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    Big players vs. niche specialists: Choosing your martech vendors

    Big players vs. niche specialists: Choosing your martech vendors

    Selecting the right martech vendor sounds far easier than it actually is as a process and practice. There are many factors to consider, but that does not mean the selection process is necessarily daunting.

    One factor to consider when selecting vendors is how they fit within their competitive landscape. On one end are the major dominant players; on the other are smaller vendors who are new and niche or a combination of both. There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both types of vendors.

    While there are certainly vendors along this spectrum, sticking with the two ends still provides meaningful insights.

    Big, established players

    The big players are vendors with a dominant market cap. They typically have large budgets, clients, workforces and product portfolios. Adobe and Salesforce are two clear examples.

    Advantages

    The big players have plenty of things going for them. One area where they tend to shine is customer support. While all vendors care about customer retention, larger players have far more roles and folks devoted to churn prevention. Thus, they provide a large account team with clearly defined roles, including account executive, customer success manager, technical account manager, solution architect, etc. While it can take some coordination to include everyone in discussions, each account team member can more easily focus on their roles. 

    Production support is another critical customer support area. Products have bugs, and sometimes, upstream and downstream systems falter. Large vendors have big support teams that react to day-to-day issues. In addition to providing 24/7 coverage, they may even have teams stationed worldwide with multilingual and multicultural expertise.

    Robust support is wonderful, but it is not cheap. So, it is important to consider whether your company requires such comprehensive support. Further, examine the contract to determine if you are paying for more support than you need. 

    Larger product suites may also be better equipped to grow with the client’s evolving use cases. As the client requires more, sticking with an existing vendor certainly has advantages. However, it takes time for large vendors to develop product synergies for new and recently acquired products.

    Disadvantages

    As robust as their products and support teams are, big players have drawbacks. While not universally the case, big players tend to charge more and enforce contracts more strictly. It is important to investigate this if one of your current vendors acquires or merges with a competitor.

    The higher price is typically justified by more robust account and technical support resources. That is nice, but martech practitioners should continually assess whether their situation requires such resources. Not everyone needs a Formula 1 race car, particularly if they are in the business of delivering pizza.

    Additionally, although all companies need to satisfy stakeholders, companies typically gain more scrutiny as they increase in size. That is why larger companies grant less leeway to their customers. Further, as they tend to have many customers, they are less dependent on individual customers. Having a lot of clients reduces the importance of any one of them. t

    These and other factors allow them to strictly enforce contract terms. While having a few hundred more contacts in a lead database than contractually spelled out is hardly a big deal to the vendor, larger vendors are far more likely to nitpick and enforce contractual terms. 

    Regardless of the type of vendor, keep an eye out for contract gotchas.

    Niche specialists

    While the breadth and depth established vendors can provide are extremely important when selecting a vendor, that doesn’t mean that smaller, newer and more niche options lack virtues.

    Advantages

    One of the most alluring factors that smaller players offer is closer relationships. Niche vendors depend more upon each customer, so they need to pay more attention to their needs.

    Customers can have more influence on the vendor’s product roadmap, leading to a solution more closely aligned with a customer’s needs. This opportunity typically demands more attention from the customer team to provide input and feedback, but there are some promising returns on such an investment.

    Additionally, smaller vendors are better positioned to treat each customer as a partner. That gives them the freedom to overlook some things. For example, suppose a client has more users who regularly use the system than they have contracted for. In that case, they can grant the customer some leeway if the relationship is otherwise positive. 

    Further, smaller vendors are better able to reward clients for serving as case studies or references. A small favor from a client may yield better contract terms at renewal time. 

    Disadvantages

    While smaller vendors can offer more personalized attention to clients, they typically lack the breadth and depth of support that larger vendors have.

    Folks at small vendors likely wear more hats than their larger counterparts. Thus, one person at a smaller vendor may have to fill the customer success manager and solutions architect roles, for example. It is certainly easier to have fewer schedules to consider when arranging meetings, but someone wearing multiple hats may have to take more time or provide a lower level of detail than if they were on a bigger team. 

    Also, their day-to-day support may lack larger players’ time and geographic coverage. Their Service-level agreements (SLAs) may have more time built into them to resolve incidents. While not everyone needs robust support, it is important to gauge if it is necessary — and worth paying for.

    Further, small vendors may target clients as a foothold in a new industry or sector. They will certainly bend over backward to please such a client, but they may lack the out-of-the-box and native functionality critical for a new sector. So, clients serving as a vendor’s guinea pig will have to endure some growing pains.

    Selecting your martech vendor: Weigh the pros and cons

    Whether your vendors are big or niche players, employing basic client-vendor relationship strategies will help both sides succeed. Remember, martech is a team sport; consulting with buyers and lawyers when evaluating potential vendors can pay dividends. This is not an exhaustive list of relevant factors, but it is a great place to start when evaluating vendors. 

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    The post Big players vs. niche specialists: Choosing your martech vendors appeared first on MarTech.

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