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It’s Time to Switch Direct Marketing Vendors: Now What?

Many organizations use the services of third parties to handle various aspects of their direct marketing program. From mail houses, to creative design firms, copywriters to DMS providers, your vendor relationships can mean the difference between success and failure.

You’ve been humming along nicely, but now it’s time for a change. Your organization has gone through a long RFP process and has selected a new vendor. Here are some things to think about as you embark on this new relationship.

Kick-Off Meeting

First thing’s first: organize a formal kick-off meeting with all key people involved. Assuming budget allows, you should always schedule your kick-off meeting face-to-face. During your kick-off meeting, agree on roles and responsibilities; risk and strategies for mitigation, transference or acceptance; definition of deliverables; and a thoroughly documented definition of your source code structure, mail plans, campaigns, funds, appeals, packages and segmentation.

Some other considerations during the kick-off period include the following:

Share Business Processes

Share current documented business processes and mutually agree on how the new vendor will fit, accept and conform to the processes. If your vendor needs to modify their internal practices, agree and document this before moving forward. Your new vendor needs to have an understanding of the databases your organization uses. There are key differences between The Raiser’s Edge™, Blackbaud CRM™ , Blackbaud Direct Marketing™, or any other fundraising system in place at your organizations. Understand and communicate your policies around your system.

It is also helpful to learn about their business. How many clients do they have using your same systems? How do they work with these clients? It might be a good idea to have them share best practices with you.

Take this time to streamline your processes.Your new vendor might have new ways to do things which will shorten your time in executing your tasks.

Budget Time and Money

The new vendor might have changes to source codes, RFM coding and naming conventions. Allow for a sufficient number of hours in your budget to restructure your database for these new vendor changes. Outweigh the costs that will be incurred for making any significant modifications to your data, and keep in mind that changes will increase timeline of your vendor rollout. Be sure to choose a good time to make these changes. BrightVine recommends waiting until the beginning of calendar year or fiscal year, where possible. Be sure to build in time to your project to allow the vendor to get a good sense of your organization and to see what works and what can be improved. The new direct marketing vendor might want to conduct a series of tests during the first year. While extremely beneficial, be mindful that the testing of packages translates to more work.

Communication is Key

Be sure to copy all key people on email communications so that all perspectives can share their views. There is nothing worse than duplicating efforts or not knowing what other members of your team are doing or saying. Be sure to lay out your expectations for email turnaround time and responses and project deliverable dates at the outset of the project. A shared calendar is a great way to ensure everyone is working off the same timeline. Consider Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive to create a shared environment.

On-going Project Status Meetings

After the kick-off meeting, you should schedule weekly status calls to keep open lines of communication across all parties. Review your calendar and deliverable schedules. This call gives an opportunity to talk through questions and concerns.

Be Patient

By switching to a new vendor, you have to allow time for everything to fall into place. Allow at least a two month transition period to work out the inevitable glitches.

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