Recently, I’ve written about how to work with vendors and your internal teams to produce optimal vendor selection, and thus optimal outcomes for your goals. The next step to staying relevant to your customers and ensuring your team tests regularly, is to embrace Agile Marketing. Putting agile into practice is pretty hard in larger organizations with existing technologies and hardened reporting flows.
The other side of internally baked processes is that vendor contracts and their needs mean limited abilities to be agile with vendors. If you want to test a bright idea or a new method with a shiny new vendor, it can be very difficult to bring them in, test, and then remove the if things don’t work as desired. Most vendors (including you!), want stable income streams of 12 months, with up front cash flow to invest in high growth. While many smaller tools are happy to do month-to-month at a slightly higher fee, many of the larger firms will not consider short term trials.
In fact, most platforms will only provide a “30 day trial” which isn’t all that helpful because implementation can take 3-6 months if done correctly. Only the most basic vendor swaps will be a good fit for free 30 day trials.
And if we take Agile to heart and look closely at Scott Brinker’s “4 Forces” model, we realize it becomes challenging to Decentralize and Humanize things internally or externally. If I want to provide regional autonomy with martech, I still need to setup rules and workflows the local teams can stay within as they iterate local programs. If an APAC martech vendor has a unique tool for local languages the regional team needs, I’d love for that team to take that on easily. But I want a way out after 30-90 days if we don’t see results we expect. Same for things like global AI driven Chat tools, or the latest exit-intent method of lead capture.
Thus, if we want to become agile, so must our vendors. Agile vendor relationships, contracts, and pricing are a big ask for providers and it is possible to achieve if both sides negotiate effectively. But I want vendors to go beyond one off negotiations. I’d like to see vendors of all sizes (not just the hungry new ones who will do ANYTHING for a logo), consider how to deliver pricing models that acknowledge Agile marketing and that relationships can come and go more easily than ever before.
And that might be ok! Recently, I’ve been working with a larger martech vendor with whom we had a small relationship years ago. Having that vendor two or three years ago wasn’t a good fit because the internal capability to use the tool was limited and our need for the powerful tool wasn’t there. So I had the contract cancelled to save money. Because that vendor gracefully exited, I was open to bringing them into the new RFP because we were now ready to fully take advantage of their powerful platform. The vendor acknowledged that our new programs were now more ready for their tool and that the relationship would be more fruitful. Vendors also need to perform better analysis of purchasers during the sales process to avoid churn, and be ready to reject business that will lead to bad cancellations if the purchaser just isn’t ready to be successful with the tool.
Vendors are often open to short term trials when the following conditions exist:
- Big enterprise tells them to do that or they won’t go forward.
- The vendor is small, new, and open to anyone willing to try in the hope of iterating to Product Market Fit + Long term relationship.
What if SaaS vendors were open to this from the start:
- 30 and 90 day trials at a limited volume and price.
- Fixed price setup help.
- 90 and 180 day contracts
- Only let people buy for 12 and 24 months after a successful 90 day intro.
Of course, there are times when this won’t work well for large scale projects. Those large projects are often done in phases or in select business units, however, and are equivalent to a smaller scale trial or implementation.
What sort of agile vendor arrangements have you worked on?