Before joining Social Assurance, I spent six years in financial marketing management at a bank. Part of my responsibility included vendor management of our marketing technology stack. I didn’t know it at the time, but my boss at the time helped me to see I have high expectations for vendors. In fact, I often say I didn’t have a single vendor partnership who I felt met my expectations.

I do have high expectations, but I don’t think they’re unreasonable. Let me explain.

Financial brands (and especially marketers) are dependent upon technology and data in order to deliver targeted, timely, and appropriate messages in the way customers are needing them and through the channels they prefer. In a nutshell, our customers have an expectation for their financial institution to deliver upon that expectation. When a financial brand falls short, brand loyalty erodes and we see customer attrition.

Most of the financial institutions in this country are not equipped with enough resources to develop their own proprietary technology. In our 2021 Marketing & Compliance Report, the study revealed 50% of marketing budgets remained flat in 2020 and transparently, we’re not seeing much expansion as we head into 2022. The combination of insufficient resources and a dependency on technology and data mean a greater dependency on partners and vendors.

Your hands are tied.

If you’re going to need a vendor, then I believe you should expect them to fulfill your expectations to be the kind of partner you need.

What exactly does a partnership look like and how can you drive successful vendor relationships?

Let’s start with three characteristics of a good vendor:

  • A vendor should ask and understand your strategic goals. If a vendor doesn’t understand where you’re headed, how can they help you get to where you’re going?
  • A vendor should listen as you journey through the goals and ask questions to better understand pivots and environmental/industry impacts. A vendor partnership is not a transaction or an event, it’s an ongoing journey that morphs over time.
  • A vendor should provide both solutions and advice. If every resource or support costs you additional ‘dough’, how much is your vendor partnering with you in your success?

Let’s talk about three things you can do, as a financial brand, to foster successful vendor partnerships:

Set Expectations. Vendors are not telepathic. Venders do not know your organization better than you. Be clear and direct about your expectations, goals, and invested stakeholders. Vendors should not receive feedback as offensive, but as clarity to the mark they’re trying to hit. Expectations point us in the direction of success. Be as clear with your vendor as you wish others were with you. 

Communicate Regularly. When something doesn’t work, let your partner know. When you’re wondering if there is a solution for a new-found issue, ask! When you’ve had a great experience with one someone from support, or when your experience falls short, let us know. To achieve the highest level of collaboration, partnerships must establish trust to both give and receive feedback.

Ongoing Evaluations. Most valuable vendors take time to reach out, at least annually, to ensure satisfaction, receive feedback, and renew a solution. Take the time to get facetime with your vendor. Partnerships are built on trust. Trust is built on time together. If your vendor is asking for time, make the time. If the time you allocate drives stronger collaboration, you then know the time was well-spent.

As with any relationship, vendor relationships are a two-way street. Both parties must work to create clarity and offer feedback on a consistent basis. A successful vendor partnership motivates each partner to continue investing in the relationship collaborating and contributing to the overall success.

If you’re like me, a person with high expectations, start evaluating your vendor relationships. It’s never too late to re-establish expectations and begin journeying towards a more trusted and valuable partnership. Vendors who are truly vested in your institution’s success will gladly jump on that train and partner with you for the duration.

If you’re a Social Assurance client, we look forward to connecting with you during this Q4 time frame. We’re beginning to schedule these 1:1 meeting, so pay attention to your inbox. You’ll be hearing from us soon! If you’re not a SA client today, we would love to learn about your financial brand!

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Author: Jaime Faulkner

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