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BUILDING SUCCESSFUL VENDOR PARTNERSHIPS AND CUSTOMER STRATEGIES
Part One of a Two-Part Series

It seems like a simple formula, but it's the basis of any successful Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) or Direct Marketing campaign, and for choosing the best vendor partners: Process + Partnership = Success.

Think of the Process as an organizing principal designed to "get it right the first time." At Nicholson Kovac, our account leaders are highly disciplined in using a Strategic Planning Blueprint based upon a system of proprietary business models to help our clients define and achieve their objectives.

"It all begins with a single, measurable and realistic ambition, which can be tough to define," explains Thom Ludtke, Vice President, Account Group Director. "You need access to the right transactional and/or customer data, you need to know how to analyze it and how you will define and track your strategic success. A smart process will help identify the most important market place facts that will help or hinder your ability to achieve your objective. Those facts, in turn, drive your strategies and tactics and ultimately deliver the best possible ROI."

The greatest benefit of a well-defined process is the creation of a single, strategic "game plan" focused on generating results. Once the strategy is in place, the key stakeholders evaluate available skills to see what expertise is needed and vendors required. Common areas where additional expertise is often needed in developing strong CRM plans include: database warehousing, database analysis, telemarketing,
e-mail platform protection, Web and database integration, printing and fulfillment.

With numerous parties working from one plan, the spirit of Partnership is more important than ever in the tactical implementation phase. Consider the client-agency-vendor relationship as a three-legged stool. Each leg depends upon the support of the other two to do its job. In our experience, plans are executed more successfully when the agency acts as a sort of "general contractor," bringing the right talent to the table.

Whether an agency assists you or you contract your own vendor partners, there are specific criteria you should use to evaluate them, to make sure you get the right vendor for the job. How you evaluate them depends upon your project specifications. In Part Two of this series, we will review specific criteria to use to select the right vendor for your strategy.

Pete Kovac is one of the founding partners and President of Nicholson Kovac, a marketing communications agency heaquartered in Kansas CIty, MO.

KAREN'S CARDINAL RULES
At Nicholson Kovac, VP of Production Karen Hamilton is in charge of selecting and managing vendors. Here are her "Cardinal Rules" regarding what she looks for in a vendor:

Vendors who supply experienced, knowledgeable representatives. Partner with dedicated sales reps who know the industry and can make helpful recommendations.

Vendors who provide accurate estimates and pricing. Make sure the vendor provides written estimates stating all job specifications so expectations are clear from the start of the project. Insist on reviewing job costs whenever specifications change.

Vendors who communicate clearly and accurately. Choose vendors who stay informed about your project and can juggle production steps as needed to meet project deadlines.


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