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The Marketing Technology RFP and Vendor Selection Process

Implementing new marketing software will impact your organization. A well-planned marketing vendor selection process can prevent issues down the line.

Implementing new marketing software can be a high-impact change to an organization of any size. This is especially true for organizations that have spent years with their current system and don’t necessarily see the need for change, or those who are looking to completely overhaul their marketing technology stack.

It’s important to keep in mind that implementing new marketing software will disrupt your organization in one way or another. While this disruption is unavoidable, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. It could be an opportunity for your team members to gain increased productivity through better tools. At the same time, it’s crucial that you’re aware of how implementing these changes might impact customers—and customer journeys—as well as key internal stakeholders like Marketing, Sales and Operations who rely on accurate data coming from marketing software daily in order to serve the customer successfully.

This guide provides details on all of the steps involved in selecting new marketing software. Our approach consists of 10 steps to take your organization all the way from strategy and vision to vendor selection and implementation:

  1. Strategy & vision
  2. Organizational alignment
  3. Mapping Marketing Technology Capabilities
  4. Business requirements
  5. Request for Proposal (RFP)
  6. Organizational alignment
  7. Negotiations
  8. Proof of Concept
  9. Contracting
  10. Prepare for implementation
The Marketing Technology RFP and Vendor Selection Process
The INFERENS Marketing Technology RFP and Vendor Selection Process

Step 1. Strategy & vision

The first step in developing a marketing software selection process is defining the problem. The goal of this step is to determine what customer experience you want to create, and how that experience can be improved with new technology.

  • What are your goals? You should have specific goals in mind before starting the project. Often, these are related to revenue growth, but they don’t necessarily have to be related directly back to revenue generation—they could also be related back to brand awareness, customer experience, customer loyalty programs or simply decreasing total cost of ownership of current marketing platforms.
  • How will you measure success? It’s important not only for you and your team to know what success looks like, but also for all stakeholders involved so that there’s clarity on whether or not the project is successful overall.

After this first step you should have a clear understanding of what the main goals are and how a new marketing platform enables reaching those goals.

Step 2. Organizational alignment

This step is critical to the success of your program. You need to align all stakeholders and teams around the initiative. The first thing you should do is get input from the business teams (Marketing, Sales, Customer Support, Operations), IT, Finance & Control and Procurement as they are key stakeholders in this process. Based on this input you should be able to draft a first high level business case.

Ensure strategy, goals and business case are clear to all stakeholders and that resources from teams can be allocated to the project. Keep in mind to also prepare stakeholders for the implementation and adoption phase.

Step 3. Mapping MarTech Capabilities

Your third step is to outline the current state of your organization and technological landscape. This includes a description of the current state and future state for marketing technology tools, as well as data integrations.

Ideally IT architects can provide the project team with a target architecture that already outlines the required capabilities and how it integrates with existing components. The capability mapping will provide input for the business requirements.

Step 4. Business requirements

Business requirements are a detailed breakdown of the technological capabilities the new marketing platform needs to offer. Creating and categorizing business requirements is an important step in the project as the requirements for a large part determine which marketing software vendor will be chosen.

It is important to not only include technical or functional requirements but also company standards concerning security, privacy and system administration capabilities.

(Note: It is recommended to start early listing business requirements as it is not uncommon for enterprise marketing vendor selection projects to include hundreds of requirements).

Step 5. Request for Proposal (RfP)

The Request for Proposal (RFP) is an important step in the marketing software selection process. An RFP is a formal document that describes your company’s needs, requirements, and expectations; it contains all the information you need to evaluate vendors and select a partner.

An effective RFP should include:

  • The objectives of the project; why is this initiative being undertaken? What are you trying to achieve?
  • An overview of where you’re currently at in terms of marketing technology —what systems do you have already in place, which use cases or most important, etc?
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs)—what will success look like? How will success be measured and reported on over time?
  • Clear overview of the most important capabilities and use cases that are enabled by using the new technology

Before sending out the RFP document, the requirements scoring model and the vendor long list and short list must be created.

MarTech vendors on the short list can be invited to take part in the selection process. The responses of all vendors on the short list should be evaluated by the tender team.

A small selection of vendors that appear to be a good fit can be invited for demo sessions and technical deep dives.

Step 6. Organizational Alignment

Before making a final decision, the RFP outcomes and all findings should be shared with relevant stakeholders and teams. In this phase, you will also update your business case with the commercial offering from vendors. The tender team typically recommends one or two vendors and aligns with IT, Procurement and Business Owners to make a final decision.

You should also update your teams and stakeholders on outcomes and prepare for attention points during implementation.

Step 7. Negotiations

In this step, you’re going to negotiate with the vendor. Before starting negotiations a negotiation plan should already be in place. This plan should state your position, what you want and what you’ll accept in order to realize the business case.

Part of the negotiations can be to request a proof of concept to ensure critical functionalities work as expected and as stated in the RFP and demo, before committing to a longer-term contract.

Step 8. Proof of Concept (PoC)

The proof of concept is not always required but often recommended with larger implementations. The key here is to ensure critical functionalities and integrations work as expected and as outlined in the RFP.

During the PoC integrations are setup with a testing (‘sandbox’) environment. This way teams can explore functionalities and see if there are any major roadblocks for implementation. During this phase, it’s best practice that you work with an implementation partner or vendor who has experience working with other businesses similar in size and complexity to yours.

Step 9. Contracting

Contracting is the last step in the process of selecting a marketing technology solution. At this point all information should be available and negotiations are completed. Hence, contracting is often a formality ensuring all legal documents, statements and service agreements are signed by all parties involved.

Step 10. Prepare for Implementation

After you’ve selected and contracted a new vendor, it’s time to get ready for implementation. This is where your vendor and implementation partners will start working together with your in-house teams to ensure that they are prepared and ready for implementation and adoption.

The first steps usually are::

  • Aligning business teams with IT so that they’re aware of what’s being done, why it needs to happen, and when it will occur.
  • Ensuring there is a smooth collaboration between in-house teams, integration partners and marketing software vendor teams.

Conclusion

The marketing software selection process often is a challenging project. However, when done well the selection process can prevent issues during implementation and adoption by the organization.

Critical to success is to involve all stakeholders and teams early and often. Without ongoing support from the organization, the project may get stuck and stakeholders may decide to pull back.

If you need help with this process, contact us and let’s discuss how we can help your organization select and implement the right marketing technology.

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