Where Outside Suppliers of Business Services Fall Down on the Job …

Quirk's Corporate Research ReportQuirk’s Marketing Research Review is a periodical I’ve enjoyed reading for three decades or more.  Unlike the articles that appear in other research-related publications that are more “scholarly” and theoretical,  I find the articles in Quirk’s to be chockfull of insights, while at the same time being “efficiently practical” and easy to digest.

Recently, the magazine published findings from its second annual Quirk’s Corporate Research Report, designed to give corporate researchers an in-depth look into their world.

As part of the research-gathering process for the report, Quirk’s conducted a field survey covering budgets, outsourcing, research techniques in use and under consideration, how research findings are reported inside organizations and, last but not least, the experiences researchers have had when working with outside vendors.

When asked by Quirk’s to state what are the main problem areas when research vendors have come up short on a project, these eight factors were cited by respondents most often:

  • The vendor over-promised and under-delivered: ~56% of respondents mentioned
  • The project was handled by low-level staff: ~51%
  • Vendor failed to take time to understand the client’s business: ~50%
  • Vendor had poor communications: ~39%
  • Vendor failed to take time to understand the project’s needs: ~36%
  • Data integrity issues: ~35%
  • Vendor missed deadlines: ~35%
  • Tools/methodologies that the vendor suggested weren’t right for the project: ~14%

Notice how the most pervasive issues have less to do with the inherent quality of the research product being delivered, and more to do with how the vendor interfaces with and communicates with the companies they support.

The above behaviors represent challenges associated with conducting research projects. But I contend that they apply equally well to providers of other types of business and corporate services, whether they’re ERP or IT projects, website development projects, CRM implementation, SEM/SEO programs, media campaigns, PR initiatives … even IPOs, capital campaigns and the like.

Which of these shortcomings do you find to be most prevalent in your dealings with outside service providers — and what have you done about them? Please share any insights you may have with other readers here.

So Many Marketing Channels … So Many Vendors …

Managing multiple vendors has become nearly a full-time job for some marketers.

marketing channelsManaging channel communications isn’t very easy for marketers these days, that’s for sure.  It’s because so many companies are using multiple outbound channels to connect with their customers.

Illustrating this point, at the Direct Marketing Association’s 2014 annual conference, some 250 marketers were surveyed by Yes Lifecycle Marketing about their activities.

The results of that survey revealed that more than half of the marketers are using at least six outbound channels to connect with customers.  And another 20% use more than ten channels.

Guess what this means?  Nearly 30% of these marketers report that they’re managing (or more likely juggling) seven or more technology vendors and service providers as part of their MarComm duties.

More to the point, many marketers are devoting huge chunks of their week just coordinating all of these tech and service providers.

For an unlucky ~20% of the respondents, the time commitment is upwards of 15 hours each week – more than a third of the time that makes up a 40-hour week.  (“What’s a 40-hour week in marketing?” one might ask, of course.)

Even for marketers who are using a smaller number of vendors to support their media and communications channel efforts, the involvement of various internal stakeholders is high – more than seven, on average, during the vendor selection process.  So the coordination responsibilities just keep adding up.

What this means … 

The Yes Lifecycle Marketing Survey found a correlation between the “choreography” demands of managing multiple vendors and the fact that other marketing activities suffer as a result — namely, market strategizing, business operations and customer relationship-building.

And even with those duties getting shorter shrift, the marketers surveyed still complained about having too many vendors to coordinate … significant challenges with properly integrating the various functions … insufficient budgets … and above all, a lack of adequate staffing.

To top it off, the typical tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer at a company isn’t exactly lengthy — ~45 months at last count.  It’s enough to make one wonder if a job in marketing is worth it.

The answer to that question can be summed up this way (with credit to Oscar Wilde and apologies for the riff):  “The only thing worse than being busy is … not being busy.”