Getting the best performance from your digital services supplier

Why do some digital service providers produce the goods while others fail to deliver on revenue and engagement expectations? What makes the difference between an average performer and a great one?

A great agency provides innovation, market intelligence, benchmarking and strategy over and above the contracted digital marketing campaign or ecommerce, app or web build. A great agency moves from a short term focus on the transaction to a trusted advisor, contributing advice and lateral learnings gained from other industry sectors on improving workflows, fine-tuning processes and breaking down silos within an organisation.

Setting up for success is key to getting the best out of the relationship. The first step is to ensure that procurement and contracting are focused on outcomes rather than the pure cost.  The next step then is a well thought out on-boarding and workflow processes to enable the new service provider deliver the cream.

Practical tips on building a great relationship with your digital vendor

While there’s a push towards a formalised and technical approach to Vendor Management, on a basic level, I’ve found a practical approach to be helpful in developing quality supplier relationships over and above tactical reviews:

  1. Monthly meetings. These meetings are limited to one hour to discuss high level performance, i.e. what’s working and what’s not. Included in the meeting is the business/product owner along with senior agency representatives with the project manager as optional. This time gives both agency and client the chance to address and fix any risks before they blow up, and encourages clear communication by
    • Setting the agenda well before hand
    • Discussing expectations from both agency and client side
    • Uncovering any assumptions and/or dependencies impacting on services
    • Reviewing invoicing or operational concerns such as resourcing and skill sets required to meet future demand
    • Setting recurring meetings
  2. 6 monthly review. This meeting runs for at least 2 hours for a more formal performance and documentation review. It’s important to have the data ready to review against agreed goals. Questions to ask include:
    1. Have all the deliverables agreed to in the contract been received?
    2. Are variations in the contract required to take into account change requests?
    3. Do workflow processes need to change to cater for a different environment or new requirements.
  3. Annual roadmap. This gives the vendor the platform to discuss trends, new developments, assess other successful case studies, and a wish list. It’s also a good time to bring in other senior stakeholders, and introduce the vendor to other areas of the company.
  4. Ad-hoc open and honest conversations about your expectations. I had a frank discussion with one of our suppliers last year, which re-energised the relationship, established open channels of communication, and now they consistently over-perform and delight with their service.

It’s critical that the business owner is directly involved in these conversations, otherwise those strategic insights will be lost in translation from contracts manager to procurement to IT.

Churning and burning suppliers is not only costly; there is a significant loss of strategic intelligence, which directly impacts business outcomes. Spend the time getting the right agency on board with the right processes to secure great results.


About Claudia Sagripanti

Involved in the evolution of mobile marketing and advertising from the early years, including co-founding Mobile Marketing and Advertising Awards, founding chair of AIMIA's Mobile Industry Group, development of mobile advertising guidelines for industry as well as commercialisation strategy.