Daily Archives: May 8, 2009

OK, You Don’t Have To Fire Your PR Firm If You Don’t Want To But …

Don’t expect me to talk to them, reply to their e-mail, or even read any of their missives. I’m not trying to be arrogant, I’m just sick and tired of having my time wasted. Although your PR firm will casually overlook the fact that this is NOT my full time job and that from an opportunity cost standpoint, it’s still a loss for me (as the income I pull in from it is still less than what I would make spending an equivalent amount of time consulting), those are the facts and I’m tired of being:

  • spammed six times with the same press release I wasn’t interested in the first time around
  • ignored when I do reply
  • run-around in circles after being promised a conversation with an executive, customer, etc.
  • rescheduled six times for a demo that ends up not happening because your PR firm has no organizational skills and / or control over your schedule
  • told the week after my trip to the other coast that “we have a meeting set up for you tomorrow”
  • etc.

In other words, I have not had a good experience with an external PR firm since I started this blog. (And every message from a PR firm that slips through my spam filters now results in a new spam and/or auto-delete rule.)

But more importantly, as Jason Calcanis wrote in his phenomenal post On How To Get PR For Your Startup: Fire Your PR Company, and as I elaborated on in my Blogger Relations II post on Fire Your PR Company, the best way to get PR is for YOU to BE THE BRAND. It’s about being amazing, being everywhere, and being real. A PR firm with a lackey parroting a press release is not real. A media monkey with some sound-bites who cares more about the monthly cheque than your product is not real. A voice who never wavers from a script, and who can’t answer a simple question about your product or service, is not real.

What is real is an executive reaching out saying “Hi. I’m so and so of Company X. I believe we have a great product. I’d love to show you.” That’s real. That gets attention. That get results. Especially from yours truly.

I’ve never turned down a demo*1 request that came direct from a vendor … and I don’t plan to, ever*2. It’s one of the things this blog lives for as it’s the only true way for me to educate my large and growing readership on what you do and how you could help them. Now, if it turns out the demo is not as exciting (to me) as you claim, or that I don’t see anything innovative in, there’s a chance I might not blog about it … but I will have sat through the demo and will be more than happy to tell you what I think. So it’s a win for you either way because maybe I’ll see something you didn’t, and give you a suggestion that could take your solution from good to great or great to greater. And you’ll never know unless you contact me. My e-mail’s on the blog (check the sidebar and the “about” posts). Looking forward to hearing from you.

*1 Just a reminder that by “demo” I mean real product demo and not a powerpoint presentation.
*2 The one condition is that you have to have some flexibility in scheduling. Since this is not my full time job, you can’t expect me to be available at any specific time.

An Enterprise Software Buying Guide, Part IV: Potential Solution Identification

In our last post on enterprise software buying, we discussed the process that should be followed in documenting your true software needs. In today’s post, we discuss how you use these requirements documents to identify the right potential solutions for you.

3. Identify Potential Solutions

Once you’ve documented your basic requirements, you can start identifying solutions that could meet your needs. Don’t limit yourself to vendor materials and demos. Be sure to read analyst reports and blogger reviews, check with your local associations for independent reviews, and ask colleagues about the solutions: what they do, positive experiences, and negative experiences. Get a well rounded view … don’t just check the box.

Furthermore, be sure to ask the right questions. Have a starting list before you talk to the vendor the first time. If you’re buying
RFX & e-Auction,
Spend Analysis,
Contract Management,
Supplier Networks & Catalogue Management,
GPOs & Marketplaces,
Market Intelligence,
Strategic Sourcing Services,
Trade Data Management,
Supply Chain Optimization, or
e-Payment, a good starting list (that you can customize to your needs based on the outputs of Step 2) can be found in the X-emplification series (PDF).

And remember to chuck the checklist when looking for potential solutions. After all:

  • it’s impossible to sum up a “feature” in one sentence, or even a short paragraph,
  • no piece of software can do everything,
  • trade rags and analysts, despite their best of intentions, give you bad lists, and
  • RFP templates are Poison Pills.

In addition, in these troubled times, be sure to spend some time investigating the stability and financial solvency of the vendor before you buy. Five years of guaranteed support for the version of the system you buy is meaningless if the vendor closes up shop in six months … which is a lot more likely than you might think in this current environment. Right now, as many as a few dozen providers in the space are having financial difficulties to some degree. Be sure to ask questions along the following lines, and carefully evaluate the responses, to get a feel for their financial status. (Tip: it wouldn’t hurt to have a behavioral psychologist on the evaluation team when you ask these questions.)

  • How is your profit statement looking these days?
    Is it positive, break-even, or negative? What’s the trend over the past year, the past three years, and, if the vendor has been around that long, the past five years? And how many months of operating capital does the vendor have in the bank?
  • What’s your ownership structure? (And who ultimately makes the financial calls when times get tough.)
    If it’s public, the board runs the show. If it’s private, do the founders/owners run the show, or do the VCs? If VC’s own over 50% of the company, they ultimately run the show and they will decide who to keep, what to cut, and whether the company will even stay in business if times get tough.
  • What would happen if you didn’t sign any new customers for an entire year?
    Does the company have enough cash and booked revenue to maintain current staffing and service levels? Would they have to make serious cuts to support and NPD? Might straits get so dire that they’ll have to liquidate or shut down?

In our next post, we talk about the creation of total lifecycle cost models for each potential solution, which are key to helping you understand the order of magnitude of the full lifetime total ownership cost of each solution you are considering and key to helping your negotiator get you the absolute best deal.