One of the hardest aspects of business is finding good vendors. It is always easier to put in the ground work during your initial search rather than rushing into it and realising you’ve wasted your time and money on the wrong vendor. Having the right questions and understanding the compatibility of your needs and their services is important for developing a healthy and beneficial relationship. The right vendor will become worth its weight in gold, so take the time to do your research, meet with them, ask questions and continue to focus on the value you can create together.
1. Where to start?
The absolute first step to finding a vendor on the same level as you is to understand your own needs and requirements first. The more detail you can include, the better. For example instead of just saying “We need a car” think about the extras and benefits you want. You could say “I want a modern, 4 door sedan because it has to fit our family of 4, with good fuel economy as we are conscious about the environment, 7+ airbags for safety for the whole family and a rear camera since I am not too confident with my parking skills”. The more you understand your own needs, and why you need them, the easier your search will be.
If you can’t work out the exact details of what you need yet, start with the basics, then add this to your needs: ‘a vendor who is able to help me discover and detail my needs in clear and concise way’. While your exact needs may not be obvious to you right away finding a vendor who can help bring these ideas out is vital.
2. The search begins
There are many ways to find potential vendors and each technique has a range of pros and cons.
- Referrals from colleagues are often the most reliable source, you get to hear about the vendor from firsthand experience and from someone you trust professionally. Just remember, even though a vendor is good for a colleague it doesn’t necessarily mean they will fit you. There are variations to consider such as needs, proximity, communication as well as size and capacity.
- Online searches will give you an endless amount of options and choices. While it allows you to research at your own pace and cross reference potential vendors against each other, the amount of options and choices can be very overwhelming. So, if you’re doing a Google search, ensure you refine your search by using specific keywords to find what you’re looking for. e.g instead of “car for sale” search “2014 4 door toyota sedan for sale in Melbourne”.
- Ask at networking events or groups that you are part of. Networking events are great because you can often find great references which are often already niched to the industry that you are in. This however can sometimes be quite exhausting and time consuming.
- While family and friends may be willing to create a website for you at “mate rates” they often don’t have a great understanding of the industry you work in and if they are non-professionals, you might get an inferior product which will do more harm to your business than the savings you made.
- DIY website. Because website and online marketing probably isn’t your forte, it might not be ideal for you to do it yourself. As a business owner, you need to know how to leverage off people’s expertise and time, otherwise you’ll end up with a substandard product and put yourself on the back burner. Say you want to drive from point A to B, you wouldn’t try to build your own car would you? No, you’d buy a car. Let the experts who have being doing this for years take care of the build.
3. Time to Compare
Okay, by now you would have a few very promising vendor options and it’s time to stack them up against your needs. By creating a spreadsheet and a rating system, you can compare them against each other and narrow it down to your top picks. Alternatively, you can download our Vendor Comparison Matrix. A few vital points to look for and compare are:
- Service offerings – This one is pretty simple, do they offer what you need? If one of your needs is to rank above your local competitors in Google’s local search. Do they offer Search Engine Optimisation?
- Cost and Price – This is always a big motivator. You know what you’re willing to pay, now ask the vendor what their “sweet spot” is, meaning what project size are they geared for? If they’re geared for $50,000+ project size and you only want to spend $4,000, then your project may be too small and fall onto low priority.
- Size & Capacity – Find out how big the vendor is and how many staff would be working on your project. Keep in mind when working with a vendor that is bigger than you it often means you lose bargaining power when negotiating, they also usually have stricter processes and offer less customisation. If dealing with a vendor who is smaller than you, you will usually receive higher priority and more flexibility however longer turnaround times and delays due to lack of business processes.
- Past work (Portfolio) – We strongly recommend you take a look at their past work/ portfolio. Do you like their style of work? If so, take note of what you like about it, are there particular features you like? Is it the layout? The content? This information can be discussed during your initial meeting and will help the vendor have a better understanding of what you’re looking for.
- Reliability and communication – A reliable vendor which communicates frequently with you is vital. Send off a few enquiries and check:
- How fast they respond to requests.
- Do they do what they said they will do? E.g Did they say they will send you a quote within 2 days and meet that deadline?
- Do they communicate well? Through email and phone calls.
- Do they talk the language you talk? Often we meet vendors who are very skilled in their industry but use too much technical jargon. It’s important they can speak and reiterate things in a way that you understand.
- Speciality – Have a look at their website, do they have a niche that fits with your industry? If they aren’t already focused on your industry they’ll have to spend the time to learn but if you find someone who already specialises in your industry they should already know the rules, regulations and all the ins and outs.
- Business principle and values – This is probably the most important part of finding the right vendor. When meeting with potential vendors ask about the business goals and values, try and get an understanding of their “WHY?” then try and decipher if their business values are in line with yours.
4. Look past your initial need. Think long term.
In our previous article ‘Your website is Now online, What Next?’ we discuss the difference between maintenance and support. When you are looking for a vendor, remember it is a long term commitment and the project doesn’t just end once your website is live. With cars you have on-going services, with software you have upgrade requirements, with dentists you have check-ups… With websites you have maintenance or support. Decide which post launch option best suits your needs. Do you want someone who will do the absolute basics to keep your website running or do you want someone who will proactively work with you and your business to ensure your website is utilised to it’s fullest potential and offer offline strategies and ideas as well? (Hint: Often web developers and digital agencies will offer post launch ‘support’ at a fixed monthly rate but in reality it is really just maintenance.)
5. Industry Insider Information…
There are many tell-tale signs to look out for when finding the right vendor. Just remember, don’t feel bad asking questions and throwing some curve balls during the initial engagement. We recommend that you test their understanding of your needs by asking them to reiterate it to you.
A few points to be on the lookout for are:
- If you ask for a couple of referees and they take too long to supply, then they are probably scrambling to get it together for you.
- Watch out for whether they deliver when they say they will. If they say they will send you a project plan by a specific date, check that they do.
- If they can’t meet small deadlines, how will they meet major deadlines?
- Proposals are generally templated. If there is a lack of detail in their proposal it means you are just part of the process and they’re not taking the time to understand your requirements and customising their service to suit.
Finding the right vendor can often be a lengthy process. While relationships can begin positively with a lot of traction, overtime they can become stagnant and lose momentum. Consider your current vendors and ask yourself, is the relationship still producing win-win situations for both parties or has the relationship fizzled out?
To start your journey in finding the RIGHT vendor download a copy of our Vendor Comparison Matrix and let the search begin.