Choosing the Right MarTech Vendor: The Strategic RFP Approach You Might Be Missing

July 8, 2024
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Whether you’re at the beginning or end of your marketing technology (MarTech) vendor selection, creating a Request for Proposal (RFP) will put you in the best position to choose the right vendor for your business.  

Let’s be clear about what goes wrong when an RFP is not strategic in its approach from the beginning:

We see this time and time again with brands. Yet these challenges are not easy to overcome. In today’s digital landscape, with over 10,000 marketing technology vendors available, finding the right fit for your business can be overwhelming. Without the right approach, we often see that the tool that gets selected is the one where the sales team has the most tentacles in your c-suite.  

Navigating the realm of MarTech vendor selection demands more than just a checklist, it calls for a strategic approach that aligns with your unique business goals and approach. But given most companies aren’t going to market for MarTech very often, expert advice can be hard to find. Often, it’s found externally through partners (like us!) at The Lumery, part of Accenture Song. What sets apart a conventional RFP from a game-changing one? We do things a little differently here...

We’re vendor neutral – always.

There is no financial incentive for us to push one vendor over another. We’re vendor neutral, which means we will tell it to you straight and always give advice that is in the best interest of our client.  

We know the space.

We deeply understand the MarTech industry. It’s what we do, day in, day out. We’ve implemented numerous platforms in market and our teams know the “gotchas”.  A recent example is our work with Sportsbet. They launched an RFI/RFP process not just to find a technological solution, but a strategic partner to help them evolve their customer engagement capabilities. The results? A seamless transition from an incumbent legacy tech stack to an implementation of Braze.

"Some of the best elements of our relationship with The Lumery emerged early on, during the tender phase. Their strategic guidance helped us make foundational decisions that have since yielded significant results. At the time, we didn’t fully recognise the importance of those early choices" - Nick Laidler, Head of MarTech at Sportsbet.

We understand people and process.

It’s important for us to understand the people and process implications for technology decisions, ensuring everything is taken into consideration. Platforms will demand more of your internal time than others to run. Some will require completely new skillsets that you don't currently have. Ultimately leaving your new ‘Ferrari sitting in the garage’. Going into these decisions with eyes wide open is crucial to understand the true total cost of ownership, and overall fit for the business.

The RFP Process

The Lumery are here to help streamline the RFP process, but it’s important for you and your team to gain an understanding of what’s involved at each stage of an RFP before looking at the options out there: Plan, Build, Issue, and Select.

Plan: Define your needs

In the Plan phase, often, you’re running an information-gathering exercise. You might think that you need – for example, a Customer Data Platform – but that’s starting at the solution, not the core problem. Perhaps your problem is spending hours each week exporting audience lists from your marketing automation platform and uploading them into ad networks like Meta and Google. The solution to that might be a Customer Data Platform, but perhaps there is a simpler, and cheaper, solution.

At the core of the RFP process, is understanding your key business requirements. Instead of fixating on solutions, focus on the problems you’re aiming to solve. This involves defining requirements: for example, customer response times or maintaining brand consistency - which lays the foundation for a tailored solution.

Once you have a list of business requirements, you can start to engage informally with vendors to understand what category of tools can solve those requirements. From there you’ll gain an understanding of what the market looks like, and what looks like a worthwhile investment.  

Build: Construct your RFP

Crafting a great RFP isn’t just about ticking boxes; it’s about setting the stage for the perfect match. In the world of MarTech, there are a few key items we include to ensure that every vendor response aligns with your business needs and helps you evaluate their offering on a level playing field.

  • Functional requirements. A functional requirement will get into the details of how a system will fulfil that need. For example, with your initial research, you may have decided that it’s important that any tool you select can send app push notifications. This should be included in your functional requirements so vendors can respond with how they meet that requirement or have a suitable workaround. Typically, a business analyst (BA) will write these.
  • Non-functional requirements. These place constraints on how the system fulfils the functional requirements. Is it critical that the tool you select can host your data in a particular country? If so, you’ll want to include that requirement. Often, these come from your IT team – so make sure you engage with a representative throughout to avoid any surprises further down the line.
  • Conceptual architecture. If the platform needs to integrate with other tools in your MarTech stack, then it will help vendors if they can understand how their solution may fit into your wider architecture. This doesn’t have to be set in stone: in fact, it’s great when this is challenged. But having a position for potential vendors to analyse will only help their understanding of your ecosystem and will allow them to make an informed decision on whether they are a good fit for your business.
  • Evaluation criteria. You have your list of requirements, but it’s likely they aren’t all as important as each other. Evaluation criteria guides the evaluation panel on how they should be assessing each submission. For instance, are your data management requirements more important than your personalisation requirements? Having clarity on this will not only help to ensure a standardised, unbiased evaluation, but it will also help vendors to understand which features they should really highlight to you, the buyer.  
  • How to respond. How exactly would you like each vendor to present their solutions and pricing? Will it be an online submission? An in-person presentation, with a 3-year implementation plan? A “proof of concept” bake-off? This helps to give a “level playing field” so you are assessing like-for-like.

Outside of these items, checking in with your procurement team for any additional items is always a good idea during this stage.  

Issue: Distribute your RFP

Choosing between a closed or open RFP and deciding who participates is crucial. Once your formal documentation is ready, you’ll want to ensure you get the right vendors to reply.  

There are two main options:

  • Closed RFP: You go out to a select group, and they are the only ones who can respond.
  • Open RFP: Any vendor that believes they can fulfil the requirements can reply.

You’ll also want to consider whether you will accept responses from agencies that implement the technology, or only the vendors themselves.

There’s always a risk that a vendor who is perfect for your use cases doesn’t hear about your RFP. To avoid this, ensure you have advice from a marketing technology consultancy like The Lumery, who knows the market and can highlight any potential vendors you may have missed.  

Select: Making your choice

Once responses pour in, the evaluation begins. Shortlisting, demonstrations, and detailed scoring lead to the final selection. One or two vendors will then be taken to a negotiation stage, where they will engage with your procurement teams to work out the finer details of the contract. Be prepared for this stage to take some time to complete.

Making the right decision

Choosing the right MarTech isn't just about a checklist; it's about balancing evaluation time with the risk of selecting the wrong tool. The Lumery can assist your business through this process by providing expertise around vendors to consider, budget considerations, and writing requirements.

Why take our advice? We do business in a technology-agnostic way: which means we receive no kickback for recommending certain vendors over others, so you know you’re getting the very best in specialist, independent advice.

If you’re interested in knowing how The Lumery can help guide you through your next MarTech RFP, get in touch today. We’d love to help you get the best outcome for your organisation.  

Choosing the Right MarTech Vendor: The Strategic RFP Approach You Might Be Missing

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Written by
  • Phil Wild
  • Solution Consulting Lead
Choosing the Right MarTech Vendor: The Strategic RFP Approach You Might Be Missing