice recommendations?
Consider how important personalized service and one-on-one attention will be to launching the new software platform, and vendor characteristics that may affect this. For example, some may view a large customer base as a positive indicator of the vendor’s quality and reputation. However, smaller vendors with fewer clients may have more accessible customer service and a higher level of personalized support.
- Is there a per-seat cost, or a fee per block of users (e.g., a set charge for 1,000 users)?
- Is there a separate set-up or implementation fee?
- Is there a monthly hosting/service fee?
- Are monthly software updates built into the cost of service?
- Do you offer a premium level of support for a higher cost?
Make sure you thoroughly investigate the vendor’s pricing structure so that you aren’t hit with any unanticipated costs.
*(This article was first published on Jun 1, 2017. We republished it to celebrate the 3rd Anniversary of this wonderful post.)