As a marketing or digital professional in the healthcare industry, you’re likely involved in selecting new companies to work with your organization.
You may need vendors for a range of services from writing content for your website to creating marketing action plans to developing and launching new CRM software. Your choice of vendor can impact your organization for years, decades even.
In our current environment of rapid change, how can you be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck?
To help you make effective choices, I’ve compiled ten questions to ask when selecting a vendor. I base these questions on my 20+ years of experience in healthcare marketing, including my time at the University of Maryland Medical System, where I managed its digital program and was involved with over 50 vendor selection projects.
These questions are organized in two groups:
- Things you should ask yourself
- Things you should ask the vendor
Questions you need to answer
What are your current and future needs?
Be realistic about your organization’s current needs. Here are some factors to consider:
- Can you provide effective support for the vendor?
- Have you considered factors that change constantly such as mobile technologies, social media platforms, and digital marketing techniques?
- Are you hiring a vendor for a small, specific project or will you work with them for several years?
- What will their role be in three years? Five years?
Your goal is to determine reasonable expectations of what the vendor can do for you given the current resources you have available.
Taking the time to carefully and honestly assess your current needs is a critical success factor in the vendor selection process.
How does this project fit into your strategic plan?
Do you have a clear, agreed-upon strategic plan and marketing strategy or do you need the vendor to help you define them?
The technologies you deal with in online digital marketing are in constant flux. Change is the only constant. Support your decision-making with a clear plan and an effective mission statement.
What is the experience and knowledge of current personnel?
Evaluate their expertise and identify skill gaps. Do you have experts in-house or do you need the vendor to educate you? If so, what resources are available for training and support?
Do a quick SWOT analysis of your organization and be honest about the realities of the current situation.
Questions to ask your potential vendor
What is the vendor’s experience in healthcare and other markets?
A natural inclination in our industry is to choose companies that are 100% focused on working with healthcare services groups. But for marketing and digital projects, consider a vendor that has experience in other vertical markets.
Most healthcare organizations are relatively new to marketing. Companies successful in sectors that have been marketing for decades will bring new ideas and approaches.
Leverage this experience to help your organization stay current and forward-thinking.
What is the service focus?
Do you need the vendor to focus solely on one martech service or on many related services?
Consider taking the long view. Select a company that can provide both the service you need now and the services you’re going to need in the future.
How large is the vendor?
Should you hire a large corporation with considerable resources or a boutique firm?
A large company provides “soup to nuts” services—from creating websites to developing CRM solutions. You’ll pay top dollar, but you can benefit from streamlined processes and an extensive support network.
On the other hand, a boutique firm may be the perfect choice if your organization favors a flexible, responsive solution.
Has the vendor worked with similar organizations?
Can the vendor demonstrate that they have experience with organizations with needs that are comparable to yours? You don’t want to be the first healthcare organization they’ve worked with.
What’s the word on the street?
Ask around! Collegiality is one of the great strengths of the healthcare industry.
Connect with your peers and ask about their experiences with the company you’re considering. You can also check reviews on websites such as Martech Health Directory.
Does the vendor offer a user group or online forum?
If you’re developing significant assets such as a Content Management System, you’ll need access to training and support. Select companies with a robust user group. You want to be sure personnel can easily collaborate, ask questions, and share knowledge.
When I need software for my own business, I always pick the firm with the most active user forum so I can ask questions and quickly get answers.
Does the vendor play well with others?
In other words, do they use a robust API (Automatic Programming Interface) that connects easily with other systems? You want to choose a company that is eager to integrate with existing systems such as Epic.
When you take the time to evaluate potential vendors by asking these questions, you exponentially increase your chances of selecting the perfect one for your needs.
Consider that you’ll probably work with the company for several years. The time and resources you invest now in doing your due diligence will pay huge dividends down the road.
To help you find the perfect company for your organization, check the listings of over 600 healthcare vendors on Martech Health Directory. Read reviews from your colleagues in the healthcare industry, compare vendors, and make an informed and effective decision.
Questions? Comments? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org