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Part II of a Two-Part Series:

In Part One of this series, we discussed how using a smart strategic planning process is the first step in defining your marketing strategy and determining what types of vendor partners you need to implement your strategy. In this second part of our series, we look at the specific criteria to use in choosing vendors for your projects.

Start by determining the type of project at hand. Generally, tactics are either offline (database warehousing, database analysis, telemarketing, voice mail) or online (e-mail marketing, e-mail platform protection, Web site development, search engine marketing). In today's world of e-everything, online tactics are a staple of almost every company's Customer Relationship Marketing strategy.

Once you categorize your tactic or tactics, use these criteria to evaluate and select your vendors:

Criteria for Offline Vendors:

Are they technologically a fit for your project? If your job is simple you would choose a very different type of vendor than you would for a complex project.

Are they an efficient, capable business? Visit their facility and see their processes.

What type of projects does this particular vendor handle? Vendors are niche companies. You may need a "stable" of some types of vendors (printers, for example) rather than a "one-stop-shop."

What is the quality of their work? Be bold, ask for samples.

What is their "on-time, on-budget" delivery record? Get the statistics and check references!

How do they schedule their production? Can they accommodate "last minute" jobs? Will they charge a "rush rate"?

Do they have their own pre-press operation, or do you need to deliver "printer ready" files?

Do they have a reliable quality control process in place?

Do they have the inventory management and storage capabilities your project requires?

If using a list broker, do they provide a high-quality list for my money? List vendors can be a variety of types of businesses (see glossary of terms). Beware of the free list get the database list that will reach your target prospects most effectively and efficiently.

Criteria for Online Vendors:

Is this what I need for my project? Do you need a CRM tool (such as software) or do you need a full-service Web development team?

Do you know enough (or does your agency) to make the right decision? Online CRM is a technology-driven, complex industry. Learn the terms and do your homework before evaluating vendors.

What is this company's reputation for service after the sale?

Will the company behind this product or service be around in one year? Five years? Ten years?

What is the company's release schedule?

Does this tool have open architecture?

What support options are available or provided with this tool?

Whom do I call if there is a problem?

To validate the success of your project, measurement is the final step in your process. You want to create a "closed circle" of project management by measuring the results of your campaign according to the measurable objectives set out in your strategy. In addition, other metrics you can use to measure the success of specific tactics within your campaign include: Direct mail response rates/conversion; Web analytics; E-mail analytics; Media coverage analysis; and Attitude and awareness studies.

Your project specifications will help you select the proper vendors and tools to provide you with the measurements most meaningful to your company. Now that you're armed with the right process, find the right partners to help you build your success!

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