Three months ago, we set ourselves a goal to have a final marketing automation decision by the end of this month. Well, here we are, less than a week away, and we are down to two final contenders. Contracts in hand, references called, wish list consulted… but which one to choose?
Rewind 1 week …
We had done our five demos and thought we had a pretty good idea which one we ultimately wanted. Based on our research, the chosen solution seemed reasonably priced for all the functionality it offered.
Then, out of left field, another marketing automation vendor calls and says that they saw this blog and thought we should at least consider their solution before making a final decision. Humph. But they weren’t on our short list for a reason, right?
After some initial debate, Besa and I decided to do a quick demo (if only to help us learn more about the MA software industry, even if we didn’t like what we saw). Unfortunately (fortunately?) we did like what we saw. Plus, the company is a leader in the industry and was very eager to win our business.
On the one hand, we had a bargain-priced option with all the functionality we needed, and on the other hand, we had a very robust system that we could use in more dynamic ways, but would cost 2-3x more annually.
Hmm… But maybe it wouldn’t have to cost us that much?
Time to Negotiate
Part of our strategy of waiting until the end of the month to make this decision was that we know software vendors are more eager to make their monthly quota, and thus more likely to discount pricing around that time. That in mind, we approached both vendors with our remaining questions and concerns about their systems. We also told each vendor who their competition was. They quickly responded with their rebuttals, and both explained that, while they respected the other company, their solution was a superior choice for our needs.
Then we did what any reasonable buyer would do… we asked how much they could cut the price. The bargain-priced vendor said that they don’t ever discount their prices, but that they could throw in an extra “add-on” feature if we signed by the end of the month. We were happy with that offer since we weren’t really too concerned about the price of their system anyway.
The more robust vendor said they’d have to get approval for special “friends and family” pricing, and that they were going out on a limb to try to win our business. We weren’t sure what that meant since we literally had just met them two days ago, but we’re friendly people, so “friends” it is! We were trying to guesstimate what they would come back with, but unlike the other vendor, it was not very clear how typical pricing was even determined.
It turned out that their initial proposal had underestimated the number of users we would ultimately need, and only included one person in training (which Besa and I were both hoping to attend). So when they came back with their “discounted” price the next day, it was even higher than their initial quote–and still nearly three times the cost of the other solution.
Weighing the Two Offers
You’re probably thinking, “Three times the price?! HA! What’s to think about?” Well, a lot, actually…
- For one, what if the bargain MA can do everything we want today, but in 6 months or a year we discover that we need some functionality that it doesn’t offer? Do we run the risk of “hitting the wall” with the less expensive MA?
- For two, what if we grow so awesomely fast after implementing MA that the bargain software can’t keep up with us? Are we being shortsighted about our needs? (That would be a nice problem to have.)
- For three, what if we end up sending a lot more emails now that we have automation? The bargain software is priced by number of emails, not by number of contacts, like the more robust software. So which do we think will grow more quickly: our database or our email sending habits?
- And finally, what kind of training do we really need, and who will do it better? The bargain software only offers online support and a few phone calls over the course of the first 3 months, but it’s free. The more robust MA offers a personalized training class that we would travel to (but again, we’d have to pay for it).
Man, this whole software-buying process is pretty complicated. And we’re supposed to be experts! If we’re having this much trouble making a decision, what do marketers who’ve never bought software before do?
We’re calling some of our references back with final questions, and hoping to have an answer by the end of the week. Stay tuned for how we make our final choice in a few days!!