As small business owners, it’s inevitable that you will have both positive and negative experiences with vendors. Depending on what services and products you offer, you may rely heavily on other companies to fulfill your business’s mission.
Amongst the many projects that I coordinate, I often help my small business clients build their brand identity, serving as their creative liaison to make sure their advertising and marketing projects are in alignment with their brand goals. It is common for me to work directly with video, web, graphic, and photography vendors on my clients’ behalf. What I have learned over the years is that every vendor has different standards of excellence and it’s important to know when vendors aren’t a good fit for you.
Disappointing scenarios may include vendors not following instructions; not honoring the agreed upon time commitment; and/or the product or service simply not meeting the client’s level of expectation. The reality is that there are many reasons that vendors don’t work out—including not being equipped with the right information from you to be successful. I have personally witnessed many businesses ask someone to create a marketing piece and provide little to no information, and expect magic to happen. It’s important to have an idea of do’s and don’ts for your brand; a creative brief helps too.
So what do you do when a vendor disappoints? Below are 3 strategies for vendor success after a project doesn’t go well.
1) Transparency is key.
First, determine your role in the scenario. Did you provide the vendor with the right info, specs, etc., in a timely manner in order to be successful? Could you have done anything differently? What were the positives? What were the negatives? Once you have assessed the situation, have a conversation with your vendor and let them know what worked well and what didn’t. This shouldn’t be an accusatory conversation, but more about what you expected and what you feel they did or didn’t deliver. Be honest and fair in this conversation. If a vendor doesn’t seem open or receptive to a healthy constructive criticism dialogue, don’t force the conversation, move on.
2) Create a foolproof system.
After a disappointing situation with a vendor, you will need to determine if they are a vendor that you should continue to work with, or if it is worth the risk. Regardless of what you decide, let your situation be your fuel to create a foolproof system. While no client/vendor relationship is perfect, it is possible to design a process that provides checks and balances so everyone is on the same page. Key steps in this system is a clear agreement on timeline, cost, deliverables, and a preferred communication method. I also believe a kick-off call or meeting and check-ins are important too. Vendors should have access to you while they work on delivering the promised product or service.
3) Know what works for you.
As with any relationship, every person you meet in life will not be a good match for you—whether that be in love, friendship, or business. While you can offer advice and recommendations, you cannot change people. If you constantly find disappointment with a vendor, let the relationship go and find someone who would be a better fit. Don’t waste your time in a business situation that is not bringing you the results you need. Take some time to invest in researching the right vendors for your brand and be willing to test out new vendors. Begin any new vendor relationships on the right foot by letting them know your expectations and how they can be successful when working with your business.
I hope these strategies inspire you to operate in excellence with the right vendors who will help your business shine.
Wishing you all the best, Business Rock Stars!
Have you worked with a disappointing vendor? What would you add to this list? Leave a comment below or tweet them to me @bestrategicPR.